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Piercing Dogs’ Ears: Risks and Controversies Of Dog Ear Piercing

Piercing dogs’ ears is a controversial topic that has been debated by pet owners, veterinarians, and animal welfare organizations. Some people may argue that ear piercing is a harmless form of self-expression that can enhance a dog’s appearance.

Opponents argue that it is a form of animal cruelty that can cause health problems. No matter the controversy, maintaining the health of a dog’s ears by cleaning them with vet-approved dog ear cleaning solution is paramount, pierced or not.

While there are no laws that specifically prohibit piercing dogs’ ears, many animal welfare organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), discourage the practice. Benjamin Preisner’s Guide to Dog Ear Health emphasizes the importance of maintaining healthy ears in canines.

The piercing practice involves making a small incision in the dog’s ear and inserting an earring or stud. While it’s technically possible to pierce a dog’s ears, it’s not recommended by most veterinarians, animal welfare organizations, and even this blog.

One of the main concerns with piercing a dog’s ears is the unnecessary risk of infection. Dogs have a higher risk of developing infections than humans, causing issues like painful scabs and ear discharge.

Additionally, piercing a dog’s ears can cause pain and discomfort, which can lead to behavioral problems and even aggression. According to the AVMA, ear cropping and piercing is unnecessary for the health and well-being of the animal. 

Additionally, many veterinarians refuse to perform the piercing procedure, citing ethical concerns and the potential for harm to the animal. Even canine ear cropping (which we cover in our article Rottweilers with cut or cropped ears) has come under fire since it’s unnecessary. 

Despite the practice’s controversy, some pet owners continue to pierce their dogs’ ears. Just see this video below of Frenchies with pierced ears:

It is important for pet owners to carefully consider the potential risks and benefits of ear piercing before making a decision. 

Ultimately, the decision to pierce a dog’s ears should be made with the animal’s best interests in mind. And objectively speaking, canines have no interest in having their ears pierced.

Legal Considerations: Is it illegal to pierce dog ears?

Animal Cruelty Laws

Most people consider piercing a dog’s ears to be animal cruelty, which is very much illegal. In some states, it is illegal to pierce a dog’s ears, and the penalties for doing so can be severe. 

For example, in New York, a person who pierces a dog’s ears can be charged with animal cruelty, a misdemeanor offense with a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Additionally, California Penal Code Section 597 makes it a crime to maliciously and intentionally maim, mutilate, and torture an animal. Puncturing a dog’s ears when piercing can qualify as mutilating a dog. 

Texas Penal 42.09 contains the state’s anti-cruelty laws, making it illegal to torture, poison, kill, or cause unjustifiable injury to animals, including dogs. 

Other State anti-animal cruelty laws include:

  • Florida Statutes Title XLV, Chapter 828 addresses animal cruelty offenses
  • Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 272, Section 77 covers cruelty to animals
  • The Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act (510 ILCS 70) outlines the state’s laws on this 
  • ARS 13-2910, which is the law governing animal cruelty in Arizona 

And many more laws differing by state make piercing a dog’s ear an act of mutilation.

Animal cruelty laws vary from state to state, and it is important to research the laws in your area before considering piercing your dog’s ears. In general, piercing a dog’s ears for cosmetic purposes is frowned upon and may be considered a form of animal abuse.

Local Regulations

In addition to state laws, there may be local regulations that govern the piercing of dogs’ ears. For example, some cities and counties have ordinances that prohibit the practice of piercing dogs’ ears.

What are the Risks of Piercing a Dog’s Ears?


Piercing a dog’s ear can lead to infections. Dogs are more prone to infections than humans as they have different immune systems. The piercing process creates an open wound, which can easily become infected. 

Bacteria can easily enter the wound and cause an infection. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, discharge, and even unusually hot ears. If left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious health problems.

Allergic Reactions

Dogs can have allergic reactions to the materials used in the piercing process. The most common materials used are stainless steel, titanium, and gold. However, some dogs may be allergic to these materials, which can cause an allergic reaction.

 Signs of an allergic reaction include redness, swelling in the face and other areas, and itching. In severe cases, the dog may experience difficulty breathing. It is important to monitor the dog for any signs of an allergic reaction and seek veterinary attention immediately if any occur.

Long-Term Health Effects

Piercing a dog’s ear can have long-term health effects. The constant irritation of the ear can lead to the development of scar tissue, which can cause the ear to become deformed. 

Additionally, the constant pressure on the ear can lead to chronic pain and discomfort. In some cases, the piercing can cause damage to the ear cartilage, which can lead to permanent disfigurement.

Unnecessary Pain 

Dogs have ears that are more sensitive than humans. If piercing your ears is already painful for you, imagine how much worse it is for your dog. Some dogs may have their piercings done incorrectly, leading to incessant bleeding.

Ethical Concerns

When considering piercing a dog’s ears, some ethical concerns arise. Animal rights advocates argue that altering the appearance of an animal for human aesthetic purposes is inhumane and unnecessary. They believe dogs should be allowed to express their natural appearance and behavior without human intervention. Piercing a dog’s ears is seen as a violation of their rights and a form of animal cruelty.

Veterinarians also have concerns about piercing a dog’s ears. They believe that it can cause unnecessary pain and discomfort for the animal. 

It’s Straight-up Unnecessary 

Subjecting dogs to unnecessary cosmetic alterations, such as ear piercing, causes unnecessary suffering. Some animals may have functional piercings like cows getting identification tagging. However, owners that pierce their dog’s ears do it purely for aesthetic purposes, which is needless.

Alternatives to Piercing

Non-Invasive Jewelry

For pet owners who want to accessorize their dogs without causing any harm, non-invasive jewelry is a great alternativ-e-archive to piercing. There are many different types of jewelry that can be worn without causing any discomfort to the dog.

One popular option is a collar with decorative charms or pendants. These can be easily attached and removed, allowing owners to change up their dog’s look whenever they want. Another option is a bandana or scarf with a decorative slide or clip.

Temporary Tattoos

Another option for pet owners who want to add some style to their dog’s appearance is temporary tattoos. These can be applied to the dog’s fur using a special adhesive and will last several days before fading away.

Can You Tattoo A Dog?

In the past, before the widespread use of microchips for pet identification, some German Shepherds and other dogs were tattooed in their ears as a means of identification. The purpose of these tattoos was to provide a permanent and visible mark that could help identify the dog and its owner if it got lost or stolen.

Tattooing dogs for identification purposes was considered a standard practice in some regions and was primarily used by working and service dog organizations. It involved using special tattoo equipment and ink to create a series of numbers or letters in the dog’s ear. 

The tattoo would be unique to each individual dog and could be easily recorded in registration documents or databases. By examining the tattoo, authorities or individuals could identify the owner and return the lost dog to its rightful home. However, most German Shepherd and other dog breed societies don’t use ear tattoos any more. For example, the German Shepherd Society of Australia stopped the practice of ear tattoos in 2017, in favor of having all dogs microchipped.

However, it’s important to note that tattooing dogs solely for decorative or recreational purposes is widely considered unethical and unnecessary. Tattooing for cosmetic reasons, such as applying colorful designs or patterns on a dog’s body, poses several risks and can cause harm to the animal. Here are some reasons why it is deemed unethical and a health risk:

  1. Pain and distress: Tattooing involves penetrating the skin with needles, causing pain and discomfort for the animal. Inflicting unnecessary pain on animals for non-medical reasons is widely seen as unethical.
  2. Infection and complications: Tattooing carries the risk of infection if proper sterilization procedures are not followed. The use of unsterilized equipment or contaminated ink can lead to bacterial or viral infections. Additionally, complications such as allergic reactions or adverse skin reactions may arise.
  3. Anesthesia risks: Tattooing often requires restraining the dog and administering anesthesia to keep them still during the procedure. Anesthesia always carries inherent risks, especially for older dogs or those with pre-existing health conditions.
  4. Long-term implications: Over time, tattoos may become less clear or distorted due to skin stretching, growth, or aging. This could lead to difficulty in accurately identifying the dog.
  5. Alternatives available: Nowadays, microchipping has become the preferred and more reliable method for pet identification. Microchips are small electronic devices implanted under the dog’s skin and can be easily scanned to retrieve the owner’s information. They are considered safe, permanent, and offer a higher chance of reuniting lost pets with their owners.

In summary, while tattooing German Shepherds for identification purposes was once a common practice, it is now considered outdated. Tattooing dogs for cosmetic or recreational purposes is widely regarded as unethical due to the associated risks, pain, and distress it can cause. Microchipping is now the recommended and more responsible method for pet identification.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to pierce a dog’s ears?

Piercing a dog’s ears can be dangerous and harmful. It can cause infections, pain, and discomfort for the dog. It can also lead to permanent damage to the ear cartilage. Therefore, it is not recommended to pierce a dog’s ears.

Can dogs get their nose pierced?

No, dogs cannot get their nose pierced. Piercing a dog’s nose can cause severe pain, discomfort, and infections. It can also lead to breathing problems and other health issues.

What are pointy dog ears called?

Pointy dog ears are commonly known as erect ears. Some breeds of dogs have naturally erect ears, while some have floppy ears. The erect ears help the dogs to hear better and locate the source of the sound.

Do dogs like their ears touched?

It depends on the dog’s personality and temperament. Some dogs may enjoy having their ears touched, while others may not. It is essential to observe the dog’s body language and reactions while touching their ears. If the dog shows signs of discomfort or pain, it is best to avoid touching their ears.

Are ears back on a dog good?

Ears pinned back on a dog can indicate emotions like fear, anxiety, or submission. It is essential to observe the dog’s body language and context to understand the meaning of the ears back. If the dog is showing signs of fear or anxiety, it is best to avoid approaching them.

Can you pierce a cat’s ear?

No, it is not recommended to pierce a cat’s ear as it can cause infections, pain, and discomfort for the cat. It can also lead to permanent damage to the ear cartilage and is overall unnecessary for cats.

Final Thoughts

After considering all the information presented, it is clear that piercing a dog’s ears is a controversial topic. While some people believe it is a harmless cosmetic procedure, others argue that it is cruel and unnecessary.

 While some may argue that it is a harmless cosmetic procedure, it is important to remember that dogs are living beings with their own unique personalities and needs. Because of this, we recommend not piercing your dog’s ears and going for non-invasive jewelery instead. 


Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.

Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

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