How can we stop the recurrence of a dark brown discharge in our dog’s ears and is a sign of an infection?

Original Question: Our golden retriever has a dark brown waxy substance in his ears. I have cleaned them with an ear wash and Kleenex but it keeps reappearing. Is this a cause for concern? - Barbara

How can we stop the recurrence of a dark brown discharge in our dog’s ears and is a sign of an infection? Mar 5, 2018

Hi Barbara,

Thanks for this question.

Most dogs do not require routine cleaning of the ears but it’s always a good idea to perform it regularly.  In doing so, you will reduce the possibility of getting infections.  It’s especially useful after swimming or grooming as the pet may get water in the ears.  Most ear wash formulations will work as an astringent and dry the ear canal out so that the water present there is removed and won’t contribute to the development of an infection.

In your question, I have to make some assumptions based on the small amount of information.  It is possible that your dog is simply producing normal wax but to a greater degree than most dogs and therefore, you can remove it with an ear clean.  The frequency of the ear cleans are dependent on the results of the cleaning. If you get wax and debris out during each cleaning, then you should increase the frequency until you are getting no debris, for example 2x a week, and then taper this to a regular routine cleaning.

Here is the problem, since it’s rare for wax and debris to build up so quickly, the fact that you say the debris is ‘dark’ may indicate an infection.  I would have your veterinarian confirm this with an otoscopic exam.

As I am passionate about this topic, your question had inspired me to write an article.  To find out more information about ear cleaning and infections, click on the title, 7 Key Strategies to Treat Ear Infections and check out our video “How to Properly Clean a Dog’s Ear”.

Good luck!

Dr. Clayton Greenway

Disclaimer: and its team of veterinarians and clinicians do not endorse any products, services, or recommended advice. All advice presented by our veterinarians, clinicians, tools, resources, etc is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian or other clinicians. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.

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