Tail docking and ear cropping are surgical procedures performed on dogs to meet breed standard requirements or to make them fit a preconceived idea of what they should look like. They're purely cosmetic procedures; that means they're not necessary to treat an illness or injury. They are just used to change a dog's appearance.
Cosmetic type procedures are often a hot topic for discussion between animal rights activists, pet parents, breeders, and veterinarians. Some people feel it's unnecessary and cruel, while others feel it benefits the pet.
Veterinarians in Quebec, Canada, have moved to ban cosmetic procedures in dogs. Starting in 2017, they will not be permitted to perform tail docking and ear cropping. Ontario and Alberta are now the only Canadian provinces where veterinarians can make their own decisions on whether to perform these surgeries.
Let's have a closer look at these procedures and their effects.
This procedure entails (no pun intended) the amputation of a pup's tail in the first few days of his or her life. The length of tail remaining can vary depending on breed. It's a painful procedure as it is often done without the benefit of anesthesia. There may be complications after the surgery including excessive bleeding, infection, and chronic pain.
The tail is a very important communication tool for dogs. Its position and movement can give a lot of information about how a dog is feeling, so its absence can affect the interaction between dog and human or between two dogs. Supporters of tail docking claim that a full tail may interfere with a dog's ability to hunt in the field, or it may become injured during a retrieve. This has been shown to be untrue with a number of full tail individuals being successful in field trials.
This procedure, where a dog's ears are surgically altered so that they stand erect, is quite common for some breeds including the Doberman and Great Dane. Again, many people argue that there are no advantages to cropping ears. In fact, the procedure is already banned in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia.
Supporters of ear cropping believe that it reduces the incidence of ear infections, but this can occur in all sorts of ears, cropped or not. There doesn't seem to be any statistical support for this belief. Ear cropping procedures need careful post-operative management. Even after surgery, the ears may still not stand up. There is also the risk of infection with any surgical procedure.
There will always be occasions where tails need to be docked for medical reasons; for example, if there is an injury to the tail that is best treated with amputation. However, there is no indication to dock the tail of a particular breed of dog routinely. Similarly, ear cropping offers no benefit to the dog other than giving them a specific appearance. Under these circumstances, is it worth subjecting our puppies to painful procedures that risk long-term adverse effects?
It's obvious that such elective procedures are losing support. It will be a good day when medical procedures that purely affect a dog's appearance are banned worldwide.
If you are for or against these cosmetic surgeries in dogs, please let us know in the comments below.