Have you ever heard of Plucking Dog Ears?

Plucking a Dog's Ears
Are you familiar with “plucking” a dog’s ears? If you have a larger or smooth-coated breed, you may not know what I’m talking about. I didn’t either until I started grooming dogs many years back.

What does it mean to Pluck Dog Ear Hair?

Plucking a dog’s ear is when we gently pull or tweeze the hair from the inside of a dog’s ear. The theory is that removing the hair will keep it from blocking the canal, allowing more air to circulate, which helps prevent ear infections and moisture build-up. Sounds awful though, doesn’t it?

Generally, the small fluffy dogs are the ones that get their ears plucked… the Shih Tzu’s, Lhasa Apsos, Schnauzers, Maltese, even the larger Cocker Spaniel. You would be amazed at how much hair can be growing in there. Sometimes it’s a wonder they can even hear! Years ago, a proper groom always included an ear plucking for these types of breeds. Now-days it’s not done as regularly, even discouraged by many. In fact, our Grooming Manager, Caroline, says, “I only pluck ears if the client requests it, or if there is matting and/or extreme build-up”.

Should we Pluck a Dog’s Ears?

The plucking procedure is fairly controversial. You can read convincing arguments on both sides. Those who feel that plucking is not necessary concur that pulling the hair out can irritate the ear canal, resulting in inflammation and attracting even more bacteria than unwanted hair would  Not only that, but some of those who feel that plucking is not necessary argue that plucking is just plain ole uncomfortable for the dog, and of course, no one wants to make the dog uncomfortable.  My guess is that it would be like us plucking our eyebrows. It’s not excruciating, but it’s not all that pleasant.  These opponents conclude that ears are generally self-cleaning, and all that is needed to care for them is to clip the hair around the ear opening and use a cleaning solution only around the outside flaps of the ear.

Those who argue on the other side somewhat agree with their opposition in that pulling the hair out may cause slight inflammation of the hair follicles’ the first few times the ear is plucked.  BUT as you continue to pluck each month or so, the hair becomes easier and easier to pull out, thus leaving little or no inflammation. They feel certain that plucking prevents wax or debris build-up and absolutely does allow for better air circulation, keeping the ear canal dryer, resulting in fewer ear infections.

Can it be a relief?

My dog has a minimal amount of hair in his ears, but his ears are prone to infection, mostly yeast infections. His ears were a mess when we first adopted him. With good nutrition and consistent cleaning, his ears are in much better shape. Despite this, they still continued to itch somewhat regularly. My vet is of the former opinion that ear hair does not need to be plucked, so I stopped doing it. But as I was cleaning his ears one day, I realized just how long some of the hairs were that were growing into his canal. I started wondering if maybe those hairs were “tickling” the insides of his ears, so I plucked them. He seemed to welcome it… as if he were saying, “Ahh, that feels so much better… what took you so long?” Some of the hairs I pulled out were a couple of inches long, with wax and debris attached to them. His itching greatly diminished after the plucking. I now do it on a regular basis…. I swear he likes it!

As Caroline stated, she only plucks “if requested or if needed….” I think that’s the answer to this quandary. Many dogs do not need their ears plucked, but some do. It takes a conscientious groomer to know when it is necessary and when it is not. Overall, Caroline believes that “the hair in a dog’s ear is meant to wick moisture outside of the ear and can prevent ear infections.” But if there is too much hair, and problems exist because of this, plucking is necessary.

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