close up of a dirty dog's ear with brown stuff all over it

What’s the Brown Stuff in My Dog’s Ears? Solutions That Work.

If there’s brown stuff in your dog’s ears, you’re likely wondering if that’s normal or if you’re doomed to deal with a dog ear infection. Keep reading to get to the bottom of this mysterious brown gunk and discover why a dogs’ ear cleaner is an essential part of keeping your dog healthy and happy.

What’s Normal When It Comes to Dog Ear Wax?

Dogs get earwax just like humans do – it’s how the ears self-clean against pollen, dirt and debris. Normal dog ear wax ranges from pale yellow to light brown. Keep in mind, the wax may look darker if there’s dirt in the ear. The consistency of the wax should be semi-soft. To learn what’s normal for your pup (some dogs simply have more wax than others), regularly inspect your dog’s ears – once a week is ideal.

Just as important is smelling your dog’s ears – yes, smelling them. If they smell yeasty or funky, there’s a good chance your dog has an ear infection. If there’s no smell, they may just need a good ear cleaning, as excessive wax can eventually lead to a dog ear infection.

Does Brown Discharge or Black Discharge Indicate a Dog Ear Infection?

If you spot an abundance of brown discharge in your dog’s ears, you will want to be on high alert for a dog ear infection. The news isn’t much better with black discharge in your pup’s ears. Crumbly, black discharge is typically a sign of ear mites. Left untreated, these tiny parasites can lead to a secondary bacterial or yeast infection in the dog’s ears, giving you two problems for the price of one!

Remember: some dogs naturally have more earwax than others, which is why those weekly visual inspections and sniff tests are so important. If your pooch has a dog ear infection, they will likely exhibit other signs beyond brown discharge in their ears.

Signs of Dog Ear Infection

Itching & pawing at the ears
Problems with balance
Crying out when ears are touched
Redness of the ear flap
Excessive ear wax
Smelly ears
Scabbing around the ear

If you think your dog has an ear infection, it’s important to make an appointment with the vet right away. Otherwise, you risk the infection spreading to the middle or inner ear, which can pose serious health risks.

Might the Brown Stuff in Your Dog’s Ears Be Mites?

Ear mites do cause black or brown stuff in dogs’ ears, but it’s a different texture – think coffee grounds. However, unless you have a new puppy, the chances are low that it’s mites. Ear mites are much more common in our feline friends, and going rogue and applying an insecticidal cream in your dog’s ears without consulting a vet could just prolong the actual problem. If there’s lots of brown stuff in your dog’s ears plus an odor, it’s most likely a bacterial or yeast infection in the ear.

How to Keep Your Dog’s Ears Healthy

Keeping your dog’s ears clean and dry is a key to helping prevent dog ear infections. How often should you clean your dog’s ears? It depends on the breed of your dog and lifestyle factors. Dogs who love the water, have floppy ears, or are simply prone to ear infections may need ear cleanings once a week. Other dogs will do just fine with once-a-month cleanings. And … if your dog’s ears don’t smell and you don’t see any excessive earwax, leave them alone. At your dog’s next appointment, ask the vet for their recommendation on how often to clean your pup’s ears.

Dogs’ Ear Cleaner … What Should I Use?

First, what not to use. Never use ear cleaning products – homemade or store-bought – with alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or vinegar. This is like a double whammy to dogs: these ingredients can sting their delicate ear tissue (especially if their ears are already sore and itchy) and the bubbling sound can freak them out even more. If your dog is already on the fence about having his ears handled, you definitely want to use a gentle, sting-free dogs’ ear cleaner so that your pet doesn’t develop a bad association with ear cleaning.

So what should you use?

One of the best go-to ear cleaners for veterinarians and dog groomers is Oxyfresh Pet Ear Cleaner. They love it because it’s gentle and soothing on even the most sensitive dog ears, easily removes wax and dirt, and doesn’t require the extra step of rinsing like a lot of brands do. Dogs love it because it doesn’t sting and quickly stops itch and irritation. And pet parents love it because it cleans and gets rid of those stinky ear odors, fast!

Formulated with your dog’s best health in mind, Oxyfresh Pet Ear Cleaner is uniquely free of harsh chemicals, fragrance and alcohol. Instead, we use only safe, non-toxic, no-sting ingredients that help stop yeast and bacteria growth, the culprits behind dog ear infection and itchy, smelly dog ears.

The Alpha of Dog Ear Cleaners

  • Gentle, no-sting formula
  • Eliminates itch & odors
  • Quickly cleans wax & dirt
  • Helps prevent dog ear infections
  • 2020 Family Choice Award Winner

Say goodbye to itchy, dirty dog ears and help your pet put his best paw forward with Oxyfresh Pet Ear Cleaner.

P.S. If you have some pet pals chasing their tails over dog ear care, be sure to share this post with them!



melissa gulbranson oxyfresh cmo

Meet the Author

Melissa Gulbranson is the Co-Chief Operating Officer & Chief Marketing Officer for Oxyfresh. A recipient of the Pet Age's "Women of Influence" Award, she’s passionate about educating pet parents in ways that really resonate with them. Melissa loves days on the lake and hiking with her fur kid, Parker, and husband, Doug. Parker (a total ham) can be spotted running laps through the office each morning, greeting every team member. You can find Parker near the treats, and Melissa on Linkedin.