In my first year of practice in a very busy, multi-doctor small animal hospital in an affluent Chicago suburb, we had a surgeon on the staff who was noted for his ability to crop ears. Every day we would admit purebred dogs from all over the area for the surgery and post surgical bandaging.
As a "new" veterinarian I watched with interest all aspects of the ear cropping protocol -- from the initial physical exam, interview with the owner regarding what they expected the ears to look like, the anesthetic administration, surgery, post operative bandaging and patient recovery.
I assisted with rebandaging those pups that came back in because one or both pinnas were not standing properly. I assisted in cleaning and treating the occasional case where the incisions became infected; I listened as a disappointed dog owner sternly questioned the surgeon about "what went wrong with the surgery" when one or both ears did not stand erect.
All the while these procedures were taking place, and while I observed the occasional dog owners who were angry, frustrated, and disappointed that their prized purebred dog would never "look right", I would concentrate on the patient. I always felt just a twinge of conscience about what the dog must be feeling as it sat patiently with an inquisitive eye on the humans attending to it.
I decided, after considering all the pros and cons surrounding the ear cropping procedure, that when I opened my animal hospital I would not perform the ear cropping procedure.
I have owned three animal hospitals since my first year out of veterinary school back in 1970. And though I still choose not to do ear cropping, I will take on bone fracture repair, gastric dilatation (bloat) correction, tumor removals and just about any surgery an experienced veterinarian will do.
The income lost was a non-factor in my decision not to do ear cropping. (Many veterinarians have to charge well over $150 per pup due to the anesthetic, surgery, bandages, hospital stay, and also will charge for rebandaging, suture removal, antibiotics, etc. So a litter of ten pups for ear cropping can generated sizeable income.) The revenue for a practice can be substantial for doing ear cropping. But my decision not to do this surgery was a simple personal choice on my part.
As your pup's caretaker, you have a choice, too. Weigh all the pros and cons, and then make your decision. Expect to be criticized by those who disagree with your choice.
I was criticized by a number of breeders for NOT doing the surgery -- they seemed put-out by the fact that they had to find another veterinarian to do it.
But just as the decision not to do the surgery in my practices was my personal decision to make, so it is your choice whether or not it will be done on your dog.
Image: Sugar Pond / via Flickr