For The Love Of Elective procedures aren't right for every pet owner

June 9, 2011 at 1:09 a.m.

By John Beck

My aunt's dog just had puppies. They are schnauzers, and she can't decide if she needs to have their tails docked or leave them be. What do you think?

There are a lot of optional things that people have done to their pets to make them prettier or like the standard they are accustom to seeing. Dewclaw removal, tail docks and ear crops are all elective surgeries.

The dewclaws are the digit located on the carpal or tarsal joint (wrist or ankle). Some dogs are naturally born without this digit and some only have front dewclaws. Others have all four. Many people choose to get them removed to avoid future problems with snagging them on carpets, etc.

Tail docking is another popular procedure that is usually done at the same time as the dewclaw removal. A lot of people are used to seeing Yorkshire terriers and Doberman pinschers with cute, stubby tails.

There are a couple of breeds like Prembroke Welsh corgis and Australian Shepherds that are born with naturally short tails. Bulldogs Boston terriers are born with a swirling pig tail and usually don't need to be altered. If you are considering having tails docked or dewclaws removed, I recommend doing so while the dog is 3 to 5 days of age because there is pain associated with this procedure if done early.

If you are considering having your dog's ears cropped, 14-16 weeks of age is the prime time. This gives the dog time to develop some strength and cartilage in the ears so they will stand properly after the trim.

Some people consider these procedures cruel and unnecessary. Since they are elective procedures, it is a moral decision for each owner. Keep in mind that pain medication and antibiotics are needed for these procedures to manage post-operative infection and pain.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact me or your local veterinarian.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at



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