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

Dog ear wax color

Most dogs will suffer from an ear infection at least once. Many pet parents may not pay much attention to their dog’s ear wax. Still, it is vital to distinguish between typical and unusual dog ear wax.

Dogs can get ear wax buildup similar to humans. Regularly examining your dog’s ear is essential to ensure their health and well-being. The sooner a problem is detected, the quicker your veterinarian can offer the proper care.

Knowing the significance of the colors of dog ear wax will help you identify whether or not your dog requires treatment or veterinary care. Read more to learn about the dog ear wax color and what you can do about it.

What Is Ear Wax?

Dog ear wax close up

Ear wax, also known as cerumen, is a naturally occurring material that forms in the outer ear canals of your dog.

This oily substance is formed by glands in your dog’s ears. Ear wax is vital for preventing ear infections and harm to the ear’s structure from dust, debris build-up, bacteria growth, dead cells, and other particles.

The cerumen and all the tiny, unwanted particles move slowly back up the ear canal to be discharged into the environment.

This natural process keeps the ear canals of your dog clean and healthy. Also, because of its water-repellent characteristics, ear wax prevents moisture from reaching the eardrum.

What Color Should a Dog’s Ear Wax Be?

The color of healthy and normal dog ear wax should be yellow to light brown. On the other hand, red, green, gray, or black dog’s ear wax means a sign of health problems like ear infections or injuries.

It is also not normal if your dog’s ear wax appears dark brown or black with build-up resembling coffee grounds or if it looks dirty gray instead of golden.

The healthy ears of a dog should be odorless. Otitis externa may be present if the ears of your dog smell yeasty or have an odor when you examine them.

This persistent dog ear infection can cause itchy, painful, and stinky ears in dogs. It can also cause eardrum rupture or ear canal constriction if left untreated. 

Dog Ear Wax Color Chart

Dog ear wax color chart

The color of a dog’s ear wax varies depending on various factors, and not all are a cause of concern. Some dogs have naturally darker or lighter ear waxes, so it is essential to understand what is completely normal for each dog.

A noticeable increase in wax buildup may also indicate dog ear infections. Even if the color of the ear wax falls within the normal range, the dog may still have an infection.

Typically, a change in ear wax color is a secondary sign of dog ear infection, along with other symptoms such as excessive ear wax and unpleasant odors.

If you detect an increase in the quantity and visibility of ear wax or if your dog is itchy, this could also suggest an ear mite infestation or an ear infection.

This dog ear wax color chart will help you in assessing whether the ear wax on your dog is normal or a sign of an ear infection:

Ear Wax ColorPossible Indication
No discharge– Dog ear infection
– Allergies
Brown– Healthy range of color
– Infection
Black or dark brown– Ear mites
– Fungal or yeast infection 
Yellow– Normal dog ear wax color
– Possible ear infections
Green– Yeast or fungal infections if paired with a foul odor
Red– Ear bleeding or injury
– Bug bites or ear mites
Gray– Presence of dirt
– Ear infections

No Discharge

If there is no discharge or ear wax, then it is unlikely that there is an ear infection. On the other hand, if there is an outer ear inflammation, this may be an indication of allergies.

In this case, consult your veterinarian, and they will use a medicated ear cleanser to clean your dog’s ears. Also, they may recommend oral antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications.

Brown Dog Ear Wax

If you look in your dog’s ears and find that the ear wax is brown or light brown, you don’t need to be concerned. This color is within the normal ear wax color range for dogs.

This brown ear wax in dogs is completely normal and expected. On the other hand, particularly dark colors might indicate an ear problem.

Further, if the ear wax of your dog is typically a lighter color or there are signs of infection such as redness, itching, bloody discharge, and foul smell, consult your veterinarian about the best action to take.

Black or Dark Brown Dog Ear Wax

Black ear wax in dogs can indicate multiple conditions. Granular ear wax often means ear mites infections. Ear mites are more prevalent in puppies, although older dogs may contract them if exposed.

This form of black ear wax in dogs is also related to bacterial and yeast infections. If your dog has developed black ear wax or dark brown stuff, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian.

Yellow Dog Ear Wax

Yellow dog ear wax is entirely natural and healthy for dogs. A healthy ear will have a pinkish inner ear and no symptoms of inflammation. However, if it is severe, it may signify a skin disorder or yeast infection in the dog’s ear.

The earwax may appear greasy and pale yellow in breeds prone to skin conditions such as skin or food allergies and seborrhea. This can result in an overgrowth of Malassezia yeast.

This yeast is generally found in low concentrations in healthy dogs such as shepherd dogs, Poodles, and Dachshunds.

Still, it can develop severely for dogs prone to underlying skin problems, such as Golden Retrievers, Dalmatians, and Bulldogs.

If you are concerned that your dog may have ear problems, you should look for additional signs. These symptoms include unpleasant odors, discharge, and discomfort. After observing these symptoms, consult with your veterinarian.

Green Dog Ear Wax

The presence of green ear wax in dogs implies yeast infections. It is frequently sticky and mucous-like and may have a foul smell. It may also be due to a fungal infection.

Other signs may also include frequent head shaking or ear scratching. If your dog has developed green ear wax, consult your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian will take samples for further investigation to determine the type of infection and the most effective medications for your dog.

Red Dog Ear Wax

Blood in the ear causes the formation of red ear wax. The blood may be minimal, but it might mix with wax or discharge in your dog’s ear canal, giving it a reddish-brown discharge.

The red ear wax may result from injury, inflammation, bug bites, or itching. This may also cause head shaking or scratching of their ears excessively, resulting in ear cuts.

Scratched wounds should be treated to prevent infection. As part of the treatment for red ear wax, it is crucial to address the underlying reasons for discomfort.

Blood indicates that your dog’s ear is quite irritated, so be sure to visit your veterinarian to discover the cause and seek treatment.

Gray Dog Ear Wax

Gray ear wax may not necessarily indicate a problem, especially if your dog has been in a dusty environment recently. It may show too much wax buildup of dirt or debris and environmental allergies.

This may signify that the ear wax is performing and removing dust and dirt that entered your pup’s ears. However, it may be harmful if it persists for long durations.

If dust has caused your dog’s earwax to turn gray, it may be good to clean its ears. More material exposure increases the likelihood that its ears will get an infection.

In contrast, a gray, watery discharge from your dog’s ear canal may indicate a bacterial infection. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is one form of bacteria that can lead to unpleasant ear discharge.

This bacterium can acquire resistance to several antibiotics, making it difficult to treat.

Cleaning Your Dog’s Ear Wax

Cleaning a dogs ear wax with cotton swab

Every dog needs unique ear cleanings to maintain good health, hearing, and balance. Some dogs do not need their ears cleaned frequently.

If your dog’s ears are healthy, you do not need to clean them because it can damage your dog’s self-cleaning abilities causing more harm to them.

However, certain dog breeds such as Poodle, Schnauzer, Basset Hound, and Cocker Spaniel tend to produce excessive hair or ear wax in the ear canal.

Given this, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian before ear cleaning. But in most cases, weekly ear cleaning with a basic dog ear cleanser and a semi-soft cotton ball can effectively prevent infections.

You must apply veterinarian-recommended ear cleaning cotton swabs and gently massage the ear canal without entering too deeply. Then, squeeze the cotton ball lightly and massage the ear canal softly.

Afterward, step back and let your dog shake. Use soft cotton balls to remove any remaining cleanser, reaching no more profound than the first knuckle.

Most dogs love and enjoy it if their ears are not extremely irritated or unpleasant. Veterinarians frequently advise giving a dog its favorite treat to make ear cleaning a more enjoyable experience.

To prevent injury to your dog’s inner ear, you might request a cleaning schedule and demo from your veterinarian.

However, if you are confident in cleaning your dog’s ears at home, it is suggested that you follow the methods for dog ear wax removal.

When Not to Clean Your Dog’s Ears?

If your dog has ear wax that is not light brown or yellow, you should talk to your vet before trying to clean it out.

Further, avoid cleaning your dog’s ears if you observe excessive ear wax buildup, a foul odor, cuts, or evidence of harm. In certain instances, cleaning a dog’s ears might worsen certain conditions and create more discomfort.

That said, you must consult your veterinarian for your dog’s proper treatment.

When to See a Vet

If the ear canal is excessively red, or your dog is in discomfort when you touch its ears, you should take it to the vet as soon as possible for proper treatment. Ignoring symptoms can potentially hinder your dog from receiving proper care.

For instance, black or dark brown dog ear wax may indicate a mite infestation. This dog would require anti-parasite treatment in addition to cleaning.

Dog Ear Wax vs. Ear Mites: What’s the Difference?

As stated earlier, ear wax is a natural component of all dog ears. However, excessive ear wax can cause infections in the outer ear.

On the other hand, ear mites are not visible to the human eye. It requires a microscope to identify them from the debris they create.

It also affects the ear canal and other parts of the skin. It produces an infection of the outer ear that results in inflammation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Clean dog ear with very little ear wax

Is Brown Ear Wax Normal in Dogs?

Brown ear wax alone does not suggest an ear problem if there is no foul odor from the ear canal or any other symptom of irritation.

However, if the brown discharge has a foul smell and is blackish or reddish in color, it may indicate that your dog has an ear problem. Additionally, excessive brown ear wax production is unhealthy.

How Often Should a Dog’s Ears Be Cleaned?

In general, you should clean your dog’s ears once a month. Dogs more prone to ear infections and ear wax build-ups may need to have their ears cleaned more frequently.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), some breeds with long-hanging ears, such as Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels, require regular ear cleaning to prevent the accumulation of dirt, which can lead to ear infections.

However, dogs such as Chihuahuas, Border Collies, and Yorkshire Terriers have naturally healthy, clean ears and may not need their ears cleaned frequently. 

Excessive ear cleaning can create discomfort and may also lead to infections.

What Color Is Ear Wax When Infected?

Waxy, yellow, or reddish-brown ear discharge may indicate that your dog has an ear infection. This may be caused by allergies, mites, polyps, excessive ear wax production, excessive bathing or swimming, or other issues.

How Do You Tell If Your Dog Has an Ear Infection?

Some dogs exhibit no indications of ear infection other than a buildup of earwax and discharge.

But a dog’s ear infection can cause severe discomfort. Infected dogs may exhibit head shaking, scratching, dark discharge, foul odor, redness, and ear canal swelling.

Why Does My Dog Have a Lot of Ear Wax in One Ear?

Several conditions, such as ear infections, ear mite infestations, and dog allergies, can cause excessive dog ear wax.

Ear infections are common and recurring concerns for many dogs. If your dog exhibits an ear infection, seek treatment immediately to prevent the infection from becoming severe.

Final Thoughts

Dogs cannot treat themselves, so pet owners must recognize ear problems as they develop and seek treatment. Regularly checking your dog’s ears may help prevent common problems such as ear infections.

Remember that the dog ear wax color chart is merely a guide. If you notice anything out of the ordinary in your dog’s ear, you should consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.

Many ear infections can be easily treated if diagnosed and treated early. Always stay alert for changes in your dog’s behavior and environmental factors that may change its ear wax color.

Did you observe a sudden change in the color of your dog’s ear wax lately? Let us know how the dog ear wax color chart helped you by dropping us a comment below!