Dog Ear Wax Color Chart – What To Watch For

Dog Ear Wax Color Chart
Written by Adriana

It is perfectly normal for your dog to have ear wax in his ear canal. Ear wax is also referred to as cerumen and is created by specific glands inside your dog’s ear.

A dog ear wax color chart will be able to assist in providing information about your dog’s health. 

The purpose of earwax is to serve as a protection for the inner ear by collecting dirt, pollen, debris, bacteria, and dead cells.

When these foreign substances have been collected the wax oozes out of the ear naturally so that the ear canal is cleaned.

Even though ear wax is normal within humans and your dog, you should understand and take notice of any changes in smell, color, and amount of ear wax, so that you can be aware of potential health problems that may exist within your dog.

Understand that there are three parts of the ear organ which are the inner, middle, and outer ear.  The outer ear will be visible to you and is made up of cartilage skin and fur.

This is also called the pinna and most of the diseases that affect your dog starts from the pinna. Expect that the inner part of the pinna will be pink in a healthy dog.

Are Certain Dog Breeds More Prone To Earwax Problems? 

Dog Ear Wax Problem Symptoms Causes

There are some dog breeds with a bit more ear wax than others. These are breeds like Cocker Spaniels, Basset hounds, Poodles, and English Bulldogs.

This is because of the shape of their ears and the fact that the ear canal may have hair growing out of it. Additionally, they may simply have a genetic condition resulting in an overproduction of earwax.

There are other reasons why a dog may have more earwax. For example, if you frequently take your dog to the beach or pool, you may find that he has extra ear wax.

The moisture in the ear creates an environment where bacteria can thrive and this may lead to disease.

To prevent diseases that affect the ear, it may be a good idea to place cotton balls in your dog’s ear whenever you expect him to get wet like during swimming or bathing.

Additionally, you should make sure that when he is receiving a haircut, the hair that is being cut doesn’t enter the ear canal and cause infections. 

Dog Ear Wax Color Chart

Dog Ear Wax ColorMeaning
Yellow & Pale Ear WaxThings are normal
Red Ear WaxInjury or bug bite
Brown Ear WaxHealthy ear wax as long as there isn't a bad smell
Gray Ear WaxInflamation, possible yeast or fungal ear infection
Black & Dark Brown Ear WaxOld ear wax that didn't slide out of the ear

Yellow/Pale Ear Wax

If you notice that your dog has yellow or pale ear wax, then this could mean that things are normal where ear wax is concerned but in certain cases, he may have an ear infection which may lead to the overproduction of earwax, mites, polyps, and allergies.

Your dog can get this when he has too much moisture in his ears which creates an environment for infection. 

Red Ear Wax 

Preventing Ear Problems In Dogs

If you notice that your dog has ear wax that is red, then this is certainly not a good sign. This usually means that there is some type of blood mixed within the ear wax.

This may be because of your dog constantly scratching his ears or there may be an injury within his ear canal because of some insect bites or other damage.

The worst-case scenario is when his eardrum is ruptured, and it is bleeding out mixed with the wax.

Brown Ear Wax

This is in the normal range. When you have an adult dog you should expect that the ear wax will be different in texture than when your dog is a puppy.

Usually, older dogs have a harder texture of earwax, and it is usually light brown, orange, or yellow in a healthy dog. The normal range is usually yellow to light brown.

Gray Ear Wax 

If your dog has gray ear wax then this is not a good sign. Gray ear wax usually means that the ear is inflamed causing the ear canal environment to change.

With this change in environment, there is yeast production which affects the color of the ear wax. These yeast organisms are normal in the ear canal and skin. 

Dog Black Ear Wax

Black/Dark Brown Ear Wax

If your dog’s ear wax is dark brown it is usually a sign that this ear wax is older and did not slide out of the ear like it was supposed to.

There is usually dirt and bacteria trapped inside it. If your dog has black or dark brown ear wax, and he frequently scratches his ears or shakes his head you should schedule a visit with your veterinarian for the best treatment.

Dog Ear Wax Problem Symptoms & Causes

Usually, when your dog has a problem with ear wax it is caused by an infection in the outer ear canal.

These infections may be brought on by yeast, bacteria, ear mites, or an injury that got infected. There may also be an infection that was caused by polyps or allergies that affect the ear.

You may notice a strange odor on your dog, or he may have inflamed skin. Additionally, you will see him shaking his head in this comfort or scratching his ears and whining.

You can also tell by the amount of discharge that is produced in the ear because ear wax tends to be overproduced when the ear is infected.

If the ear infection is not treated promptly, there could be serious consequences for your dog as he may lose balance when the infection spreads to the middle ear. Or it may even result in loss of hearing as well as strange eye movement.

The yeast and bacteria that affect the ear change your dog’s odor, so that is something that you should look out for.

Dog Ear Wax Problems

The yeast and bacteria that will affect your dog’s ears are external causes that have come about from grooming or injury. But these are not the only ways that can cause infections in your dog’s ear.

Certain conditions within the old dog can lead to problems that affect his ear. These problems should be dealt with by visiting your veterinarian to secure your dog’s health.

It is also important to provide your dog with a healthy diet for better overall health. These conditions include:

  • Keratinization disorders (seborrhea, overproduction of cerumen)
  • Idiopathic
  • Autoimmune diseases (pemphigus complex, lupus erythematous)
  • Non-neoplastic polyps
  • Tumors (malignant or benign)
  • Foreign bodies(plants, hair, seeds)
  • Hypersensitivity (FAD, food-borne allergies, atopic allergies)
  • Endocrine disorders (hormone imbalances, hypothyroidism, Cushing)

When it comes to ear infections, about half the cases are caused by allergies that your dogs have.

Apart from that, there has to be some type of foreign body causing the infection. If you are careful whenever you groom your dog then you can reduce most of the problems. Also, aim for a healthy dog overall so bad these issues can be minimized. 

Preventing Ear Problems In Dogs

As we have stated the accumulation of earwax in your dog is quite normal, but there are cases where certain conditions within the body may be the cause as well as activities your dog is engaged in that may lead to infection in the ear canal.

When your dog constantly scratches his ears he may have certain allergies and if this condition is left untreated it may cause him to have inflammation and infection.

The best thing you can do is visit your veterinarian who would be able to help you by recommending the proper treatment for your dog.

In most cases, it may be just a matter of prescribing a certain medication but on occasion, it may call for more drastic measures that require support and dedication as the dog owner.

Instead of waiting for your dog to develop these problems with his ear you should be proactive and take preventative measures such as making sure his ears are clean and correctly cleaning them.

Ensuring that his ear canal does not create an environment where yeast and bacteria will thrive. 

You also need to take care of his health so that certain health conditions well knobs create an environment where his ear canal can get infected.

You need to also look for any indication that your dog’s ears are infected by observing him to see if he is scratching and is uncomfortable.

How To Clean Your Dog’s Ears (Ear Wax Removal)

Dog Ear Wax

You shouldn’t wait until your dog has an ear infection to do the right thing and clean his ears. Cleaning his ears should be a part of regular grooming, although some dog breeds would need this more than others.

If you are unsure about what to do and do not want to take the chance it is perfectly okay to have your groomer or your veterinarian handle this. It is better to do this than potentially injure your dog.

However, if you would like to learn how to clean your dog’s ear it is not that difficult. The most important thing you have to remember is to be gentle and use the right cleaning solution.

The cleaning solution needs to be effective but should not irritate your dog’s ear, which would have the opposite effect.

There is no special equipment that is needed to have your dog ears clean. You simply need the cleaning solution along with gauze or cotton balls.

Q-tips are not recommended as they tend to push the wax deeper down in the ear. Most animals find this practice uncomfortable so have a little treat ready for him when you are finished.

  • Place your dog between your legs and have his rear end facing you.
  • Hold the ear flaps to expose the ear canal while holding the cleaning solution and using some of it inside the ear canal.
  • Most cleaning solutions will have an application nozzle that makes this process easy. Massage the ear gently for about 1 minute to break up the wax and soften whatever debris is in the ear. Your dog will love this part.
  • Gently take the cotton balls and wipe the solution out of your dog’s ear. You will also see wax along with the solution. Take note of the color so that you can understand what is going on with your dog.
  • Your dog will be shaking his head and this is perfectly okay, as he will be trying to remove the excess solution and remaining wax from his ear. Give him his treat.

Final Words

Just like humans, dogs produce a certain amount of earwax, but you should monitor the color because it can tell you what is happening within the ear canal.

It is also a good idea to look at the amount of wax that is being produced. Because if this is too much then you know there is a health problem. As long as you deal with problems within the ear as soon as you observe them, your dog has a higher chance of healthy ears.

Implementing a routine of proper grooming practices and knowing the dog ear wax color chart will go a long way to prevent unnecessary trips to the veterinarian.

Additionally, making sure that your dog is healthy and has proper nutrition will make sure he is healthy overall and reduce the likelihood of him developing a condition that will lead to an ear infection. 

About the author


Adriana has been around dogs since she was a little kid. It all started with growing up with a German Shepherd Lord and an English Cocker Spaniel Bady. Her dream job has always been becoming a veterinarian. She has been taking care of animals all of her life and she wants to share her experience with other dog lovers.