by Barbara Bird CMG
Contrary to what you may have been taught, requested, or commanded in the past, the current advice from veterinary dermatologists is that plucking ear hair can do more harm than good. Rather than prevent ear infections, this procedure can actually create a greater likelihood of infection by damaging the tender inner ear tissue and allowing a foothold for bacteria to thrive.
In her presentation to Tucson groomers, “Ears: What Every Groomer Needs to Know”, Dr. Heide Newton, DVM, DACVD plainly stated that groomers should stop plucking ear hair from inside dog’s ears. “Healthy ears are self-cleaning”, stated Dr. Newton. She encouraged groomers to continue the practice of ear cleaning, however, using products formulated for ear care, and massaging the base of the ear to allow the product to loosen wax and debris from deep in the ear canal.
Another clear statement from Dr. Newton was that “Bathing with clean water will NOT cause ear infections.” Contaminated water may introduce microbes that lead to ear infections, but clean water is not a problem.
The possibility of cross-contamination from an infected ear to the other ear or another animal is the one area where groomers might be at fault. It is very possible for pseudomonas bacteria to transfer from the ear to various surfaces and then be picked up by other animals or even humans. The most obvious sign of a pseudomonas infection is what vets call a “purulent exudates.” Translation: yucky discharge. If the groomer suspects an ear infection, Dr. Newton suggested the following protocol:
- Clean the GOOD ear first.
- If the ear with the suspected infection is cleaned, be gentle and use a non-stinging ear cleaner. The groomer may also choose to not clean an ear with a suspected infection, especially if it looks serious.
- Disinfect everything that the dog has contact with or might spray with shaking of the ears. This includes, your hands, the tub, the faucets, any tools, the table, the kennel and bedding, and the tip or spout of the ear cleaner bottle.
In addition to ear discharge, other signs of ear abnormality are redness, itchiness, odor, swollen tissue of outer ear, hair loss on earflap, and scabs or scaliness. Ear problems are often quite complex and difficult to nail down and treat. A referral to the veterinary dermatologist can result in a quicker and more accurate diagnosis and more effective treatment, thus lessening the time the pet has to suffer with uncomfortable, often painful conditions. By encouraging pet parents to seek treatment for suspected ear problems, the professional groomer is serving the needs of the pet.
Veterinary dermatologists such as Dr. Newton, undergo several years additional training and examinations beyond that required of general practitioners. Dr. Newton is part of Dermatology for Animals, a network of veterinary dermatologists serving the Southwest United States. In addition to working full-time in the Tucson practice, she currently serves on the American College of Veterinary Dermatology (ACVD) Exam Committee (the certifying board) and is a lecturer for the North American Veterinary Dermatology Forum (NAVDF) Resident Education Forum.