Ear cropping is a veterinarian procedure in which all or part of the pinnae (the visible flap of the ear) is surgically removed in an effort to train the ear to stand erect. In the past when Great Danes were bred to hunt boar this procedure was common as it helped to protect the ears from bites and tears incurred during encounters with a wild boar.
Today’s Great Dane is more of a couch potato than a fierce boar hunter and ear cropping is considered cosmetic surgery. Some proponents of ear cropping maintain that cropped ears are easier to clean and care for and therefore may reduce the chances of ear infections. In addition, many breeders of show dogs prefer the aesthetic of cropped ears.
The reality is that there is little evidence to support the idea that ear cropping reduces ear infections in Great Danes and while the argument seems reasonable, many veterinarians consider the procedure cosmetic and unnecessary. In fact, many U.S. veterinarians refuse to perform the procedure on ethical grounds, and in some European countries, the practice is banned. In addition, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) policy is that they “oppose ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes.”
Still, ear cropping remains a relatively common practice within the U.S. as many Great Dane owners prefer the look of cropped ears. The bottom line is that the decision to crop or not to crop generally falls on the owner of the Great Dane.
So, Should You Have Your Dane’s Ears Cropped?
Again, that decision is entirely up to you but as with any decision that involves your Dane’s well-being, we encourage you to make an informed choice. Here are some things that you should take into consideration when deciding whether or not to crop your Dane’s ears:
1) Ear cropping is a procedure that is best performed at a young age. Most veterinarians recommend that it be done between eight and twelve weeks of age. Most veterinarians will not crop your Dane’s ears after five months. If your Dane has already passed these milestones, ear cropping may not be an option.
2) Ear cropping is a surgical procedure that requires anesthesia and as is true of any surgical procedure there are inherent risks. While rare, some animals may suffer from allergic reactions to the anesthesia which can be life-threatening. There is also the potential for excessive blood loss and post-operative infection. Please note: This is a veterinary procedure! You should never attempt to crop your Dane’s ears at home!
3) Bear in mind that any surgical procedure results in some degree of pain. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe antibiotics and pain medicine to help keep your Dane comfortable during recovery. It is extremely important that you administer these medications as prescribed to ensure that your Dane heals quickly and does not suffer unnecessarily.
4) Post-operative care can take several weeks with the first ten to fourteen days dedicated to the healing process. During this period your Dane will likely be expected to wear a surgical cone to prevent him from digging at or scratching the ears and his/her ears will need to be cleaned on a daily basis and examined by a veterinarian every week during recovery. After the sutures are removed and the surgical site has healed your vet will ‘post’ your Dane’s ears.
Posting typically involves a brace placed within the ear canal and wrapped tightly with surgical tape to keep the ears erect. Your Dane will likely require weekly visits to the vet to examine and retape the ears. Retaping of the ears should be performed on each subsequent visit. The entire post-operative period can last up to eight weeks or more.
5) Desired results are not guaranteed. Even if you bring your Dane to an ear cropping specialist (and we recommend that you do), there are no guarantees that the cropping procedure will be successful. Some Dane ears will not stand fully erect and some will begin to droop over time.
The decision to crop your Dane’s ears should not be taken lightly. There is potential for serious health implications involved with any surgical procedure and we encourage you to weigh the benefits of aesthetics against the potential for harm. If you are considering this procedure, please take the time to first consult with a qualified veterinarian before taking the plunge.