Dog Ears: To Pluck or Not to Pluck

Ear cleaning is an important part of your dogs regular grooming. Animal care professionals have varying opinions about how ears should be cleaned and by cleaned, we also mean plucked. In this blog we will help you understand what’s going on in your dogs ear and our approach to cleaning -when and why.

The ear canal is shaped like an “L” with the eardrum located at the end. The canal consists of three different parts: the external, middle and inner ear. When looking into your dogs ear the part you see is the external ear and some of the middle. Under normal conditions, the skin cells develop from the inside out. This creates a bottom layer of skin that rises to the top. However any stimuli (chemical or physical) can speed up this skin cell production. When this happens in your pet’s ear canal, the extra skin cells die and build up with nowhere to go. In a healthy ear with normal cell production, the ear will act as a self-maintaining system, keeping the ear in good balance. The skin flora – microorganisms that live on the surface of the skin – help remove this these dead cells. Ear issues can be caused by a variety of different things: parasites, food allergies, the environment and moisture, especially in breeds with low hanging, floppy ears. Although you can see past the external ear into the middle, it is crucial that you never try to probe deeper then the external ear.

Now that you have a little information on the anatomy of the ear and how it works, we would like to discuss the appropriate way to clean your pups ears. We at HOTD place a small amount of ear cleaning solution into the base of the external ear, and then massage it down. This helps loosen wax and dirt found in the middle and inner ear and forces it up to the external. Then we use a cotton ball to wipe away the waxy build up.

Of course, dog’s ears can vary significantly by breed. For example, Beagles, Bassett Hounds, Cocker Spaniels and Springer Spaniels all have floppy ears that hang low and restrict airflow. Once the bacteria gets in the ear, it has a perfect dark and damp environment to flourish. For these breeds, we use ear cleaner and cotton balls. A dog with erect ears, such as a German Shepard and Corgi, are less likely to have this problem but we still clean the ears as part of the overall grooming.

The breeds that need hair plucking because the hair tends to be rooted deep in the ear canal, are Maltese, Poodles, Terriers and Labradoodles, to name just a few. As long as the ear has no extreme build up of wax or smell, we will pull this hair up and pluck it. An abundance of wax or a bad smell is usually caused by excess hair in the ear that, similar to the floppy eared breeds, restricts airflow and creates a beneficial environment for bacteria. For these breeds, we will administer ear powder to help keep the inner ear dry and also to reduce inflammation of the canal. Then we pluck – and your pup is grateful because it has to feel so good to have a waxy clump of hair out of your earso you can hear the word “treat” more clearly than ever.

At Hair of the Dog, we assess each pet individually. We never want to cause your pet discomfort by plucking the hair if it isn’t necessary. If your veterinarian has given you a recommendation regarding ear plucking, please let us know so we can note it in your pet’s file.