A client came in the other day with a super cute baby Mini Australian Shepherd. She was unhappy because someone had cropped the pup’s tail too short. She wished that they hadn’t cropped the tail at all, but she couldn’t find any pups with tails intact. The conversation reminded me of my first experience with canine cosmetic surgery.
My first job, at age 15 was at Atascazoo Animal Hospital in Humble, Texas. I had eagerly been counting down the years until I was old enough to work for my family veterinarian. I remember standing in the exam room, maybe 9 years old or so, and I asked our vet, Dr. Kiker, what I needed to do to be a veterinarian. She said, and I remember this like it was yesterday: “Make good grades and work at a veterinary clinic”. So that’s what I did.
I was hired as a kennel assistant making a whopping $3.25 an hour (late 80’s minimum wage). On my first day I was asked to assist with an ear crop surgery on a Schnauzer. Back then, they used injectable pentothal for anesthesia. Basically they taped a syringe full of anesthetic into the dogs vein and injected some every time the dog started to wake up.
Oh and in case you didn’t know: when cut open, ears bleed.
Ears bleed a lot.
A whole lot.
My job was to hold up the ear so Dr. Kiker could cut the flappy part off, giving the dog (once healed) the characteristic pointy ears we associate with the Schnauzer breed. There was blood everywhere, and when the dog’s anesthesia got light, he started to shake his head and blood flew everywhere.
The sight (and sickly sweet, vaguely metallic smell) of copious amounts of semi-congealed blood was new to me at the time, so I proceeded to turn white as a sheet, become dizzy, and get promptly excused from my surgical duties and sent into the doctor’s office. I was calmly instructed to sit with my head between my knees to regain my equilibrium and composure. My pride took a more lasting hit. Immediately I questioned my career choice. Almost fainting on day one: maybe veterinary medicine wasn’t the field for me.
Fortunately, I stuck with the job, and never had any more queasiness at the sight of blood. (Well, animal blood, I don’t do so well with human blood).
This experience did, however, create a life long aversion to unnecessary cosmetic procedures on dogs. Particularly ear crops and tail docks.
So much so that in 10th grade Government class, when given the assignment of writing a letter to our state representative, I penned a heart felt missive to none other than future Governor, coyote sharpshooter and unsuccessful presidential candidate, Rick Perry. I implored him to please consider passing legislature to ban the cosmetic cropping of ears and docking of tails in our pets. I was convinced that my impassioned entreaty would result in sweeping changes and legions of beautiful, happy, fully-eared and tailed Dobermans, Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels and the like. I’d be a hero to dog-kind!
Unfortunately, Mr. Perry sent me a form letter, thanking me for my request, but basically stating that he had bigger things to worry about than snips and snails and puppy dog tails (and ears).
Fast forward 25ish years, I still hate those procedures. Dr. Sharp stopped cropping ears years ago (I’ve never cropped an ear). It’s pretty hard to find any veterinarian in the area who still performs the surgery. I feel like I’m seeing more un-cropped dogs, particularly Schnauzers. Hopefully those are signs that the procedure is falling out of favor.
There is no medical reason to crop the ears on these dogs. If predisposed, they will get ear infections either way. Frankly, if there is any dog that would benefit from an ear crop, it would be a Cocker Spaniel to get some air down there into those canals, but that’s just part of their chronic ear problem picture (the other, bigger part is a strong predisposition to allergic skin disease). Same with the tail docks, have you seen a Cocker Spaniel’s natural tail? It’s a beautiful fluffy thing. Dobermans have kind of thin funny whip tails, but that’s ok. Those dogs with tails are so happy to have them, they just flap them around with reckless abandon.
These cosmetic procedures are illegal in Europe and Becoming illegal in Canada. From what I understand, the biggest hindrance to making them illegal here is the American Kennel Club. They insist on maintaining these antiquated “breed standards”. I find this to be astonishingly inexcusable. For Pete’s sake: CHANGE THE STANDARDS! They changed them in England, where it’s illegal to show a dog WITH cropped ears!
Regarding the ears: Doberman and Pit Bull owners give me the most pushback when I discourage them from getting their dogs’ ears cropped. The owners want the dogs to look “tough”. Personally, I think that’s a weak argument. I’d be just as scared if chased by a growling, barking natural ear-ed Doberman as I would be for a cropped ear-ed one.
So ear crops and tail docks on dogs are unnecessary, painful, and really look pretty ridiculous. I know humans put themselves through unnecessary, painful procedures, that in some cases produce ridiculous looking results as well (insert name of aged entertainer, who’s had one too many facelifts). However, the humans have a say in the matter. Not the dogs.