Plucking a dog’s ear hair may sound crazy to some owners, especially those who have smooth-coated dogs or larger dogs.  It’s just not part of the typical dog grooming and care regimen.  However, some breeds and types – often the smaller, fluffy-haired breedsmay need ear plucking.  Read on to learn more about dog ear plucking, and get advice on whether or not it’s warranted. 

What is Ear Plucking, Exactly?

As the name implies, dog ear plucking is basically pulling or plucking out hair from inside a dog’s ears using tweezers.  The impetus for this, especially in smaller dogs, is that it is believed plucking excess hair will help keep the ear canal open, and decrease the potential for ear infections.  Often, poor air circulation and excess moisture build-up are implicated as culprits for ear infections, and ear plucking is meant to help prevent those conditions.  However, on its face, the process sounds pretty unpleasant for dog and owner alike.

Most often, smaller dogs with fluffy coats are the ones who may have recommendations to have their ears plucked.  It can be impressive (and a bit scary) how much hair they manage to grow inside their ears.  Breeds like Lhasa Apsos, Maltese, Schnauzers, Shih Tzus, and so on are often the ones who fall into this category.  In years gone by, standard grooming procedure for these and similar breeds included an ear plucking.  But is that still the advice of experts today?

Should Dog’s Ears be Plucked?

There’s no universal advice or recommendation when it comes to dog ear plucking.  In fact, the practice is somewhat controversial, with passionate advocates both for and against ear plucking. 

On the one hand, it’s clearly an uncomfortable and even traumatic process for the dog, and not something that happens naturally in wild dogs, for example.  Pulling hairs can cause irritation in the ears, resulting in swelling and inflammation.  Often, this can result in more bacterial growth than the plucking is designed to prevent.  At the same time, dogs’ ears (like humans’ ears) are considered to be self-cleaning, and don’t require cleaning inside the ear canal – just exterior cleaning and hair clipping around the opening. 

On the other hand, proponents of this procedure argue that any swelling or irritation from hair plucking is usually confined to the first few cycles of plucking, and the hair becomes easier to remove after a few months.  In their view, this negates the increased infection risk, allowing the original intent of plucking to take precedence – decreasing infection risk.  They argue that plucking helps prevent wax buildup in the ear, and results in fewer ear infections, especially in dogs who are otherwise prone to the condition. 

The Bottom Line

There’s no strong medical or professional advice one way or the other on ear plucking.  Many groomers today will not pluck ear hair unless specifically requested by the dog’s owner.  Some vets believe it’s useful, while others discourage the practice.  Ultimately, you have to know your dog, whether they will tolerate ear plucking, and whether or not they seem to need it.  If your dog is getting routine ear infections, or otherwise scratching their ears all the time, then plucking might be worth trying – either yourself or at the groomer’s.  Absent any kind of symptoms of ear issues, however, it might not be worth the time, trauma, or expense, and could do more harm than good to your dog. 

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