Some of our canine companions are blessed with ear canals that contain little to no fur, while others sprout ear hair like there’s no tomorrow. Whether hair is present in the canal or not depends on genetics, and breeds like the Poodle and its crosses are more likely to have it.
Many owners ask me if they should be routinely plucking the fur in their dog’s ears, and that’s a great question. There is no ‘cookie cutter’ answer and it does depend on a number of factors. Let’s take a closer look at these.
Overview of hair in the ear of your dog
You may not even be aware that your dog has hair in their ears, as many are reluctant to let us have a good look. When there is hair, it does serve a purpose. This is to block debris like grass awns and dirt from getting inside.
However, too much hair can lead to poor ventilation and excess moisture and may put your dog at risk for ear infections.
When should you remove hair from the ear of your dog?
I would not routinely advise the removal of hair in the ears, as it can do more harm than good. Removing it when we do not need to can create a dog who is fearful of having their ears cleaned and can cause localized trauma and even bleeding.
For those dogs prone to ear infection and who suffer from atopic dermatitis, regular ear plucking can be an important part of their treatment program. When done correctly, ear plucking lowers the number of ear infections a dog gets and can also reduce treatment time.
What is the risk of not removing hair?
A whopping 1 in 14 dogs will develop an ear infection each year, with breeds including the Bassett Hound, Labradoodle and Cockapoo being the most affected (1).
In these dogs, not removing their ear fur can mean more infections occur, as the yeast and bacteria proliferate in the moist, muggy environment.
Importantly, for some dogs, overzealous ear plucking is cited as a cause of infection (1), so we must only pluck where appropriate.
Are there simple precautions dog owners can take if their dogs have hairy ears?
There are several things owners can do to reduce the risk of infection in dogs with hairy ears. This includes avoiding excess swimming and bathing, or thoroughly drying ear canals with cotton wool after they do get wet.
It is also a good idea to use an ear cleaner with antimicrobial properties. For most dogs prone to infection, this will be needed a couple of times a month. We do not want to clean ears too often, as this can do more harm than good.
How can you remove hair from the ear of your dog?
Most owners prefer their groomer or vet to pluck ears, and this is just fine. For those who do it at home, they need to ensure that it is the right course of action for their dog.
When we do pluck fur, we can use an ear powder first, though this is not necessary. We then use a hemostats to allow us to firmly grasp on to a ‘bunch’ of fur and pull quickly and forcefully. If we do not pull strongly enough, we will not pluck the fur and will just cause pain. This article explains things in a lot more detail, for those eager to try at home.
Are there any risks or complications associated with removing hair from a dog’s ears?
Yes, it is known that removing fur when it is not needed or plucking a dog’s ears too often can lead to ear inflammation and even infections.
Some hair in the ear can be useful for dogs, keeping dirt and debris away from the inner ear canal.
As hair removal causes discomfort, doing it too often can also make your dog resentful of ear cleaning time and you may lose their cooperation.
Frequently Asked Questions
•How often should I check my dog’s ears for hair buildup?
Rather than checking for the presence of hair (which is not always an issue) we should be checking for signs of infection weekly. This would include redness, excess wax build up or a bad smell. If your dog is showing signs of an infection (like head shaking or scratching), we should have a look at that point.
For those who do need regular ear plucking, this would usually need to be done every couple of months or so.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
•My dog’s ears are sensitive. What precautions should I take when removing the hair?
All dogs are very sensitive in their ears being plucked as there are lots of nerve endings here. We want to make the process as quick as we can, and it can help to have someone experienced do it the first few times. Ensure your dog is being held firmly and always offer comforting words and a high value treats afterwards.
•Are certain dog breeds more prone to ear hair buildup?
Yes, breeds including Poodles and Bichon Frises are known for their hairy ears.