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Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the recent letters from dog breeders (Can Vet J 2010;51:929) regarding canine cosmetic surgery.
There is no scientific evidence to support the practice of ear cropping or tail docking as procedures that provide any health or welfare benefit for the dog (1). Cosmetic surgery does not affect the genetic health of a breed. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) encourages all Canadian dog clubs to rise to the challenge of breeding genetically diverse, healthy and happy dogs that also have natural ears and tails. Dog club members can provide leadership in eliminating the desire for cropped and docked ears in all purebred dogs by 1) revising the canine breed standards so that they allow for natural ears and tails (as has been done by the Kennel Club in the UK), 2) raising awareness amongst all purebred dog club members, show judges, and the public about the pain and suffering that cropped and docked dogs unnecessarily endure, and 3) encouraging other breed clubs to follow this lead in eliminating these unnecessary surgeries, and focusing instead on the health and welfare of dogs.
Neonatal nociception has been well-documented in the veterinary scientific literature in puppies and other animal species (2,3). Performing cosmetic surgery causes unnecessary pain to animals. Docking and cropping may also negatively affect communications between dogs, and between dogs and people, as ear and tail carriage are important for communication. Docking tails may increase the likelihood of health problems such as urinary incontinence (4).
The CVMA notes the positive step that some provincial regulatory authorities in Canada have taken to pass bylaw amendments that discourage veterinarians from performing cosmetic surgery. The CVMA encourages breeders of traditionally cropped and docked dogs to join the veterinary community in educating the public that these procedures cause unnecessary pain and suffering in animals. To further this initiative, the CVMA has recently distributed a cosmetic surgery poster “Every Dog Has a Tail to Tell and the Ears to Hear One!” available at http://canadianveterinarians.net/publications-resources-order.aspx