Pitbull Ear Cropping: Risks And Why You Shouldn’t Do It

When pet owners enter the Pitbull world, they may not even be sure of what a Pitbull’s ears look like normally, as it is a popular trend to crop the dog’s ears. Conventions and fashions make people expect to see Pitbulls that look a certain way. For many, this is the small fragments of an ear left after ear cropping. The question that must be asked is should Pitbull ear cropping be done, and what risks are involved?

Cropping your Pitbull’s ears exposes them to health risks such as anesthetic complications, infection, scarring, and bleeding. It is a cosmetic procedure with no benefit. Ear cropping compromises your dog’s social interactions with other dogs and people.

As a veterinarian that owns a rescue American Bully dog, the subject of ear cropping is one that I find very concerning. My experience and scientific literature show some interesting facts on why you shouldn’t crop your Pitbull’s ears.

What Is Ear Cropping, And Why Do People Do It?

Cropping a dog’s ears has been done for centuries. Many reasons for ear cropping have been given over the years.

One reason that ear cropping proponents often quote is that working dogs may damage their ears. Dogs pushing through the underbrush or fences may snag their outer ears (pinnae), causing a tear. The ears are cropped to avoid this problem.

Another reason that ears are cropped is that people feel that removing the outer ear allows sounds to enter the ear directly and increases hearing acuity.

They also claim that removing the pinna enables the dog to swivel its ears toward the origin of the sound.

Some people believe that cropping the ears prevents ear infections in dogs. The theory is that increased airflow reduces bacterial and fungal growth in the outer ear canal.

The final reason, and sometimes the largest motivator, is that cropping the ears makes a Pitbull look more aggressive and intimidating.

Unfortunately, some people attracted to Pitbulls have unsavory characters and use their dogs to enhance their bad-boy or girl image. A Pitbull with cropped ears is more intimidating, and irresponsible owners use this to bully and terrorize others.

cropped ears

Are There Any Benefits To Ear Cropping?

To investigate if there are any benefits to ear cropping, let’s consider each reason that ear cropping is performed to see if it is a legitimate claim.

Does Ear Cropping Stop Ear Injuries In Pitbulls?

The claim that Pitbulls may damage their ears while working does not hold water. The majority of Pitbulls are not working dogs. They have been bred and are used largely as companion dogs.

Companion dogs do not run the risk of tearing their ears on the couch or going for a walk with their owner. This scenario is so unlikely that proposing to remove most of the dog’s ear to prevent a non-existent problem is illogical.

Pitbulls do not have large pendulous ears such as Bassets or Bloodhounds. Their ears are positioned high on the head and do not hang below eye level. The size and position of the ears do not make them vulnerable to injury in everyday life.

People involved in illegal dog fighting may crop their Pitbull’s ears to prevent the dog’s opponent from latching onto the ear. Blood sports such as dog fighting are illegal in the United States and most other countries.

In many countries, a Pitbull with cropped ears is only seen in fighting dogs. A dog with cropped ears casts immediate suspicion onto the owner and grave doubts about their interest in their dog’s welfare.

Do Pitbulls With Cropped Ears Hear Better? 

People who crop their dogs’ ears believe it gives them better hearing. This is an interesting standpoint as dogs’ hearing is much more acute than humans.

Pitbulls hear sound from greater distances than people and can detect frequencies outside the human range. It raises the question of what they want to improve in the dog’s hearing.

This thought process is flawed because the pinna is designed to collect and funnel sound down the outer ear canal to reach the ear drum (tympanic membrane). By cropping the outer ear, the dog may hear less than when it has its whole ear.

pitbull with cropped ears

Can Pitbulls With Cropped Ears Move Their Ears Better? 

Another myth related to pitbull ear cropping is that it allows a Pitbull to swivel its ear remnants in the direction of the sound. This idea makes no anatomical sense.

The Pitbull’s outer ear is moved by muscles that attach from the head to the base of the ear. Cropping generally involves cutting the upper parts of the outer ear to narrow it and form a triangular structure.

The dog was able to move the original ear because of the muscular attachments. Changing the shape of the ear does not influence that ability at all.

In some cases, ear cropping is done by owners, who may try shaping the ear from the base, and this will destroy the dog’s ability to cock its ears to hear better.

The evidence shows no change in the Pitbull’s ability to move its ears when cropped.

Does Cropping Pitbull Ears Reduce Ear Infections?

Another rationale for ear copping is that it reduces ear infections. An important point is that only twenty percent of dogs get ear infections.

The American Kennel Club notes that breeds with long pendulous ears, such as Bassets, Bloodhounds, and Cocker spaniels, get ear infections most commonly. Pitbulls are not mentioned, as ear infections are not a common condition in the breed.   

If ear infections seldom occur in Pitbulls, the rationale that they need help with ear infections is defunct. In addition, cutting off part of the outer ear would not necessarily heal or treat an ear infection.

Cocker spaniels, Bassets, and Bloodhounds never have their ears cropped. Their ears are maintained with a cleaning routine, and ear infections are treated if and when they occur.

Is Pitbull Ear Cropping Legal?

Ear cropping is illegal in many regions, including most of Europe, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The United States is lagging in this welfare area as ear cropping is not illegal.

In nine states, ear cropping is regulated. Most of these states allow ear cropping but stipulate it must be done by a veterinarian.

The other states have not made pitbull ear cropping illegal, and breeders or owners often do it themselves. Six to twelve-week-old puppies have their ears cropped without the benefit of anesthetic, local anesthetic, or even pain relief.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) rejects ear cropping and strongly discourages it. The American Kennel Club allows certain breeds of dogs to have cropped ears. 

This is a sad state of affairs. A country that prides itself as a first-world country that loves animals should not allow this kind of treatment of any dog, including Pitbulls.

The Risks Of Ear Cropping

Ear cropping involves cutting down the outer ear flap to shape it into a triangle. This portion is then taped up with stiff materials or hard splints to make the ear heal in an upright position.

Anytime a dog has an anesthetic, there is a risk to the dog. Anesthetic risks are increased in young puppies, which is when ear cropping is done.

You could lose your puppy due to a cosmetic procedure. You could liken pitbull ear cropping to having a facelift on your newborn baby. Not something any responsible parent would think was reasonable.

Considerable aftercare must be given to a puppy after ear cropping. Ears have a dense blood supply, and the risk of bleeding is high. The puppy must be kept isolated and wear a cone to prevent its ears from being bumped or scratched, triggering bleeding.

If the ear bleeds internally in the pinna remnants, the ear will become massively enlarged. Further surgery to drain the blood and correct the problem will be necessary. 

Bandages and dressings must be changed often after ear cropping. These supplies are costly and may involve trips to the veterinarian, further increasing the costs.

Any cuts or injuries are always at risk of infection. An infection in a cropped ear could result in a serious condition that could become life-threatening if it is not treated. Once the infection is cleared, the dog could be left with scarring on that ear.

Reasons You Should Not Crop Your Pitbull’s Ears

Clipping your Pitbull’s ears serves no purpose. It is a cosmetic procedure that carries considerable risk and discomfort to the puppy.

Dogs communicate largely through body language. Part of this communication is the positioning of the ears. They use body language to communicate with both people and other dogs.

When you cut a Pitbull’s ears, it cannot communicate its intent clearly to other dogs. Poor inter-dog communication results in fights breaking out, negatively affecting the Pitbull physically, socially, and emotionally.

People are often intimidated by a dog with cropped ears as it makes them look fierce and aggressive.

Pitbulls do not need this kind of negative publicity. They can be affectionate, well-adjusted dogs, but a bad reaction from a stranger can trigger the dog to be defensive or protective of its owners. If the Pitbull bites or is aggressive towards a stranger due to the person’s overreaction, this earns the breed a bad reputation, and the dog may be euthanized. 

Some breeders or owners do ear cropping at home without any means of pain control. The trauma that the puppy endures can cause lasting emotional scars, which cause the Pitbull puppy to distrust people.

Ultimately this emotional trauma may be responsible for the dog being surrendered to a shelter. Once again, the breed’s reputation suffers, and the dog may lose its life.

As an owner of a rescue Bully dog and a veterinarian that sees dogs unnecessarily scarred, I can assure you that these traumas and consequent behavioral patterns are not easy to correct.


Cropping your Pitbull’s ears has no benefit and can give an unfair impression of the dog’s aggression levels. It can cause significant problems impacting the dog’s health and interactions with other dogs.

Tradition is never a good excuse to perpetuate a practice that affects a Pitbull’s health. We need to constantly evaluate our care of Pitbulls to ensure it is ethical and does not compromise the dog.  

If you found this information elightening, please share the article. I want to educate as many people as possible about this important issue.

Emily Andrews