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Can An Ear Implant Save a Dogs Life?

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Can an Ear Implant Save a Dog’s Life?

Ear trims and tail docking are subjects that are sure to cause controversy in a room full of animal lovers.  Considered unnecessary and even cruel, many veterinarians have stopped performing these procedures altogether.  In a time when cosmetic surgeries on pets generate strong emotions, why would anyone introduce a product designed to help a dog’s floppy ears stand up straight?

By:  Dr. Jim Humphries, Veterinary News Network

Our favorite dog breeds come in all shapes and sizes.  From the monstrous Mastiffs and Great Danes to the petite and fragile Yorkies, there seems to be a breed built for everyone!  But, some pet owners and breeders have continued a long tradition that many find completely unneeded and even repulsive…cropping the pet’s ears!

Of the 170+ recognized dog breeds, only a handful routinely have their ears cropped.  Dobermans, Danes, Schnauzers and Boxers are representative of these few breeds.  The surgery to alter a dog’s ears is very much an art form and final results are often as much dependant on the veterinarian’s skill and experience as it is on the after-care by the owner.  Sadly, some dogs undergo the surgery only to end up with ears that just won’t stand or worse, curl into an ugly shape.

Trimming ears goes back into the history of many dog breeds.  Dog’s ears were trimmed to prevent other animals from ripping or tearing the ear flap.  Great Danes, as an example, hunted boars.  Their long floppy ears could get caught by a boar’s tusks or ripped by thorny bushes.  In present times, though, very few dog breeds actually perform such rigorous jobs.

Ear cropping surgeries involve general anesthetic of puppies between the ages of 10-16 weeks.  Depending on the type of ear trim desired, 50% or more of the ear flap may be removed.  For a few breeds, like Schnauzers, the surgical outcome is straightforward because of the anatomy of the ear.  After suture removal, the ears generally stand without further assistance.

But for larger breeds both the size of the ear flap and the post operative time frame can make the process complicated.  Breeds like Dobermans, Danes and Boxers often need to be taped and splinted to train the ear cartilage to stand erect.  Some pups are lucky and see good results within 2-3 weeks.  Others need constant re-bandaging over a 3-4 month period of time.  A few never stand at all and some become deformed.

Enter inventor Gregg Miller, originator of the Neuticles testicle implants and now, the PermaStay Ear Implants.  Miller says that requests from his customers led to the development of this new device.

The PermaStay implant is surgical mesh with a plastic spine that helps support the cartilage and skin that composes the ear flap.  Designed to be useful for ear crops that didn’t turn out right or even for injuries to a dog’s ear, the implant is surgically inserted.  After surgery, connective tissue grows around the device.

Although Azzore Veterinary Specialists in Arkansas does not perform ear crops, Dr. Terry Dew, a board certified veterinary surgeon with the practice says that Miller’s implants could be used when a standard ear cropping technique fails or potentially as a means to eliminate the cumbersome taping routines. 

So, the question remains…if these surgeries serve no purpose other than altering a dog’s appearance and veterinarians are increasingly against them, why do the surgery at all?  Moreover, why would someone introduce a product that seems to actually promote ear cropping?

Maybe the answer lies in our own human vanity.  It is true that Great Danes and Dobermans look regal, vigilant and dedicated with erect ears.  And many pet owners want that look. But when it comes to homeless or rescue dogs sporting a bad ear crop result – the look makes them much harder to adopt. 

And, although breed rescues are firmly against any sort of cosmetic surgery, they see many dogs come into rescue after the surgery is already done.  A Boxer with only one ear standing or a Dane whose ears flop across the head instead of standing are definitely more difficult to place.
 
Great Dane rescue volunteer, Patricia Guest says “it’s only human nature to be attracted to the dogs that are very handsome or very beautiful. For families looking to adopt or rescue, bad ear crop results do detract from the initial impression making these dogs harder to find forever homes.”

The PermaStay Ear implant might help these dogs find their forever homes more quickly.  But, at $400 for the device plus surgical costs, most rescues won’t have the funding.

Until changes are made at the level of the American Kennel Club and specific breed clubs, ear cropping will continue to cause controversy.  The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes ear cropping and encourages eliminating it from breed standards.  Until the day that ear crops are simply a bad memory, these ear implants could have a place in assisting adoptions and even saving a few dog’s lives.

To learn more about breed rescues or weigh in on conversations about controversial pet topics, visit www.PetDocsOnCall.com.