The black gunk in a dog’s ear article was originally posted on July 28, 2015, but has been updated with new information.

The Surprise of Finding Black Stuff Lurking Inside Your Dog’s Ear

If you have a dog with ears that flap over, you’ll recognize that “OMG!” moment when you casually lift up the ear flap and are shocked to see an entire universe of black stuff in your dog’s ear to which you were previously oblivious! Your first reaction is probably like mine, which is to drop the ear and ask yourself, “Now what the heck did I have to go and look in there for?!” However, once you have taken a look at the horror story that has been going on in there, you know you have to do something about it.

When my puppy Wanda Weimaraner was still tiny, she had the most beautiful silvery gray ears, soft and delicate and way too big for her little face, which was waiting to catch up with the size of her ears! It never occurred to me that they could be dirty, because she was a clean freak. She loved to get in the shower with me (in fact barged her way in, pushing the glass door open, then bit madly at the water as it cascaded down), so I knew she was a really squeaky clean little girl. Which made it even more of a shocker to lift up her lovely ear flap only to find, to my horror that beneath that nice exterior the skin was reddened and there was black gunk in my dog’s ear coating the intricate and convoluted shell shape, as far down inside her ear canal as I could see.

Wanda Weimaraner after the black gunk has been cleaned out of her ears

Can puppies have black discharge in their ears?

I have had several other Weimaraners and actually only one of them had a “tar factory” of black discharge inside his ear like Wanda does. The others had a bit of pale wax in their ears that looked a lot like what people can form in their ears. Just as with people, some dogs create more wax in their ears than others, and while I’ve heard it said this can be a result of poor nutrition or an “allergy” to chicken, I know that cannot be true since all my dogs have always had a super diet. Some have yucky ears and others do not. 

Warning Signs of Black Gunk Inside Your Dog’s Ear

How do you know if your dog has irritated ears and the accompanying black gunk? Is she shaking her head a lot – the way Wanda does? Scratching at her ears (the way Wanda does if I ignore the head shaking)? Lift the flap and the mystery will be revealed!

Dr. Linda’s 101 on Black Ear Gunk

What does black stuff in a dog’s ear mean?  You may be wondering, “What is the treatment for this black stuff in your dog’s ear?” Dr. Linda Morris recently came on my podcast DOG TALK to describe how that ear condition can evolve and how to manage it. The bottom line is you have to squirt some cleansing fluid, that you can get at your vet, into the ear canal. Veterinarians stock different drops for dirty ears, so I take home whatever your own vet recommends based on how inflamed your dog’s ears are. You have to massage for at least 30 seconds at the base of the ear, where it meets the head, to loosen up the debris. Then stand back as the dog shakes her head vigorously, at which point you can wipe out what emerges (gross). 

I don’t use the recommended cotton balls because I find them slippery and not efficient for the job. Instead, I take a Pure and Natural Pet grooming wipe and wrap it around my finger to clean the inside and outside of the canal.  I clean out the area I can reach, fairly grossed out by how much nasty black gunk I am wiping out!

You can listen to the full episode with Dr. Linda Morris here

Living With Black Gunk

Wanda has continued to have this ear issue throughout her life and at seven years old she’s used to my weekly inspection of her ear and placing a squirt of liquid in there. She seems to take pleasure in the ear massage that follows it — and get relief as I wipe gently as far into her ear canal as my finger can reach, relieving what must have been quite an itchy irritation.

The wonderful result is that by the next morning the redness inside has passed and the underside of her ears is as clean and pretty as the outside. Goodbye black gunk!

—Tracie Hotchner

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