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Should Dog’s Ear Hair Be Plucked? To Pluck or Not To Pluck!

Should Dog’s Ear Hair Be Plucked? There is an ongoing debate about plucking dog’s ear hair.  Breeds such as poodles, Doodles, Bichon Frise and other breeds can grow hair in their ears.  Some breeders and veterinarians will recommend against this unless there is an issue.  We will talk about the issues that can arise with plucking and without.  Our general recommendations are to pluck the ear hair on a regular basis to avoid buildup of dirt & ear wax and it’s much easier on us and your pet to pluck a little ear hair then to wait and have a ton to try to remove at once.  Removing a lot of ear hair can create irritation and so our policy is that we are happy to do it but if you choose not to, then it needs to be done at your veterinarian to avoid complications.

Ear hair can trap moisture, bacteria, and yeast in the dog’s ear canal creating an unbalanced microbiome in the ear. A microbiome is the natural organisms present in a particular environment.  Most dogs have a naturally balanced microbiome in the ear canal.  This usually will not cause any issues unless the microbiome becomes unbalanced with more “bad bacteria” than “good bacteria”.    This opens your pet up to a raging ear infection caused by the bacteria and/or yeast that gets out of balance.  Causes of bacterial or fungal infections can be caused by swimming in contaminated water, humidity (but unusual in our dry Colorado climate), stressed immune system, allergies, food sensitivities, and breed.  If your pet has a normal microbiome, then things such as regular water do not cause any issues.

Below are pictures of a 6-month old standard poodle that went to their vet for an exam.  The veterinarian couldn’t even use an otoscope to see inside the ear canal due to overgrowth of ear hair.  She recommended that the groomer pluck the hair.  We could smell the yeast in the ears immediately.  Once the hair is removed the ear was still warm to the touch and there was redness in the ear.  Image 1 is before the plucking.  Image 2 is the gunk that was able to escape once the hair was removed.  Image 3 shows how long the hair is down into the ear canal.  Image 4 is the clean ear, still red and inflamed though.

Complications of Ear Infections & Ear Plucking

Some dogs will scratch or shake their heads due to the irritation or sometimes just the feeling of having the hair removed.  Dogs can cause trauma to their ear flaps, which will damage the blood vessels causing a pocket of blood in the ear flap, as in the image below.  This is called an ear hematoma.  Many times if the blood is drained, it will just refill and eventually, a surgical procedure is required.  This creates permanent scar tissue to form and the ear flap heals and shrivels.

Sometimes severe matting around the ear and ear flap can cause a lack of blood flow to the ear.  When shaved off the blood flow, all at once, can also cause an ear hematoma.  Making sure you have regular pet grooming will avoid this.   If your pet has chronic ear infections, schedule a Thera-Clean Microbubble Ear Flushing!

Resources & Additional Reading

https://www.parkroadvet.com/help-my-dogs-and-rarely-cats-ear-flap-is-hot-and-huge-by-dr-sarah-martin/

https://www.goodpetparent.com/2015/09/25/ear-hematomas-in-dogs/

https://www.mypetsdoctor.com/auricular-hematoma-in-dog-cat

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