Louisa the vet on ... Ear cropping on dogs and why it's so bad

Written by Dr Louisa Lane
29th Jul 2022
4 mins read
The image shows veterinarian Dr Louisa Lane holding a black Cocker Spaniel puppy. She appears on a salmon pink background, with an off-white cross.
Dr Louisa Lane explains that ear cropping on dogs is a painful procedure that should never be performed. It’s an illegal procedure here in the UK, and in many European countries. No dog should ever have its ears cropped. Ear cropping is considered mutilation, purely to make a dog look a certain way. It has no benefit to dogs and causes them nothing but pain and trauma. It also robs the dog of the ability to use their ears in communication, and can negatively impact their hearing.
You might not have realised, but you’ve probably seen a dog with cropped ears. Ear cropping on dogs (sometimes called “ear docking”) is used to change the appearance of a dog’s ears, and is especially common in breeds like the Doberman, American Bulldogs, Cane Corsos, and Great Danes.
You might have already heard that ear cropping is considered cruel and unnecessary. Dr Louisa Lane has penned an article answering frequently asked questions about ear cropping on dogs, including why this procedure is so bad, and why we need to work together to #CutTheCrop.

What is ear cropping on dogs?

Ear cropping on dogs is a barbaric and painful mutilation where a dog’s ear flaps are cut to look a certain way. The sensitive ears are cut, and then forced into an upright position with tape for months to give them a pointy appearance.

Why do people crop their dog’s ears?

I struggle to understand why anybody would want to put their pet through this because there are absolutely no benefits for the dog.
Possible (misguided) reasons for considering having a dog’s ears cropped include:
  • Some people believe it makes their dog look ‘tougher’ or more intimidating.
  • People have seen photos of the same dog breed in other countries where the ears are cropped. They then subconsciously associate this appearance as being ‘normal’.
  • There is an unfortunate trend in celebrities owning dogs with cropped ears, which again is normalising this barbaric procedure.

Is ear cropping painful?

Imagine having your own ears cut and then forced and taped into a pointy, upright position for months - do you think this would be painful? Yes, ear cropping on dogs is painful.
Yes, this procedure is painful. The ear is made up of very sensitive tissue and this is a completely unnatural and painful procedure. It’s disappointing we have veterinary professionals in other countries performing ear cropping, knowing that it is purely a cosmetic procedure.
Even more worryingly it is being performed by non-veterinary professionals without access to sterile equipment, anaesthesia or even pain relief. This is tragic and is leaving so many dogs in agony.

Why is ear cropping on dogs bad?

Despite the false claims ear cropping can prevent ear infections (I can tell you that it doesn’t), it has absolutely no benefit to the dog whatsoever. This is a purely cosmetic, painful mutilation and can lead to a lifetime of issues and pain for the dog.
Often these procedures are carried out in puppies, which is extremely traumatic for them. It can make them head shy and frightened throughout their life.
Dogs use their ears to express emotions and communicate (watch your dog’s ears move when they can hear a noise or when they’re playing). Their ears also help to guide sound into the ear and help with hearing. Cropping a dog’s ears removes their ability to do this.
Also, cutting these immensely important and sensitive structures brings a high risk of infection. Again, this is painful and traumatises young puppies (as well as affecting their socialisation in those important early days,) into adulthood.
The graphic shows two side-by-side photos of Dobermans. The Doberman on the left has upright, cropped ears. The Doberman on the right has natural, uncut, floppy ears.

Is ear cropping illegal in the UK?

Ear cropping is illegal in the UK and is referred to as ‘mutilation’ under the animal welfare act 2006. It's also illegal in most European counties, which includes Romania and Bulgaria where more recent cases have been imported from.
It is still legal to import a dog with cropped ears from another country. However, whilst intentions are mostly always good in rescuing dogs from abroad, you should never rescue a dog for this purpose as this will only continue to normalise what is truly barbaric mutilation.

According to the PDSA, 4% of people who got their dog from abroad did so because they wanted cropped ears. Are there risks associated with this?

This is a really disappointing statistic because of everything I have already mentioned.
There are some risks in importing dogs from abroad regardless, in terms of infection risk. (And not to mention the vast number of dogs we have already waiting in rehoming centres in England waiting for a loving home).
Purposefully owning pets with mutilations unfortunately only normalises their appearance, and this procedure. We want to make it known that ear cropping is NOT a normal procedure, and it’s wrong.

Is there ever a medical reason to crop a dog’s ears, or is it purely cosmetic?

The only time a dog’s ears should ever be touched with a scalpel blade is for a medical reason deemed necessary by a vet. For example, removing a growth or tumour, or repairing a wound.
Ear cropping on dogs is otherwise completely selfish, unecessary, and performed solely for misguided cosmetic reasons, which makes it wrong.

So to wrap up, what’s the veterinary verdict on ear cropping on dogs?

Ear cropping on dogs is a painful mutilation and should be made illegal worldwide. This is completely unnatural for a dog and affects them mentally and physically.
Dr Louisa Lane on ear cropping:
Ear cropping serves absolutely no purpose and instead causes harm and suffering to dogs who we are supposed to be advocating for.
Due to the rising trend of ear-cropped dogs, there has been an influx of these dogs in rehoming centres (in the UK). If you are to rehome a dog with cropped ears, make sure it is from a reputable rehoming centre and not from a private seller.
If you believe someone has illegally cropped a dog’s ears, you must report this by calling the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 (England/Wales). Or call the SSPCA (Scotland) 0300 0999 999.
Visit the BVA website for more information on how you can help
with their campaign.

Get pet care tips and offers in your inbox

Join our newsletter to get everything your pets want you to know about.
By joining, you agree to marketing emails. Unsubscribe anytime. See our privacy policy.
Napo Limited is registered in England and Wales (company number: 13281620). Our address is 2 Jubilee Place, London, SW3 3TQ. Napo is a trading name of Napo Limited who is an appointed representative of City Insurance Brokers Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (ref: 831252). We are also registered with the Information Commissioners Office in relation to the processing of personal information (reg. no: ZB073689). Defaqto 5 Star Rating applies to Napo £4,000 pet insurance.
What we cover is subject to terms and conditions in our policy.
© Napo Limited 2023