Excessive Ear Wax in Dogs

Excessive accumulation of ear wax in dogs is not just a matter of hygiene; it's a health concern that can significantly impact your dog's comfort and quality of life. Ignoring it can lead to serious complications, including hearing loss and chronic infections. In this article, we delve into the causes, implications, and management of excessive ear wax in dogs, providing pet owners with essential knowledge and practical tips to keep those furry ears healthy. By understanding these key aspects, you can ensure your dog's ears are not just clean, but also in optimal health, contributing to their overall well-being and happiness.

What causes excessive wax in dog's ears?

Uncovering the root causes of abundant ear wax in dogs is crucial for effective management and prevention. Here are some common factors that contribute to this issue:


One of dogs' most frequent causes of excessive wax is allergies. Food or environmental allergies are usually the culprits, though allergic reactions to specific substances can also be a factor.

The dog's ears turn itchy, and the sensitive skin lining in the ear canal becomes irritated and inflamed due to allergies. As a result, more ear wax is produced as a body mechanism to protect the infected area. The ear gland also becomes more tender which causes wax to be discharged to sooth the skin in the dog's ears.

Ear infections

Dogs ears

Excessive wax build-up is a usual sign of ear infections. In general, most dogs suffer bacterial and fungal infections. Such infections cause the dog's ears to swell and light brown or black discharge to develop, leading to persistent ear scratching and head shaking.

An ear infection often goes hand in hand with allergies, as the skin inside your dog's ears turns blistered and sore, exposing itself to germs. Consequently, ear wax is created to help fend off bacteria and safeguard the ear canal. If left untreated, ear infections can cause serious long-term health issues and lead to hearing loss.


Ear wax is a part of the ear's self-protecting mechanism. When the ear canal is agitated, the body may produce more wax in an attempt to remove allergens from the ear.

Parasites in the dog's ears, such as ear mites, can cause inflammation. Ear mite infestation often triggers the ceruminous glands (wax-producing glands) in the ear canal to generate more wax to shield the ear from further irritation.

Excessive discharge is also an immune system response to trap and isolate foresight objects and debris. This keeps the pathogens from aggravating and attacking the ear canal.


Moisture plays a big role in increased ear wax production. Humid conditions can lead to increased moisture on the skin. The skin in the ear canal, in reacting to this moisture, activates the ceruminous glands to produce more cerumen (ear wax) as a protective response.

High humidity also poses a risk for ear infections, especially otitis externa. Due to the vertical structure of the dog's ears, too much moisture may be trapped inside the ear, giving way for yeast and microbes to grow and contaminate the ear. Additional earwax may be released to absorb this moisture and ward off bacteria.


You may not have guessed it, but extensive ear cleaning can be counterproductive. Though it's important to clean your dog's ears regularly, you should not clean your dog's ears more than once a month.

A mistake we've seen a lot is the use of cotton swabs in ear cleaning. Though these are the perfect tools for human ear cleaning, they may be too abrasive and should not be used on dogs.

Pet owners may accidentally agitate their dog's ears by pushing dirt and fragments further into the ear, leading to inflammation and infections. Additionally, the pointy tips of these cotton swabs may poke the delicate skin lining inside the dog's ear canals, resulting in more damage. We recommend using a cotton ball to apply ear-cleaning solution to keep your dog's ears clean.

Too much cleaning can also dry out the ear, stripping away the natural oils and the healthy dog earwax. This may induce scratching and more wax production as a result.

Breed predispositions

Healthy ears

Dog breeds that have floppy ears such as Poodle, Beagle, Cocker Spaniel, or Bloodhound are more likely to have excessive earwax buildup. This is due to their floppy ear structure blocking air from circulating and trapping moisture inside the ear.

Furthermore, the droopy ears hinder the natural process of ear max outward migration. More frequent cleanings can help prevent wax buildup in these breeds, though pet owners should be careful so they don't over-clean.

Hormonal imbalances

Hormones regulate the body and play a crucial part in the function of various body glands, including the ceruminous glands. Imbalances in hormones can alter the rate of ear wax production, causing the body to overly produce cerumen.

Skin health is also directly linked to hormone health. Changes in hormones make the skin more dry or oily. Both conditions, if become extreme, can make the body generate more ear discharge as a response.

Is it typical for a dog's ear canal to contain wax?

Just like humans, it's completely normal for the dog's ears to have wax. Dog's ear wax acts as a protective layer to block dust and other microorganisms from entering the ear. The sticky nature of earwax makes it effective to trap these particles as they pass through the ear

It's also a self-cleaning mechanism of the ear. When the ear detects alien substances, it signals new skin cells to grow. Dead cells are then pushed out from the inner part of the ear to the outer part, and so are these intruders.

Not to mention, ear secretion keeps the dog's ears healthy by preventing them from drying out. The antibacterial properties found in the ear wax also lower the chance of catching infections. While too much wax is not ideal, you can expect some ear discharge in a healthy ear.

Dog ear wax color

Dog ears

The color of your dog's ear cerumen may tell a lot about their health. Here are some rules of thumb when it comes to ear health:

  • Yellow to light brown means normal and happy ears.

  • Black or reddish brown ear discharge (coupled with foul odor) signals that your pup may have a serious ear infection.

  • Dark brown wax is a sign of yeast infection.

  • Dark green secretion indicates your dog may suffer from a bacterial infection.

If your dog shows signs of an infection such as consistently itching their ear or shaking their head, and if you notice an unpleasant odor emitting from their ears, it might be time to take them to the vet and get treatment.

How to prevent excessive earwax

Regular and moderate ear cleanings are best to prevent wax from building up. It could be as simple as routinely checking your dog's ears and wiping out any excess earwax with a clean damp cloth or tissue. For a more thorough cleaning, you may use ear cleaning solutions, or even take your dog to the groomer for a professional cleaning. This is especially beneficial for floppy-eared breeds that are more vulnerable to ear problems.

Over-the-counter ear drops are effective in removing buildup. They help soften the ear wax and make it easy to wipe off. Just make sure to stay away from Q-tips and use a cotton ball or gauze.

If your dog is prone to allergies, supplements, medications, and diet changes can alleviate symptoms and strengthen immunity. Keeping the ears dry by rigorously wiping off water and moisture after a bath or swim can also help reduce the chance of buildup and pathogen invasion.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, understanding and managing ear wax production in dogs is a vital component of pet care. While it's a natural and necessary substance for ear health, an over-buildup of wax can lead to discomfort and health issues for our furry friends. Recognizing the causes, from breed predispositions to environmental factors, and adopting appropriate ear care practices are key. Regular checks, gentle cleaning, and addressing underlying health issues can make a world of difference.