Ear Plucking.. good or bad??

We would like to point out right off the top we have no opinion one way or another on this subject. We just want to provide more information and it is totally up to you if you would like us to pluck your dog’s ears or not, we have no judgement. We also have not conducted our own studies on this topic, so we are only going off what we have found reading up on the topic online and will try to site our sources.

What is ‘Ear Plucking’?

Ear plucking is the process of removing the hair from within the dog’s ear canal by means of plucking. The method we use it to chalk powder the area (lightly) or put it on our fingers to help get a good grip and as gently as we can pull the hair out of the ears. As the hair can be waxy and hard to grip we sometimes need to use forceps to help get a good grip. Wiggling the hair can also help remove it with the least amount of force.

Before and after ear plucking of a Shih Tzu.

Why would people want us to do this?

Sometimes it can be cosmetic they just want the dog to look neat and tidy. Often it is seen to help the ear breathe (we will come back to this), and this helps with other problems. The odd occasion the hair can become matted and it is good to remove this as matted hair can cause pain if left.

It sounds painful, does it hurt the dog?

Some dogs love it, some dogs are completely indifferent and just stand there, other dogs absolutely hate it. We do put the dogs wellbeing first, if they really don’t like it and fight and struggle then we would not perform it. However if there is a health reason why it needs to be done we will persevere as much as we can, as it is in their best interest. If the ears really need it to be plucked but it’s causing too much discomfort to the dog, then we may need to pass this job onto your vet to handle, they may want to give some sedation to perform it.

Is there an alternative?

Although it is not on the same level as ear plucking we do trim the hair in the ears with scissors (only to a safe depth, we don’t go deep diving in there). With all our grooms we check and clean the dog’s ears and will report anything we see that might be cause for concern.

So what is the controversy about it all??

The main reason it is done (Health wise) is people believe the hair can hold moisture, and that promotes bacterial growth. The ear has bacteria in it normally, but there is a balance with the dog’s immune system. Some people say the moisture helps the bacteria grow this can become infected (Such as a Staph Infection).

The opposing argument is, plucking the hair in the ear leaves the pores of the skin open and this can let bacteria in. Also the act of plucking can cause irritation which can lead to inflammation. A number of people in this camp would suggest that dogs are born with hair in their ears and therefore it must be fine to leave it.

There are a number of other factors to think about also…
Does the dog go in water a lot?
Could it have got an injury from rubbing on the floor, walking through bushes or scratching itself?
Diet could affect the dog’s immune system making it susceptible to infection?
Other illness or conditions (Stress)?

Remember: Correlation does NOT equal Causation. 

So what is our outlook on it?

As we stated at the top of the page, we have no opinion on the matter. Both reasons seem plausible and although we pluck many dogs ears, there are many we don’t.. The number of ear issues we see is very small compared to the number of dogs we work with. Plucked, cut, left alone, dogs without hair in their ears, we have not noticed any particular pattern. There are so many factors that could affect the outcome we feel it is hard to say which is right or not.

So we suggest, pick from a gut instinct, if you think they should be plucked, get them plucked, if you think they should be cut or left, that’s fine too… If there are problems in the future (Ear infection) then we suggest trying the alternative method.

We know a local Vet who strongly advises their patients to get the ears plucked. Online however, there is access to many opinions, one Vet we found suggested ‘If the dog is prone to ear infections, get them plucked as there is nothing to lose, if they don’t get ear infections then leave them alone’.

All the dogs that pass through for a groom with us get their ears cleaned with an alcohol based ear cleaning solution (This evaporates so wont leave any moisture) and a cloth. If the ears are really bad we can pour the solution directly into the ear, give it a good massage to help loosen anything, and then tip the dog’s head to let it out. This should help clear any bacteria, but as mentioned above it is naturally present on dogs skin at all times anyway.

Ear Plucking in action.

Other things to think about…

Not all dogs can have their ears plucked. We put the dog’s needs first. If they really hate it we would stop. Maybe they have a condition, or some illness, with the ear which would mean we don’t do it.

We are happy for you to discuss the Ear Plucking in more detail with us, and we encourage you to speak with your Vet about it.

Dogs might shake their heads and rub against things after ear plucking. This sensation might just feel itchy. Keep an eye on your dog after their groom.

Published : 24/01/20
Author : Bob Dent
Sources : 
Dr Tony – Acupet Vet Care, Dr Phillipa Eliot – Petful, The Pet Industry Federation (PIF), City and Guild Training, (In genral we read a lot of websites in regards 
to the matter and the opinion of Vets and Groomers)