Dog Ear Wax Color Chart – What Does Each Color Mean?
Just like you and I, our dogs have ear wax.
Most owners do not pay any attention to the waxy substance found in their dog’s ears, but it can actually offer some clues on their current state of health.
Understanding the possible ear wax colors in dogs can not only alert you to when something is wrong, but allow you to offer your pup the vet care they may need.
To help you better understand what to look for in your dog’s ears, let’s discuss our detailed ear wax color guide below.
We will discuss the most common ear wax colors you may see, what these colors could mean, and offer you some important ear care tips along the way.
What Is Ear Wax In Dogs?
Ear wax, or cerumen, is a substance that coats the lining of your dog’s ear canal.
The ear wax helps to capture any foreign invaders that enter the ear.
This includes material ranging from dust to bacteria.
Not only does it capture any material that could cause harm when entering the ear canal, but it also provides proper lubrication of the tissue within the ear.
A dog’s ear wax also assists in expelling any of the debris it captures.
The ear wax will slowly travel up the canal and out of the ear.
This allows the body to expel this harmful material for good.
As you can see, this strange waxy substance does more than you may think!
What Should Ear Wax Look Like In Dogs?
Every dog will have ear wax, so it’s important to be aware of what healthy ear wax should look like.
This is not only important for monitoring your dog’s ear health as the years go by, but it’s essential if you have a dog that is prone to developing ear infections.
Knowing what’s normal will help you spot any changes within your dog’ ears and make a prompt vet appointment when needed.
Healthy ear wax in dogs should be a shade of light yellow to light brown in color.
It should only be found in small amounts within the ear.
A healthy ear canal should also be a pale shade of pink when looking in the ear.
It should also be free of any obvious moisture when examining the pinna and ear opening.
Does Dog Ear Wax Have A Smell?
Dog ear wax may not have a fresh scent when sniffing it up close.
It should never have an overpowering smell that is noticeable upon examination.
Any potent scent coming from your dog’s ears can be a sign of infection.
Scent is often the most commonly reported symptom of ear infections in dogs.
If you ever notice a strange smell coming from your dog’s ear, we suggest making an appointment with your veterinarian.
How Much Ear Wax Should Dogs Have?
Not only does the color of ear wax matter, but so does the amount of ear wax in a dog’s ears.
Excessive ear wax production can be a sign of irritation within the ear.
The ear canal tends to produce more wax and secretions when an issue is present.
In a dog with healthy ears, you may not even see their ear wax when examining their ears.
This is typically a sign of a normal ear, as most of the ear wax is contained in small amounts within the ear canal.
It is typically safe to assume that your dog has too much ear wax when there is obvious ear wax build up outside of the ear canal.
As well as ear wax stuck on the fur around the ear, or their ear feels moist when examining it.
Does A Dog’s Ear Wax Color Matter?
A dog’s ear wax color may not offer a concrete diagnosis, but it certainly does matter.
Ear wax color can offer you some insight into your dog’s current ear health, especially when you are aware of what is typically normal for your dog.
Any strange ear wax colors can inform the pet owner of potential complications.
If you see a strange color, then reach out to your veterinarian for guidance.
Though every dog may vary in terms of what ear wax color is normal for them, there are a few concerning colors that have been tied to ear infections and other complications.
To help you better understand what you should see when peeking into your dog’s ear, check out our dog ear wax color guide below.
Dog Ear Wax Color Guide And What Each Color Means
Let’s break down each ear wax color in dogs to help you better spot any potential complications as they develop.
Light Yellow Ear Wax In Dogs
Most ear wax in dogs will be anywhere from light yellow to light brown in color.
This is typically a standard color to see in a healthy dog ear.
As long as there is no irritation or smell present, this should be normal for most pups.
Keep in mind that dogs may still have yellow ear wax when they have an ear infection.
It’s important to keep an eye out for any other strange symptoms as well.
This is especially true if there seems to be an excessive amount of wax in the ear, or if the ear wax appears greasy.
Light Brown Ear Wax In Dogs
Just as we mentioned above, most dogs will have ear wax that is light yellow to light brown in color.
This is typically a sign of healthy ear wax and as long as there are no signs of infection, this is typically normal.
Just be sure to keep an eye out for any signs of excessive ear wax production, odor, or other signs of discomfort.
If you notice any of these symptoms, your pup could still be brewing an ear infection or yeast overgrowth.
Dark Brown Ear Wax In Dogs
Dark brown or black ear wax in dogs can point to a few different ear complications in our canine friends.
This can be evidence of debris buildup within the ear and this can occur with a couple common issues.
The first potential cause of dark brown ear wax in dogs is an underlying bacterial or fungal infection.
Their ear wax may be:
- Dark in color
- Have a strange smell
- Their ear may even be painful to the touch
The next potential cause is a case of ear mites.
These ear mites live within the dog’s external ear canal and cause an array of uncomfortable symptoms.
Not only will some dogs have dark brown ear wax, but they may shake their head often, scratch at their ears, and experience inflammation of the ear canal.
If you fear any of the above complications in your pup, we suggest reaching out to your vet for guidance.
Green Ear Wax In Dogs
If your dog has green ear wax, this is likely a sign of an underlying ear infection.
This can be due to an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria within the dog’s ear.
This will cause an array of concerning symptoms for the dog affected.
We always suggest having your pup seen if you ever notice green wax inside of their ear.
Fast action is the best way to prevent a painful ear infection.
Gray Or White Ear Wax In Dogs
Gray or white ear wax is not commonly seen in dogs, but it can point to evidence of an underlying ear mite or bacterial infection.
I have seen an ear infection in a dog that was so severe that there were wounds in the ear, and some of these wounds were leaking pus-like fluid.
This is not always the case, but due to the risk, we always suggest having your dog seen if you notice gray or white ear wax.
The white ear wax could actually be pus mixing with the wax.
Clear Ear Wax In Dogs
Clear ear wax in dogs is another color that is not commonly seen, but it can indicate inflammation within the ear canal.
Sometimes tissue will produce a clear fluid when it is irritated or damaged.
This can cause a clear discharge to be present within the ear.
This can occur with issues ranging from severe infections to polyps within the ear, so we suggest reaching out to your vet if you notice this symptom.
Red Ear Wax In Dogs
Red ear wax typically points to the presence of bleeding within the dog’s ear and ear canal.
This can happen as a result of severe inflammation, and can develop as a result of anything from significant infections to foreign objects within the ear canal.
Red ear wax often happens as a result of a dog pawing at their ear and shaking their head from the discomfort, causing the damaged tissue to bleed.
If you ever notice red ear wax in your dog, we suggest having them seen by a veterinarian.
Ear Infection Symptoms In Dogs
Our dogs can’t tell us when they are experiencing pain, so it’s up to us to examine their behaviors and catch on to any concerning clues.
Ear infections can be unbearable as they progress and because of this, many dogs will display some changes of behavior.
Some of the most common symptoms of an ear infection in dogs include:
- Frequent head shaking
- Pawing or scratching at the ears
- Strange odor coming from the ears
- Rubbing their ears or face on the ground
- Redness of the ears
- Inflammation of the entrance to the ear canal
- Excessive amounts of wax in the ear or the fur around the ear
- Scabbing on the inside of the pinna
- Dislike of having their ears touched
- Crying out when their ears are touched
- Discharge coming from the ear
- Wounds on the ear from frequent scratching
If you notice any of the symptoms of an ear infection in your dog, we always suggest reaching out to your veterinarian right away.
Ear infections can be incredibly painful and they can lead to further complications if they are not treated promptly.
The sooner you have them seen, the easier an ear infection is to treat.
Testing For Ear Infections In Dogs
Thankfully for your pup, testing for ear infections is fairly easy.
It may be a bit uncomfortable for a dog with an active ear infection, but the samples can typically be obtained quickly and examined by your veterinary team.
The standard testing for an ear infection involves swabbing the ears with a cotton swab, putting the sample on a microscope slide, and examining the sample under a microscope.
Factors like ear mites, bacteria, or yeast are too small to be seen with the naked eye, so the only way to diagnose them is under the microscope.
Your veterinary team can use this test to determine which agent is responsible for their pain, and which treatment option will be best moving forward.
Some complicated infections will need to be sent out to a lab for further analysis, but this is quite rare.
Treating Ear Infections In Dogs
Once your veterinarian identifies the type of bacteria that is present within your dog’s ear, they can prescribe the appropriate treatment going forward.
This can include twice daily ear drops for 2 weeks, ear packing solution that lasts for 2 weeks, oral antibiotics, and even anti-inflammatory medications if they have significant inflammation.
Most ear infections can be treated within 14 days without complication.
If your dog is diagnosed with a severe infection, your vet may suggest having their ears rechecked in 14 days for any leftover infection.
If your pup still has bacteria present in their ears, they may suggest another round of treatment.
Should I Clean My Dog’s Ears At Home?
If your dog has never had an ear infection or an issue with excessive ear wax, then you do not need to clean their ears.
A dog’s ears should be self-cleaning in most cases.
Many pet owners will never have to explore any at home ear cleaning.
However, if your dog has struggled with frequent bacterial or fungal ear infections, then at home cleaning may be beneficial.
This should only be performed if your veterinarian recommends it and with an approved ear cleaning solution of your vet’s choice.
If your vet recommends cleaning your dog’s ears at home, they will typically recommend doing this once a month.
Final Thoughts On Dog Ear Wax Colors
As we mentioned above, most dogs should have a small amount of ear wax that ranges from light yellow to light brown in color.
Be sure to review our dog ear wax color chart above so you know what to watch out for.
If you ever see excessive wax production, black, red, white or clear ear wax colors, then please reach out to your veterinarian for guidance.
Also be aware of extra smelly ears as this could be a sign of an ear infection.
As long as there is no evidence of infection or excessive ear wax production, your pup likely has healthy ears.
My name is Amber. I am a dedicated animal lover that turned my passion into my career. I am a Licensed Vet Tech with 12 years of experience in veterinary medicine, but I recently took my career online to help spread accurate information on animal care. With how vast the online world is, I have a strong desire to ensure that the reader always walks away with helpful pet advice. With the experience I’ve gained from my time in this field, I have been able to travel the world, offering my services to as many animal rescues as I can find. If I am not at my laptop, or back home visiting family, you can find me somewhere in the world, cuddling every furry friend that I can find! More About Us