Removing hair from a dog's ear canal, also known as ear plucking, is a practice that has become very controversial topic among veterinarians, groomers, and dog owners around the world over the last few years. What is ear plucking? Should you pluck your dog’s ears? Does removing hair from a dog's ear canal hurt? Jennifer Nelson, a dog groomer for over 12 years, discusses ear plucking in dogs, its pros and cons, whether or not you should pluck your dog’s ears, and how you should go about plucking them.
Understanding Ear Plucking in Dogs
Some dog breeds grow hair on the inside of their ear canals and the procedure of removing hair from a dog's ear canal is known as "ear plucking."
It used to be standard practice to pluck the hair of any dog who had hair in their ear canals, but it’s becoming less common, or at least less of a one-size-fits-all approach. Ear plucking remain popular in certain dog breeds.
Breeds who might need ear plucking due to having hair in their ear canals include: poodles and poodle mixes (including goldendoodles, labradoodles, cockapoos, and other poodle hybrids, Maltese, bichon, shih tzu and lhasa Apso.
What tools are used for ear plucking? While you can pluck ears with nothing but your fingers, ear powder and hemostats can make the process easier. It’s also a good idea to keep ear cleaning supplies handy and clean your dog’s ears after plucking them. Ear cleaning supplies include ear cleaner and cotton balls or gauze pads.
Pros and Cons of Removing Hair From a Dog's Ear Canal
There are benefits and downsides in removing hair from a dog's ear canal, and it may not be the best option for all dogs, while it does benefit some dogs greatly.
Some vets and groomers recommend always plucking dogs’ ears, some recommend never plucking them, and then, there are some who take a middle of the road approach to ear plucking. You should look at all the information and decide for yourself whether or not ear plucking is in your dog’s best interest.
What are the pros and cons of ear plucking in dogs? Like most things in life, there are pros and cons of ear plucking. You should carefully consider the pros and cons before deciding whether to pluck your dog’s ears.
Removing hair from a dog's ear canals allows the ears to get better airflow, potentially reducing the chance of a dog getting an ear infection. Since ear hair may trap moisture and increase the risk of getting an infection, removing that hair may reduce the odds of an infection.
However, plucking ear hair may traumatize the ear canal and invite an infection which is what people doing the ear plucking are trying to avoid in the first place. Ear hair apparently helps put up a barrier and protect the ear canal from debris, which helps protect the inner ear. Another disadvantage is that ear plucking can be painful.
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There is still debate over whether or not removing hair from a dog's ear canal is painful. Dogs that only have a few ear hairs and are used to having those hairs plucked may experience nothing other than mild discomfort; whereas, dogs with a lot of ear hair can experience pain when having it all ripped out.
You also have to be careful not to pluck any ear hair that isn’t growing directly from the ear canal, as that is extremely painful for the dog. Matted ear hair that comes out in one giant clump can be painful when it’s coming out, too.
Should I Pluck My Dog's Ears?
It depends. Does your dog suffer from recurrent ear infections? If not, you probably don’t need to worry about plucking your dog’s ears. What you can do is go in and carefully trim the hair. Long ear hair tends to become matted and then needs to be pulled out.
If your dog though does suffer frequent ear infections, look inside their ear. Is there a lot of hair growing from the ear canal? If so, your dog may benefit from having this hair plucked out. If you’re worried about doing it yourself, you can have a groomer or veterinarian do it for you. For best results, ear hair should be plucked once a month or so.
How do you pluck ear hair in dogs? The best way to pluck a dog’s ear hair is to apply ear powder to the hair inside the ear canal. Carefully gather up the hair in the ear canal while avoiding hair that doesn’t grow from the ear canal and use your fingers or hemostats to pull the ear hair out firmly but gently. It can help to use locking hemostats to make sure no stray hairs escape your grip and need to be pulled out separately.
The goal is to get as much hair as possible in one pull, since the more times you have to go in and pull hair, the more likely it is to be painful for your dog. Sometimes ear hair is stubborn and doesn’t like to come out all at once, so you may need to remove a few hairs at a time to get it all out.
It may be easier to use several different sessions if your dog has a lot of ear hair, rather than trying to pluck it all at once. You don’t want your dog to hate the process any more than necessary.
"You should avoid hair plucking if the hair isn’t causing a problem. Experts don’t recommend routine hair plucking, because it can cause inflammation." DVM 360
About the Author
Jennifer Nelson is a writer in the Midwest who has a passion for animals in general and dogs in particular. She was a dog groomer for more than 12 years and now spends her days with her terrier mix, Scruffles, writing about dogs and medical conditions.