What is Dog Ear Plucking? How to Groom Dog’s Ears

What is Dog Ear Plucking? 

Hair grows in many various locations, and ears are not exempt! Some dog breeds naturally grow hair inside their ears. This is especially notable in dog breeds such as Shih Tzus, Malteses, and Poodles

Dog ear plucking is when groomers, veterinarians, or owners gently pull the hair from inside the dog’s ear. This is done for various reasons, and there are many benefits to removing the hair from inside a dog’s ear. However, there can be side effects to dog ear plucking too!

When Should You Pluck Your Dog’s Ears?

Plucking a dog’s ears should only be recommended by a veterinarian or groomer. 

Copious amounts of hair within the ear canal can be detrimental to a dog’s health. The hair traps dirt, excess ear wax, and debris within the ear canal. This makes it difficult for the dog’s immune system to keep levels of yeast and bacteria at a manageable level. This can then lead to ear infections. 

Hair within the ears can also block the flow of air that helps to keep the ear canal dry. 

Dogs with chronic ear infections should get their ears plucked. This helps with air circulation and helps keep moisture in the ear at bay. Plucking also makes giving ear medication easier as the medication is not stuck in the hair. It also makes the ear medication more effective as it can make its way into the ear canal.

In dogs that do not suffer from recurring ear infections, there is no medical reason to pluck their ears. However, it is vital to keep the hair well-trimmed or brushed out in hairy eared dogs. In addition, Matts should be prevented, and the ear opening should always be clear. 

Groomers can trim the hair inside the ear and ear canal rather than plucking. This provides the same benefits as ear plucking without removing the hair follicle. 

Dog Ear Plucking – Equipment Needed and Instructions

While many groomers can pluck your dog’s ears, the procedure can also be done at home. There are two methods to plucking ears, and limited equipment is required.  

Equipment Required 

  • Ear powder – This makes the hair easier to grip as it coats any ear wax on the hair. Only a tiny amount is required, and it is essential to avoid the dog’s eyes and nose. These powders can cause significant irritation to the eyes if they come in contact. The powders can also cause lung irritation if inhaled.
  • Hair removal hemostats – these are used to grip onto the hair and pluck. They have rounded edges to prevent scratching the dog’s delicate ear canal. 
  • Non-acidic ear cleaner. 
  • Cotton tips and a soft cloth. 

The Haemostat Pluck Method

  1. Prepare a space for the dog to lie or sit comfortably during the procedure. 
  2. Apply some ear powder onto the hair.
  3. Firmly grip onto a small amount of hair (up to five strands) surrounding the opening of the dog’s ear canal. 
  4. Twist the hair until it is taut. 
  5. Pluck the hair in a quick and gentle motion. The hair should come out easily, and if it doesn’t, leave the hair alone. A hard steady pull or a hard jerking motion shouldn’t be required. 
  6. Only pluck enough hair to open up the dog’s ear canal. Over-plucking can cause health problems and can even lead to ear infections. 
  7. After plucking, clean the dog’s ear canal with a non-acidic ear cleaner to flush out any powder residue. 
  8. Wipe out the ears with a soft cloth to remove any loose excess hair. This prevents it from getting into the ear canal. Also, wipe the cartilage ridges with a cotton tip. 
  9. Give the dog lots of treats for positive reinforcement. 

The Finger Pluck Method

  1. Prepare a space for the dog to lie or sit comfortably during the procedure. 
  2. Apply some ear powder onto the hair.
  3. Apply some ear powder to the fingers.
  4. Gather a small amount of hair (up to five strands) surrounding the opening of the dog’s ear canal. 
  5. Gently roll the hair to combine the strands as one. 
  6. Pluck the hair in a quick and gentle motion. The hair should come out easily, and if it doesn’t, leave the hair alone. A hard steady pull or a hard jerking motion shouldn’t be required. 
  7. Only pluck enough hair to open up the dog’s ear canal. Over-plucking can cause health problems and can even lead to ear infections. 
  8. After plucking, clean the dog’s ear canal with a non-acidic ear cleaner to flush out any powder residue. 
  9. Wipe out the ears with a soft cloth to remove any loose excess hair. This prevents it from getting into the ear canal. Also, wipe the cartilage ridges with a cotton tip. 
  10. Give the dog lots of treats for positive reinforcement.

Stop plucking the ears if the dog is wincing, whining, or scratching at the ears. Stop plucking if there are any red or swollen areas in the ears. The dog’s skin may be overly sensitive to the powder or plucking. These may also be signs of an ear infection that will require veterinary attention. 

Checking Your Dog’s Ears Regularly and Warning Signs of Infection

It is imperative to monitor ear health in any dog, whether the hair is plucked or not. Ear infections can begin quickly and quietly and will rapidly worsen. In addition, ear infections are very painful as the ears become very inflamed and itchy. 

This leads to self-trauma from shaking the head and scratching at the ears. In addition, the overgrowth of yeast and bacteria causes this inflammation and pain. 

Dog’s ears should be checked weekly for any signs of irritation or infection. This can be quickly done at any point of the day and is often easiest when they are resting. 

Warning signs of infection include: 

  • Redness of the pinna (ear flap).
  • Redness of the ear canal.
  • Brown or black discharge. 
  • Significant debris buildup. 
  • A strong odor that may smell like yeast. 
  • Sensitivity when the ears are being handled. 

If any of these signs are present, it is crucial to make an appointment with a veterinarian. In addition, these symptoms should be addressed before cleaning the dog’s ears at home as more damage could be done. 

A veterinarian will thoroughly assess the ear canal and whether or not the eardrum is intact. They will then take a sample of the discharge to investigate what is causing the infection. This allows them to choose the proper medication to treat the condition. 

Ear infections sometimes require more than just an ear clean. For severe infections, a procedure called an ear flush under sedation may be required to remove any debris or discharge. This will also allow the veterinarian to assess inside the ear properly. 

Checking, cleaning, and drying the dog’s ears should be done after plucking, bathing, or swimming

In dogs with a history of ear infections, checking their ears regularly is vital to ensure that the ears are in good health. Dog’s with food or environmental allergies should also have more regular checks. Underlying allergies increase the risk of ear infections. 

Known Issues with Dog Ear Plucking

Dog ear plucking is a controversial subject in the grooming world. Plucking the hair from the ears can cause microscopic tears in the ear canal. This leads to inflammation in the ear. This can create a favorable environment for yeast and bacteria to proliferate. This can then lead to an ear infection in an injured ear. 

Not every dog with hairy ears will require an ear pluck. 

The hair in a dog’s ear also serves a purpose. It blocks debris from getting into the ear canal. Many dog breeds with hairy inner ears perform tasks such as digging or burrowing in holes where dirt is flung around. While a buildup of debris can be detrimental to ear health, dirt entering deep into the canal can be worse. 

Is Dog Ear Plucking Painful to Your Pooch?

As with any new experience, ear plucking can be very daunting to a dog. Dog ear plucking is not the most pleasant experience, particularly for new pooches. Many dogs can be pretty nervous their first time, as ear plucking is a foreign concept. 

The first few times hair is removed can cause inflammation of the hair follicles. However, as hair is plucked each time, the hair becomes easier to pull out. This leaves little to no inflammation or pain. 

Positive reinforcement is crucial to teaching dogs that ear plucking is not scary. Therefore, it is essential to take regular breaks and provide lots of treats. This ensures that dogs new to ear plucking are comfortable. 

Side Effects of Dog Ear Plucking

There are various side effects to dog ear plucking. 

Aggressive plucking or overplucking of the ears can lead to inflammation. As the hair follicles are ripped out, this causes microtears in the skin. If this is done excessively, there can be an overload of inflammation in the ear. This causes the ear to become hot and moist. If there is any yeast or bacteria in the ear, this can ultimately lead to ear infections. 

Dogs that are not used to ear plucking can find the procedure quite irritating. The powder and sensation of removed hair can lead to irritation of the ear canal. This is presented by shaking of the head. Over-exuberant head shaking or continuous shaking can cause aural hematomas

aural hematoma
Aural hematoma

An aural hematoma occurs when small blood vessels in the ears burst due to excess trauma. In this case, the trauma comes from the ears flapping around when the dog shakes its head. 

The burst blood vessels fill up the space in the ear flap and separate the skin from the cartilage. This leads to a very hot, puffy ear, which requires veterinary attention to fix. If left alone, the ear can shrivel and form what is known as “cauliflower ear.”  

The Benefits of Dog Ear Plucking

As mentioned, unmanaged hair inside the ears can cause a plethora of problems. Hair within the ear canal can trap dirt, debris, and moisture. This creates the perfect environment for yeast and bacterial overgrowth. 

Excess hair in the ear canal also serves as a breeding ground for ear mites and other parasites. Without proper care, any of these can ultimately cause an ear infection. 

Plucking the ears also allows a passage for airflow through the ear. This helps to prevent moisture buildup and ear infections. 

Excess hair in the ear canal can also harbor foreign bodies such as grass seeds. These seeds easily get caught up in the dog’s fur and ear hair. They can then travel down the ear canal and cause major ear infections. In some cases, these could require surgical intervention. Keeping the hair trimmed or plucked eliminates this problem. 

The Two Different Methods of Dog Ear Hair Removal

Dogs with lots of hair in the ear canal should still have their ear hair managed. Trimming, thinning, and removal of the strands with clippers or scissors are great alternatives to plucking. This should only be done by a veterinarian or groomer as they can cause problems if done incorrectly. This includes shaving too closely, causing skin irritation, or even nicking the skin. 

Removing a bulk of the hair and trimming the hair short is a great way to have the benefits of ear plucking. 

Conclusion

Dog ear plucking can be beneficial to many dogs. The first time a dog’s ears are plucked should always be under the direction of a veterinarian or groomer. After that, ear plucking should be reserved for dogs with chronic ear infections or other ear issues. Ear plucking can make a significant difference. 

Ear hair trimming is a fantastic alternative to plucking for dogs with excess hairy ears. Shortening the hairs in the ear canals provides similar benefits to ear plucking. It also doesn’t irritate the skin as follicles are not removed. 

Removal of excess hair decreases the buildup of dirt, debris, and wax in the ear canal. It also allows airflow circulation throughout the canal to reduce moisture levels. 

It is vital in any dog to regularly check its ears for signs of discomfort or infection. Regular cleaning is always encouraged and should be done after baths, grooms, or swims.

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