- Don’t pluck your dog’s ear hair yourself — If you’re concerned with the excess hair inside of your pup’s ears, schedule an appointment with a veterinarian.
- Too much ear hair can cause infections — In addition to blocking airflow, the hair can cause a buildup of moisture and bacteria.
- Some dog breeds have hairier ears than others — Poodles, schnauzers, and terrier breeds are among the dogs most commonly in need of ear hair removal.
It has long been controversial whether or not a dog should have the hair inside their ear plucked by their humans. The idea behind removing it is that the excess hair can block air circulation and cause a buildup of moisture and bacteria, leaving pooches vulnerable to ear infections.
However, if not performed properly, plucking ear hair can lead to inflammation and/or secondary infections. Certain breeds like poodles and schnauzers are known to have more ear hair than others, leaving dog owners to consider the safest way to deal with it. Therein lies the debate about whether or not hair plucking should be performed at home, the groomer, or your vet’s office.
So, should you pluck your dog’s ear hair?
Plucking a dog’s ear hair is controversial among groomers, vets, and pet owners. The American Kennel Club tells us that some dogs need the hair plucked just inside the ear to keep air circulating. So with that in mind, your vet may recommend your dog’s ear hairs be plucked out to prevent yeast and bacterial infections. Plucking may be necessary to resolve your dog’s ear issues.
- Some dogs need it. Some breeds and types of dogs have a large amount of hair in their ear canals.
- Hairy ears can be problematic. This excess hair can cause ear infections and may trap debris and moisture.
- Pet owners shouldn’t pluck ear hair. Plucking these hairs may irritate the canal, so a vet should be the one to do this.
- In some cases, groomers can help. A professional groomer may also be able to pluck the hair out of the ears when needed.
How is ear hair plucking done?
Ear plucking is the process of pulling the hair out with a pair of tweezers. Vets use hemostats (tweezers) or their fingers, but these hemostats can make gripping the more hard-to-reach hair a bit easier. This plucking technique is done with a gentle motion to prevent discomfort.
There are no nerve endings on a dog’s ear hairs. But, dogs may find this uncomfortable because the hair is coming out of their skin when plucked. How uncomfortable the process depends on how much hair is in a dog’s ear canal.
The verdict: Leave dog ear plucking to the vet
Because too much ear hair can cause infections and decreased airflow, it should be considered a medical issue, not a grooming issue, and therefore should be handled by a veterinary professional. Plucking hair out of your dog’s ears improperly can lead to tiny, microscopic tears in their ear canal. Bacteria, dirt, and excess wax can then find their way into these open wounds, leading to the same contamination you’re trying to prevent.
So instead of calling your groomer or grabbing a pair of tweezers out of the bathroom drawer, have your vet take a look at it and decide how much hair needs to be removed to keep your four-legged friend’s ears clean (if any), and then administer the removal themselves.
How veterinarians remove dog ear hair
You’re probably wondering exactly what the procedure is for having your dog’s ear hair removed. While there will likely be some degree of inflammation regardless of who does the plucking, a veterinary professional is equipped with the tools and experience to minimize adverse reactions.
First, your veterinarian will perform an inspection to determine the amount of excess hair that has grown on the ear canal, either with an otoscope or the naked eye. They will then decide whether or not hair removal is necessary to prevent recurring issues.
For removing hair inside a dog’s ear, your vet will likely start by applying a topical steroid powder like Neo-Predef. This can help numb the ear to make the process more comfortable for your furbaby. The powder can also lessen the inflammation brought on by plucking.
Your vet will pluck the hair out of your dog’s ear using a hemostat, which is a specialized form of tweezers that can make gripping the more hard-to-reach hair a bit easier.
“It’s a surgical tool that we use to stop small vessels from bleeding,” says veterinarian Erica Irish. “It has a fantastic grip (thanks to the little ridges at the ends) and locks at the base for easier twisting and pulling.” This plucking technique is done with a gentle motion to prevent discomfort and rupturing of the eardrum.
Alternatives to ear hair plucking
While plucking the hair inside of a dog’s ear should only be performed by a veterinary professional, you can take other steps at home and at the groomer to improve your dog’s ear health. Every canine is unique, so you should still consult your vet for advice on the best way to tend to your individual dog’s ears.
Your vet may recommend having your dog’s ear hair routinely trimmed instead of plucked. Trimming will mainly involve shaving off excess hair protruding outside of the ear to minimize moisture and prevent debris from entering the canal. This can be performed with a nose hair trimmer or one designed especially for dog ears and paws, which dog groomers or veterinarians would have.
If your vet determines that ear hair removal is not needed for your best friend, they may opt for a standard cleaning to take care of any bacteria buildup – which you can also do yourself at home! In this process, you or your vet will fill the canal with veterinary-approved ear cleaner products to pull debris to the outer ear, then gently remove it with a cotton swab. The following video is a step-by-step guide to healthy ear cleaning.
Tried, true, and trusted
Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser
Why do dogs have hairy ears?
Believe it or not, certain dog breeds have evolutionary reasons for excess ear hair. For example, terrier breeds were bred to hunt vermin, so many of them have long hair in their ears to block out all the dirt that flies up when they’re digging holes to catch burrowing rodents. The flip side is that the same hair can also collect dirt and other debris when left uncleaned, infecting the ear canal. That said, some breeds have to worry about this more than others.
Breeds with extra hairy ears
- Shih tzus
- Lhasa apsos
- Yorkshire terriers
- Bichon frisé
- Cocker spaniel
👉 In addition to certain breeds, senior dogs can also have more hair in their ears. Consult your veterinarian if your older dog’s excess ear hair is causing discomfort or infection.
A visual guide to hairy dog ears
1. A clean ear canal, free of excess hair
2. Partially obstructed with hair
3. Poodle with curly ear hair, visible irritation
4. Earwax buildup from ear hair overgrowth
Before you concern yourself with your dog’s excess ear hair, keep in mind that for many breeds, it’s simply an evolutionary trait that isn’t cause for concern. Your veterinarian will be able to confirm if intervention is necessary at your regular check-up. In the meantime, just be on the lookout for signs of discomfort and infection from your favorite furball.
Frequently asked questions
Can I pluck hair out of my dog’s ears?
It is only recommended that veterinarians pluck a dog’s ear hair, as the excess growth is more of a medical concern than a grooming concern. If not removed properly, plucking can cause damage to the ear canal that leads to further irritation and inflammation.
Does ear plucking hurt dogs?
Plucking ears can be uncomfortable for dogs depending on how much hair is present and needs to be removed. This is why it’s recommended that it is done by veterinarians with the right tools and experience to remove the hair without causing injury to the ear.
Is ear plucking good for dogs?
If your veterinarian has determined that your dog is prone to or experiencing an ear infection as a result of their excess ear hair, then your canine buddy is a good candidate for professional ear plucking.
How do vets get the hair out of a dog’s ears?
After applying a topical steroid ear powder, vets will use a tweezer device called a hemostat for gentle hair plucking. Trimming is another method of reducing bacterial buildup without fully removing the ear hair.
What dogs have hairy ears?
While all dogs tend to have some ear hair, breeds with extra hairy ears include poodles, schnauzers, and Lhasa apsos.