What is ‘discharge from ears’ in dogs?

If your dog has discharge coming from their ears, this is an indication that there is an underlying problem going on. Ear discharge presents in a variety of ways; it might be black or brown, yellow or red, or clear and sticky. It can be purulent and smelly, or waxy, or crusty and scabby. All of these different clinical signs can indicate different causes of the ear discharge. Normal earwax is a pale yellowish in color and waxy in texture.

Ear discharge can result from problems with the inner ear (otitis interna) or problems with the outer ear (otitis externa). Regardless of the color and consistency, it is often painful or itchy for your dog. 

A good indication of this is if your dog’s ear discharge is accompanied by head shaking or scratching – an indication that your dog is itchy or uncomfortable. Other signs that your dog’s ears are causing irritation are if they are rubbing their head on the ground, or if their head is tilted to one side.

In cases of a chronic or ongoing ear infection, your dog’s ear canal may appear thickened and narrow (stenotic) due to chronic inflammation. These are all signs that your dog needs veterinary attention beyond a simple cleaning.

A possible case of ear infection. Notice how the wax is dark brown and areas of the ear look a little inflamed. Based on the smell and texture of the wax, as well as the dog’s behavior, this may require veterinary attention.