Dog Ear Wax Color Chart

black dog with big ears

Ear wax is entirely normal for both dogs and humans, and the reason for that is that it is a way that the body can be protected against pathogens and even foreign objects that might otherwise get into the ear canal.

However, sometimes ear wax can be too much in situations where the ear lining secretes massive amounts. Its color, consistency, and smell can also give you a clue as to whether your canine friend has an ear infection or not.

In today’s article, we’re looking at which colors of ear wax are normal and which ones should convince you to take your dog to the vet clinic.

Normal dog ear wax

So, what color should dog ear wax be? Ideally, your dog’s ear wax should be light yellow. Normal wax doesn’t have a particular smell and isn’t too sticky, either.

More importantly, your dog will not show any additional symptoms such as trying to scratch their ear time and again or rubbing the side of their head on walls and other objects in your home.

They will also experience no fever, and there will be no secretions coming out of their ears. Most otitis (ear infection) cases are developed in both ears because the dog usually scratches the ear that was initially affected, contaminates the other paw just by direct contact, and then gets the germs into the other ear by accident.

So, if you are ‘lucky’ enough to notice weird wax changes in just one of your pet’s ears, get to the animal hospital as soon as possible so that your pooch doesn’t develop bilateral otitis.

Dog ear wax color chart

Color Potential problem
Pale yellow
  • Usually normal
  • Your dog is not showing any other clinical signs
  • There’s no smell coming out of the pet’s ears
  • Possible ear bleeding
  • Local pain or discomfort
  • The dog will try to scratch their ears or try to keep their head in a cool place
  • Possible fungal infection
  • Possible bacterial infection (pus)
  • Heavy discharge usually has a bad smell
Bright yellow or orange
  • Possible sign of infection
  • Allergies
  • Mites
  • Ear wax overproduction
  • Polyps or foreign bodies inside the dog’s ear
  • Presence of detritus inside your pet’s ear combined with wax
  • Possible yeast infection
  • Local itchiness and discomfort
  • Dirt
  • Possible bacterial infection
  • Bad smells combined with local pain
  • Remnants of blood that has coagulated and is now being released
Dark brown or black
  • Ear mites
  • Coagulated blood as a result of an ear lesion
  • Offensive odor
  • The dog might experience partial hearing loss in the affected ear

As you can see, there are quite a lot of options when it comes to what your dog’s ear wax or ear discharge can look like.

However, as a general rule, if your dog’s ear wax is any other color apart from pale yellow, you should take them to the veterinary clinic just to be on the safe side of things.

Ear infections are typically associated with other symptoms, such as those that we have already mentioned. In some cases, it can become so bad that the dog might experience fever, lethargy, or lose their appetite for either food or water completely. If that happens, veterinary assistance is required as soon as possible.

Some colors that should give you a clue that something is definitely wrong are green, red, black or dark brown, and sometimes even gray.

Auricular pathologies are much more common in dog breeds whose anatomy simply makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the ear canal to be aired out properly. Cocker Spaniels are a good example in this sense. Not only do their ear hairs make everything more difficult, but their flappy ears also cover the ear canal – which means that it can quickly become the perfect place for a microorganism to reproduce.

Cleaning your dog’s ears

Cleaning might not be necessary if your dog doesn’t have an infection or their ears produce a normal amount of wax.

Excess wax is usually displaced and released into the exterior of the body either because your pet might scratch that area every now and then or because it is pushed out by the additional wax that constantly develops inside your pup’s ears.

However, cleaning your dog’s ears on occasion is definitely a must just because you should be able to check the color, consistency, and smell of the discharge. This is especially important for Cocker Spaniels and other such breeds as they are definitely prone to recurrent otitis cases.

Your veterinarian can show you how to clean your dog’s ears safely. Nevertheless, we would like to point out that there’s absolutely no way of you creating severe damage inside your dog’s ears if you use the right tools and don’t push out too deep into the canal.

Dogs have an L-shaped ear canal, which means that you will only be able to clean it superficially.

Ear cleaning solutions are available for sale these days, and most contain safe ingredients that are not going to hurt the inside of your pet’s ears in any way. Your vet can make a recommendation in this sense, too.

Also, if your dog was unlucky enough to have developed an ear infection, you will have to clean their ears before applying the medicated solution that your vet prescribed. This is necessary because if the lining is covered in wax and secretions, it will not come in close contact with the membrane and might not manage to kill the microorganisms that are at the root of the problem.

When you pour some of the cleaning or medicated solution into your dog’s ears, carefully massage the area around the ear (and under it) to make sure that the product also reaches the distant parts of the L-shaped canal.

Let your dog shake their head if they feel the need to, as this can help with the displacement of the ear wax and other secretions they might have in there.

Clean the outside of the ear with a plain cotton ball to remove any excess wax or discharge that might be present in that area.

Final thoughts

Taking your dog to the animal hospital is the best piece of advice we have for you because, more often than not, it is impossible for you to tell just what’s going on with your pet’s ears.

Complications can arise from things such as foreign objects, polyps, germs, mites, and a variety of other factors. Your vet can both look inside your dog’s ears with an otoscope to see what’s happening there and can also collect some of the discharge and send it to the lab to see what’s causing the symptoms.



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