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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, practical value of the traditional breed standard, and superior pain management. 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 pinnectomy/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, Bouvier des Flandres 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. You are welcome to bring images, or chose a style Doctor recommends for your dog after she thoroughly evaluates the shape of head/body and cartilage quality. Keep in mind that every surgeon has their unique style. Styles are like handwriting, and we are not able to recreate someone else’s style with precision. Sometimes the type of cartilage may not be suitable for 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, and post-operative care discussion will take place at the consult. We require current vaccinations and intestinal parasite screen/deworming – please bring medical records. Lastly, please come prepared to engage in the consultation and ask questions. We request minimum distractions during your consultation, as it’s a lot to absorb and process.

Ear crops follow the breed standard and purpose of the dog (show, family pet, working dog, etc.) For example, the Doberman breed standard, as described by the DPCA, reads: “Cropped ears impart an appearance of alertness, determination, and watchfulness, and they aid in multi-directional hearing. In our standard, we do not describe an uncropped ear because this is a cropped breed. Dobermans with uncropped ears deviate from the standard twice — first by not having cropped ears, as required by the standard, and second by not having an erect ear carriage.” It is still an individual choice to crop or leave natural! Traditional breed standard was created for the purpose of the dog, and many of these dogs carry the same purpose today – such as the Doberman exuding an appearance of protective companion. Purpose of the dog should be considered when making the decision to crop or leave natural.

Corrective and reconstructive otoplasty is Dr. Lapova’s special interest. These cases can be a result of a poor previous crop, or non-standing even if a crop was excellent. There are very few surgeons experienced in reconstructive otoplasty. 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 and reconstructed ears often don’t look as sharp as if the crop was originally performed, however we’ve been fortunate with many cases – please see the portfolio below. Extra commitments frequently include long distance travel and learning posting and monitoring techniques. We’d love to be your first surgeon – but we’ll be your second if needed.

To improve anesthetic safety, we submit to the laboratory pre-operative blood screening, including blood coagulation. Consultation fee currently covers this test, provided consultation is done several days before surgery. This is subject to change at any time due to laboratory fee variability. We will inform you if any treatment is needed prior to surgery should the results be concerning, and postpone the procedure if necessary. 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. Litters must be pre-approved and scheduled accordingly – we treat each puppy as an individual patient. Pain management includes IV injections before and after surgery, nerve blocks similar to what your dentist may do but for the ears, 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 25-30 lb unless this is a reconstruction. Should an exception be made for a patient over 25 lb, additional fees will apply. 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; maturity may take 1.5-3 years. We can not fully predict how tall ears will appear at maturity, as every dog’s cartilage elongation is individual and unique. Visual illusion of length and width also depend on facial and body structure.

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, and your diligence at home. Every dog is different, and many cases require a year or more to stand – especially the Doberman, Great Dane, Boxer, Giant Schnauzer and other taller crops. 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 or pocketing 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. 

If you are a breeder, please allow adequate time for the entire litter to be cropped. We treat every puppy as an individual patient, not an assembly line. Anesthesia, analgesia, surgery and recovery take time and we do it right vs fast. Don’t hesitate to ask about current litter rates, and keep in mind deposits are required. It is crucial that you educate puppy buyers on the post-operative care, posting, and prepare them for the commitment. We encourage to make copies of the discharge instructions and surgical/posting forms and share them with your buyers.

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 pinnectomy/otoplasty. 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. Should the tail reconstruction be needed at the time of ear crop, additional fees apply.

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. Dogs affected with oculocutaneous albinism can have extremely sensitive skin, eyes and ears. 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 reconstruction.

We can also help post and tulip your Collie or Sheltie ears, or any breed where rosebud pinna should be corrected to forward fold. 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. Please note that in our opinion, using the laser does NOT improve cosmetic outcome. Some surgeons are skilled with the laser, however it is our opinion that the skill of the surgeon outweighs their choice of tools. Laser surgery frequently results in jagged, unnatural incision edge, discoloration of dark hair to white, and lack of shaping precision.

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. Please ensure you are informed about not only the benefits but risks of elective surgeries, so you can make the correct decision. 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!

Please click here for a link to AKC statement on Dispelling the Myths of Cropped Ears and Docked tails. On that note, we do not perform debarking. We suggest studying your breed of choice for tendencies to vocalize, and engaging the guidance of professional trainer to manage undesirable vocalization.

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

Click here for ear posting video by RBAH

Click here to read the Doberman Breed Standard