As dog groomers, we are asked many questions about a dog’s physical and behavioral health. While we’re not licensed veterinarians and cannot give medical advice, we do see A LOT of dogs, and we notice a lot of common issues. One of the most common questions: “Should I pluck my dog’s ear hair?”
The fact of the matter is that there’s no universal answer. Some dog breeds grow more hair in their ear canals than others, such as Bichons, Poodles, and Doodles. Some dogs are more prone to ear infections. Others, such as the shorter haired breeds, don’t have much ear hair to speak of at all. What’s a responsible dog owner to do?
First, Say “YES” to an Ear Cleaner
If you’ve ever looked in your dog’s ears or caught a whiff when you’re getting kisses after it’s been a few weeks since your best friend’s bath, you KNOW it can get pretty dirty in there! A good ear cleaner can wipe out most of the “ick” factor and may help to prevent infections. Plus, the only debate you’ll find about ear cleaner is which brand to use and how often – we use Envirogroom Professional Pet Products at Dogs’ Own.
The Pros for Plucking
Those who advocate for ear hair plucking often cite air circulation and trapped debris as the top reasons to do so. Your dog’s ears have some level of yeast and bacteria present in the ear canal and excessive hair can block air flow and trap warmth, moisture, and other dirt, creating the perfect environment for infection. Additionally, if the ear hair grows too long it can become matted…and mats are not comfortable.
The Cons for Plucking
Those who argue against plucking say that the process irritates the skin in the ear canal and leaves the hair follicles open to all that yeast and bacteria that’s already in there, increasing the odds of an ear infection.
Ask your groomer and veterinarian if ear hair plucking is appropriate for your dog. There is no universal answer; it really does depend on each dog’s unique situation.
“Thirty years ago when I first started grooming, we always plucked every dog’s ear hair,” says Jennie Smith, Dogs’ Own Owner and Certified Master Groomer. “Now, I don’t feel excessive plucking is necessary to have a clean, healthy ear.”
“A good groomer will work with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your pet,” says Dr. Caleb Walker at Loveland’s North Shore Animal Hospital. “Hair plucking should be done on a limited basis for those dogs who build up enough hair and wax to cause infections. In dogs with chronic ear infections, it can be helpful for long-term management,” Walker says. “However, when done on a routine basis without need, ear plucking can cause inflammation in the ear, actually leading to infection.”
At Dogs’ Own, we inspect all ears for hair and debris before the bath. We clean everyone’s ears and ask owners at check-in if they want their dog’s ears plucked. We will pluck enough hair to help with air flow; however, we are more concerned about getting a clean ear canal than making sure every single hair has been removed. And of course, we let owners know if we see an ear that does not look normal or healthy.
According to Walker, the more common mistake he sees owners make is not paying attention to their dog’s behavior when they start shaking their head or pawing at their ears, classic signs of ear infection.