CVMA | Documents | Cosmetic Alteration – Position Statement

Cosmetic Alteration – Position Statement

January 27, 2014


"The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) opposes the alteration of any animal by surgical or other invasive methods for cosmetic or competitive purposes."


1. The CVMA believes that all veterinarians have an ethical obligation to act in the best medical and welfare interests of their patients. The veterinary oath states, “I will strive to promote animal health and welfare, relieve animal suffering,…”. (1)

2. The CVMA believes that cosmetic alteration is unnecessary. Surgical alterations in cases of injury or for reasons of health are not considered cosmetic.

a) Examples of cosmetic surgical procedures include:
  - tail docking in the canine or equine (2)
  - ear cropping in canines

The CVMA strongly encourages breed associations to change their breed standards so that cosmetic surgeries are not required and to assist the veterinary community in educating the public that these procedures cause unnecessary pain and suffering (3).

b) Non-surgical alteration for cosmetic purposes includes:
 - cosmetic dentistry to meet show or breed standards
 - tattooing other than for registration and identification
 - body piercing

3. There are many countries that do not permit cosmetic surgeries on dogs (4,5) and their associated breed registries allow dogs to compete and be shown in their natural state (6,7). Currently, in Canada, veterinarians in 6 provinces are prohibited from performing various cosmetic surgeries through provincial veterinary association by-laws and codes of practice (NL, PE, NS, NB, MB, SK). In addition, cosmetic surgery is illegal under the provincial Animal Health and Protection Act in Newfoundland and Labrador.

4. There is no scientific evidence that cosmetic surgeries provide any welfare or medical benefit to animals (8-10). There is evidence to suggest that some cosmetic procedures cause acute and chronic pain (9-12), as well as behavioural evidence that cosmetic alteration may be detrimental to canine behavior (10,13). In one study using a small dataset from Great Britain, it was found that there was a decrease in risk of tail injuries for docked dogs (0.03%) compared with non-docked dogs (0.23%). The very low incidence of tail injuries in all groups, however, shows that tail docking does not provide sufficient protection against injury to justify tail docking of all animals (according to this study, it would require 500 tail-dockings to prevent 1 injury) (9).


1.  Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, Veterinarian Oath, 2004. Available from: Last accessed December 13, 2013.

2. Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, Position Statement on Tail Alteration of Horses, March 2013. Available from: Last accessed December 13, 2013.

3. Canadian Veterinary Medical Association  “Every Dog Has a Tail to Tell and the Ears to Hear One!” Poster 2010. Available from: Last accessed December 13, 2013.

4. Crook A.  Cosmetic  Surgery in North America and Latin America. Proceedings of World Small Animal Veterinary Association 2001: 54-55.

5. Lefebvre D, Lipps D, Giffroy JM. The European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals and tail docking in dogs. Rev Sci Tech 2007;26:619-628.

6. Australian National Kennel Council Limited Breed Standards October 2012. Available from: Last accessed December 13, 2013.

7. The Kennel Club Breed Standards May 2013. Available from:  Last accessed March 25, 2013.

8. Diesel G, Pfeiffer D, Cripsin S, Brodbelt D. Risk factors for tail injuries in dogs in Great Britain, Vet Rec 2010;166:812-817.

9. Bennett PC, Perini E.  Tail docking in dogs: A review of the issues. Aus Vet J 2003;81:208-218.

10. Wansbrough  RK. Cosmetic tail docking of dogs. Aus Vet J 1996;74:59-63.

11. Gross TL, Carr SH. Amputation neuroma of docked tails in dogs. Vet Path 1990;27:61-62.

12. Noonan GJ, Rand  JS,  Blackshaw JK, Priest J. Behavioural observations of puppies undergoing tail docking. Appl Anim Behav Sci 1996;49:335-342.

13. Leaver SDA, Reimchen TE. Behavioural Responses of Canis familiaris to different tail lengths by a remotely–controlled life-size dog replica. Behaviour 2007;145:377-390.


(Revised November 2013)