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Ear Cropping

Over 45 years combined experience and >8,000 procedures, Dr. Leggett and Dr. Lapova have developed a technique with emphasis on cosmetic appearance, symmetry, esthetic and practical value of the breed standard, and superior pain control. Please note that cosmetic surgery is not a subject in veterinary school curriculum, and apprenticeship under an experienced surgeon is the best way to learn the art of cosmetic otoplasty. Dr. Lapova is proud to call Dr. Leggett her mentor, and she was his only apprentice in 4 decades. We wished Dr. Leggett a happy retirement in 2014. Our expertise extends to Doberman, Great Dane, Boxer, Schnauzer, bully breeds, Cane Corso, Miniature Pinscher, and other traditionally cropped breeds. Our Client base spans all regions of the United States, and even parts of Canada and Europe. From family pets to working dogs and movie stars, we can help you achieve the look you want for your dog.

During consultation with Dr. Lapova, we discuss the suitable style for the individual dog and your preference. Please bring images, or chose a style Doctor recommends for your dog after she thoroughly evaluates the shape of head/body and cartilage quality. Note that crops follow breed standard and purpose of the dog (show, family pet, working dog, etc.).  Sometimes the type of cartilage may not be able to support the crop of your choice, and we are happy to discuss alternatives – such as different type of crop, or leaving ears natural. Ideally, the crop should complement your dog, not distract from their beauty. We only perform a “custom crop” if we think it will be a good fit for the dog. Thorough evaluation, physical exam, risk:benefit analysis, current preventive care assessment (please bring records if you have them), and post-operative care discussion will take place at the consult. We require current vaccinations and intestinal parasite screen/deworming, please bring medical records.

We can also evaluate your dog for a corrective/reconstructive procedure (usually a result of a poor previous crop or non-standing even if a crop was excellent) – although not all can be successfully corrected. Corrective and reconstructive procedures carry extra risks and commitments, as well as additional costs. Please make sure you ask all the questions and understand the procedure, risks and benefits. Results can in no way be guaranteed, however we’ve been fortunate with many crops we have selected for reconstruction – please see the portfolio below.

To improve anesthetic safety, we highly recommend thorough pre-operative blood screening, including blood coagulation. Modern anesthesia is very safe, but no anesthetic procedure is without a risk. Current statistics suggest 5/10,000 healthy dogs experience anesthetic episode, including death. We use extensive monitoring techniques to prevent complications, and limit daily surgery load to the number we can handle safely, with individual attention to the patient. Pain control includes injections before and after surgery, nerve blocks, oral pain and anti-inflammatory medications, and therapeutic laser. Keep in mind that weight limits apply to larger breeds, we prefer them to be at 15-20 lb, no more that 25-35 lb unless this is a reconstruction. Weight and age limits apply to smaller breeds – please call us and ask!

Ear crops are like hair cuts – exact same shape may look differently on each dog due to individual stature, size, body type, head shape, width of forehead, etc. Ears don’t grow near as fast or big as the dog, and puppy’s ears will always look disproportionately longer and bigger than they do as an adult. Do not be alarmed, they grow into their ears. This is particularly true for the bully breeds, the Corso, and the Great Dane – but applies to all breeds.

Surgery is the initial step, and post-operative care period is crucial. Several follow up visits will be required for suture and rack removal, ear tapings, assessment of cartilage and skin healing, potential adjustments in medications and dosing, etc. Ear crops come with homework, so prepare to dedicate yourself to observation and follow up. **It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to follow up with weekly rechecks and tapings with our Hospital; failure to do so may result in sub-optimal cosmetic appearance.** We are happy to show anyone interested our posting method for home posting – the owner assumes the risk of any consequences. Other complications may include bleeding, infection, excessive scarring, allergy to tape and other posting materials, etc.

Length of follow-up time is highly variable and depends on the breed, individual genetics, style of crop, and your diligence at home. Every dog is different, and some cases require a year or more to stand. If you can not fully commit to the post-operative management, or are not willing to accept surgical and post-surgical risks, ear crop is not the right choice. Results can not be guaranteed, and some ears won’t stand for genetic reasons – average rate of non-standing is 10-20% but it may be higher for each individual dog. This is not predictable. We only shape the ears and help in posting; we can not guarantee cartilage will mature properly.

Ear crop is also a financial commitment; please budget for the surgery and aftercare along with all the preventive care that will be taking place concurrently. We highly recommend insurance for your dog, as many medical expenses are unpredictable, however few plans cover otoplasty itself. We do our best to provide you with an estimate prior to surgery, if you haven’t got one, please ask! All Pets are required to be current on vaccinations and free of internal and external parasites; we accept records from your referring Veterinarian.

For the safety of your dog, PLEASE only allow a Licensed Veterinarian to perform surgery! Sadly, there are individuals who will botch the ears in their backyards, without proper anesthesia, pain management, or with medications obtained via illegal channels. It is cruelty to animals, practicing surgery without a license, and is illegal – not to mention the atrocious results we sometimes can not correct.

While we currently crop albino and melanistic Dobermans, we in NO WAY encourage breeding or purchasing non-standard Doberman colors. Albino skin can be extremely sensitive. If the breed of the dog is not certain, is of mixed heritage, or the dog does not phenotypically resemble the breed, we can not establish the standard and most likely will decline the crop. We will NOT crop any non-cropped breed to resemble a cropped breed for ethical reasons. Dr. Lapova reserves the right to decline any case based on her judgement. Due to our commitment and advocacy for the bully breeds, we do not perform excessively short “battle” crops – only exception being corrective reconstruction.

We can also help post and tulip your Collie or Sheltie ears. This method does not involve surgery, only taping.

As with any cosmetic surgery, the saying “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be more true. Many veterinarians crop ears – VERY FEW CROP THEM WELL. Keep in mind that some high priced hospitals don’t deliver optimal results, but you will almost never get a quality surgery and anesthesia cheap. We are confident in the quality of our work, and have a portfolio to prove it, and we are here to inform you of potential risks. When choosing a Veterinarian to alter the appearance of your dog for the rest of his/her life, it’s wise to ask to see their previous work and compare it to the work of others. Inquire into quality of anesthesia and analgesia, commitment to post-op care; make a visual assessment of the symmetry, beauty flow with the head/neck/body, blending with the head, quality of healing and scar tissue, etc. This is not a choice that should be based on cost alone, and natural ears are much prettier than poorly cropped ears. Below is our portfolio. Enjoy the pictures of these beautiful dogs – most done by Dr. Lapova and few older images by Dr. Leggett. Please note that due to so many of our Patients coming long distance and our case load, this portfolio is only a fraction of our work. We love to see the pictures as they grow up, so please email them!

Click here to read the blog by our surgeon, Dr. Yelena Lapova