Black Stuff in Your Dog’s Ears? Causes & Treatments

Black stuff in dogs ears

Have you ever noticed black stuff in your dog’s ear? If so, you are not alone. In fact, seeing this black gunk in dogs’ ears is a typical issue that many fur parents have to deal with at some point or another.

As with humans, dogs can get black stuff in their ears for many reasons. These reasons can range from mild to severe, but regardless, they can cause discomfort for your dog and should be addressed promptly.

Fortunately, this article will help you determine what black gunk in dog ears indicates, as well as how to treat it, its most common causes, and what you can do to prevent this condition from happening in the first place. Read on!

What Is the Black Stuff in My Dog’s Ears?

What is the black stuff in dogs ear

Generally, the presence of black stuff in a dog’s ears is just a sign of dirty dog ears. However, there are instances where the black stuff indicates something more serious. Other causes include bacterial disease, yeast infections, and allergies. Ear mites in dogs can also turn dog ear wax black.

While it is normal for canines to have a wax buildup in their ears — which is usually yellow or light brown in color — a black gunk or dark discharge can develop from time to time.

Of course, this darkening is not always a cause for concern. Your vet may be able to treat this issue with simple cleaning and an antibiotic ointment.

But if such a color change is accompanied by other symptoms like a foul odor, itchiness, chronic pain, inflammation, and difficulty hearing, close observation is required.

This will help you determine whether your pooch’s condition warrants an immediate visit to the vet’s office or not.

Causes of Black Stuff in Dogs’ Ears

Dirty ear of the dog with ear mites

The black stuff in dogs’ ears is a condition that can result from various reasons.

For instance, extreme wax buildup, ear mites, or even an allergy to fleas can all cause dark-colored gunk to appear in your furry friend’s ears.

To better understand what is happening with your pet’s ear canal, take a look at some of the most common causes of this black stuff in dogs’ ears:

1. Excessive Ear Wax or Cerumen Buildup

Also called cerumen, dog ear wax is an oily substance that coats the inside of your dog’s ear canal to help protect it from dead skin cells, foreign objects, dirt buildup, and other irritants.

However, when too much wax builds up in their ear holes, it can cause many problems. Such problems include a sudden appearance of a black-colored dog ear discharge, discomfort, and inflammation.

2. Dirty Dog Ears

As a responsible dog owner, it is your job to make sure that your dog’s ears are always clean and free of debris.

So if you see black stuff in a dog’s ear, it is probably due to one of the following reasons: poor hygiene, accumulation of dirt, excess fur in the ear canal, or a combination of all three.

3. Yeast Infections

Yeast infections can cause a black or dark brown buildup in a dog’s ears. Yeast infection, in general, thrives in moist environments where there is little air circulation.

The most common places where yeast develops in your dog are your dog’s paw pads, skin folds, genitals, and ears.

In addition to the black gunk in your dog’s ear, this condition can be characterized by other symptoms, including a foul smell, redness, swelling, and itchiness.

4. Allergies

If a canine’s ears are red, itchy, and filled with black stuff, it could indicate that the canine is suffering from an allergic reaction.

While there are many possible causes of allergies in dogs, the most common culprits are food, grass, dander, dust mites, cleaning products, pollen, tick bites, and mold.

Note, however, that allergies can sometimes be subtle enough that you don’t notice them at first. Therefore, if your dog has been shaking its head or scratching at its ears a lot lately, it is time for you to consult a vet.

5. Dog Ear Mites

For starters, you should know how to recognize dog ear mites vs. ear wax.

Ear wax results from the normal secretions from your dog’s glands that help keep their ears clean. Meanwhile, ear mites are tiny bugs that live in their ear canals and feed on the wax and skin cells that accumulate there.

You are probably wondering, “What do dog ear mites look like?” Although these parasites can be difficult to spot with the naked eye, they typically appear as little black dots that move around in your pup’s ear holes.

This makes it easier for them to burrow into their host’s skin and cause black gunk in a dog’s ear.

6. Bacterial Overgrowth

As with yeast infection, bacterial overgrowth is a common cause of black or dark brown stuff in dogs’ ears.

It occurs when there is an overload of bacteria in the ear canal, eventually leading to inflammation and irritation.

Pooches experiencing bacterial overgrowth may also have increased wax production and are more likely to have skin issues around the ear area.

Unfortunately, if left untreated, this can lead to chronic pain, infection, or even deafness in your four-legged friend.

7. Chronic Ear Infections

Canines with chronic ear infections are often prone to having black gunk in their ears.

This gunk is formed when fungi, bacteria, and other debris from the ear canal eventually mix with your dog’s wax and dead skin cells.

Other symptoms of chronic ear infections aside from the black stuff in your dog’s ears are as follows:

  • Crusting or scabbing in the affected area
  • Itchiness
  • Constant head shaking
  • Lethargy
  • Balance problems
  • Oozing fluid in dog’s ear

Furthermore, it should be noted that such infections can lead to the formation of ear canal tumors, as long-term inflammation causes cancerous cells to grow.

As the above circumstances indicate, black or dark brown stuff in a dog’s ear can appear for different causes.

Therefore, dog owners should monitor their pets closely for behavioral changes that could signal a problem.

READ NEXT: Dog Ear Wax Color Chart: What Different Ear Wax Colors Mean?

How Do You Get the Black Gunk Out of a Dog’s Ear?

Woman is removing the black stuff in the dogs ears

Removing the black gunk out of a dog’s ear is a somewhat straightforward process. However, this is not something you should attempt without the assistance of a professional or veterinarian.

It’s always best to try and avoid getting your dog’s ears dirty in the first place.

But if you do find yourself cleaning out your pet’s ears on more than one occasion, here are some tips for how to remove the black stuff safely:

Step 1

Start by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water. This will help prevent any bacteria from entering your dog’s ear canal.

Step 2

Carefully inspect your pooch’s ears for any signs of infection or irritation. If you see any redness or swelling, it is probably a good idea to call the vet, as you don’t want to worsen their condition.

Step 3

If everything looks fine, gently massage around their ear flap and try to remove any black gunk with a cleaning solution recommended by your vet.

This kind of solution dries quickly and is safe for your dog, so there’s no need to worry about over-soaking their ears.

Step 4

Use a towel to wipe the black stuff that may have come out during this cleaning process. Also, let your dog shake its head around to help loosen any remaining debris inside the ear.

While the black stuff in dog ears treatment can vary from just a little wax to an infection, consulting your vet will help you figure out what type of gunk is causing the problem and how best to treat it.

How to Prevent Black Stuff in Dog’s Ear

Dog ears are a vulnerable spot to getting dirty and infected, which can lead to the accumulation of black stuff. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to prevent this from happening.

Here are some tips to prevent black gunk in your dog’s ear:

  • Clean your dog’s ears regularly. Bacteria, when introduced into the thin skin of a dog’s ear, can result in black stuff developing. To avoid this, you should inspect your canine’s ears at least once every week and clean them with a damp cloth if necessary.
  • Never stick cotton swabs in your dog’s ears. As with humans, cotton swabs or Q-tips can push the wax further into your dog’s ear canal and cause more damage than good.
  • Dry your pooch’s ears after swimming or bathing. Since water can get trapped in the ear canal, it is important to dry out your dog’s ears after you bathe them. Failure to do so can result in the formation of black gunk.

The suggestions above, while simple, can significantly reduce the odds of your fur baby getting black stuff in its ears.

When to See a Vet

It is normal to be concerned if you notice something in your dog’s ear. However, it is important to know when that black material might indicate a serious problem that warrants a visit to the vet clinic.

The first step is determining whether or not the black gunk is simply dirt, wax, or another foreign object that has gotten into your dog’s ear.

A quick check with a flashlight should help you see what kind of material is present.

If you spot that your dog has developed redness, swelling, or irritation in conjunction with black or brown stuff in its ears, you should schedule an appointment with your vet.

Vigorous ear scratching and head shaking are also telltale signs that something may be wrong with your pup’s ears. Hence, make sure to watch out for those behaviors as well when assessing your dog’s health.

How to Clean a Dog’s Ears

Man is cleaning the dogs ears

Knowing how to clean a dog’s ears will help avoid infections and prevent black stuff from building up. After all, poor grooming, including dirty ears, can be pretty uncomfortable for your furry companion.

You can begin by asking your vet for recommendations on what products are best for cleaning your pet’s ears.

Once you have the needed supplies, such as an ear-cleaning solution, towel, cotton balls, and gauze, it’s time to get started.

First, put a small amount of cleaning solution onto a cotton ball and wipe down the outer portion of your dog’s ears. Make sure your pet is calm so that you don’t cause any injury while doing this cleaning process.

Next, gently tilt your canine’s head sideways so that one ear is more visible than the other. Pour the cleaning solution into the ear canal until it starts to overflow off of your dog’s ear.

Afterward, massage the base of your dog’s ear in a circular motion and be ready for it to shake its head. A towel can help with this step if needed.

Repeat this process with each ear until they’re both clean.

You can also watch this video to get a better idea of how to clean a dog’s ears:

Cleaning A Dog's Ears - Veterinary Training

Dog Ear Infection

The ears of dogs are generally sensitive to infections which may be caused by a number of factors. Hence, it’s worthwhile to know their most common causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Symptoms of Dog Ear Infection

You will probably notice a few different symptoms if your dog has an ear infection.

These signs can range from mild to severe, so you should monitor your pup carefully and take them to the vet if you notice any of the following: black or brown stuff in the dog’s ear, severe scratching, foul odor, and inflammation.

Common Causes of Dog Ear Infection

Several common reasons for dog ear infections exist, and they can be treated if caught early.

For your convenience, the following are the most common causes of ear infections in dogs:

  • Yeast
  • Ear mites
  • Fungus
  • Tumor
  • Foreign bodies
  • Deep scratching

By keeping the above points in mind, you can help your dog avoid the pain and discomfort of an ear infection.

How to Treat Dog Ear Infections

With regards to treating dog ear infections, your vet will likely prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal medication.

This is important because infections can be either bacterial or fungal in nature — and the remedy for each will differ.

In addition, over-the-counter medications in the form of medicated wipes, ear drops, and ointments are available to treat minor infections at home.

How to Prevent Dog Ear Infections

The best way to prevent dog ear infections is to make sure that your dog’s ears are kept neat and dry.

This can be achieved by regularly cleaning the ears with an all-natural cleanser and drying them thoroughly after each bath or swimming session.

You should also avoid using cotton swabs in your fur baby’s ears. Q-tips can push dirt and bacteria further into the ear canal, causing an infection to spread and worsen.

Frequently Asked Questions

Black gunk in dogs ear with infection close up

Why Is There Black Stuff in My Dog’s Ear and It Smells?

If your dog has black stuff in its ear and it smells, there is a high chance that you are dealing with an ear infection. To confirm this, you will want to take your pet to the vet and get them checked out.

How Do You Tell If Your Dog Has Ear Mites or Just Dirty Ears?

To differentiate between ear mites and regular dirt, keep in mind that the former causes your dog’s ears to be itchy, inflamed, and scaly.

They are also difficult to clean, as they are located deep within your dog’s ear canals.

What Do Ear Mites Look Like in Dogs?

Ear mites are microscopic, eight-legged parasites living in our dogs’ ears. Under a naked-eye examination, they resemble grains of sand or tiny black dots, making it hard to distinguish them from regular dirt.

Is Black Ear Wax Normal in Dogs?

Unfortunately, black-colored ear wax in dogs is not normal. Remember that such coloration can be a sign of many health issues, including bacterial, fungal, yeast, or ear mite infections.

What Color Should Dog Ear Wax Be?

A dog ear wax should range from pale yellow to light brown in terms of color. Its consistency should also be semi-soft, not chalky or oozing, but not too moist either.

Final Thoughts

The black stuff in dogs’ ears is a common problem, and it can be very uncomfortable for your pooch to have.

Luckily, there are many ways to prevent this problem from happening in the first place. You can do so by regularly checking and cleaning your dog’s ears, avoiding potential allergens, and treating underlying conditions early.

Moreover, knowing when to bring your dog to the vet is essential if you want to avoid any further complications down the road.

Have you ever encountered this situation with your dog? Leave a comment below if you’ve ever dealt with a situation involving black stuff in your dog’s ear!

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