dogs ears stink

Dog’s Ears Stink: Symptoms, Causes, and 6 Treatments

Katelyn Son
By Katelyn Son
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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Should Dogs Ears Smell?

Dog's Ears Stink: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

No, if your dog’s ears stink, it is not normal.

If your dog’s ears stink, there is probably an ear problem. The presence of an odor can indicate an ear infection (bacterial or yeast infection), dirty ears, or other ear problems.

Dog breeds with floppy ears (Cocker Spaniels and Bloodhounds) are more prone to ear issues and, therefore, more likely to have stinky ears.

Why My Dog’s Ears Stink?

If your dog’s ears stink, there are several possible reasons. Here are the most common causes of stinky dog ears:

  • Ear infection. Dog ear infections (otitis) are one of the most commonly diagnosed medical conditions in dogs. Symptoms of an ear infection can include red or tender ears, head shaking, ear itchiness, dirty ear discharge, and a foul odor. Fungal and bacterial ear infections are the most common types of ear infections in dogs. When your dog’s ears stink, infections are the most probable reason. 
  • Dirty Ears. Dirty ears can mean excessive ear wax in a dog’s ear canal, infected ears, ears with trapped moisture, etc. Any ear that is not clean or hygienic can be the cause of an odor, infection, or discharge. If the odor is caused by a simple dirty ear, then cleaning your dog’s ears more regularly can help to reduce symptoms, although in more severe cases, an ear cleaning solution may be required.
  • Incorrect Grooming Practices. If a dog receives baths too often, the water in the dog’s ears can get trapped and cause issues. Moisture supports the overgrowth of specific yeasts resulting in ear infections and ear odors. Poor grooming (letting the hair in the ear canal grow long also increases the risk of wax build-up, ear infections, and bad ear odors).
  • Ear Wax. The build-up of ear wax reduces airflow in the canal and causes dirt to become stuck in the ear canal, thus encouraging bacteria growth. The combination of dirt and bacteria can cause ear odors but also can be the start of an ear infection. If your dog has an excess of ear wax, it may be a sign of something bigger.
  • Ear Mites. Ear mites are contagious tiny parasites that live in the ear canal and feed on ear wax. Dogs become infested by direct contact with another infested animal. The mite is barely visible to the naked eye and may be seen as a white speck moving against a dark background. They are a common underlying cause of ear problems and can make your dog’s ears stink.
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How do I Get Rid of My Dogs Smelly Ears?

When your dog’s ears stink, it is time to be proactive and use the following steps to get rid of the odor.

  • Dog Ear Cleaners. A dog ear cleaning solution is a great way to clean a dog’s dirty ears. These are often a solution containing propylene glycol that helps to loosen dirt and make it easier to remove from inside the ear, thus reducing the chance of ear issues in the future.
  • Antifungal Ear Drops. These are often used in dogs with yeast infections in their ears. The ear drops go right into the ear canal to reach deep inside the ear and protect the eardrum from the infection.
  • Oral Antibiotics. For bacterial infections, it may be necessary to administer an oral antibiotic treatment. This helps the cat’s body to fight off the infection with minimal side effects.
  • Steroids. Steroids are most often used to treat inflammation. When a pup’s ears are infected, they are often also inflamed. Steroids can be used to lessen inflammation and reduce the pain and irritation of an ear infection.

Although these are great treatments for various ear problems, it is important to see a DVM if you notice anything abnormal in your pet’s ears and if your dog’s ears stink.

Whether it is a foreign body that is stuck in the ear canal, a symptom of a food allergy, or the start of a bacterial infection, it is important to know early on what your dog is dealing with. In simpler words, if your dog’s ears stink, it is time for a vet visit. 

What are the Best Ear Cleaners for Smelly Dog Ears?

Here are some over-the-counter dog ear cleaner products you can use when your dog’s ears stink.

Vets Preferred Ear Cleaner for Dogs. This gentle and effective ear cleaning solution provides dog owners with peace of mind and soothes their pet’s irritated ears. It provides itch relief with its cleaning effect as it removes ear wax.

It helps to protect a dog’s ears from future wax buildup and is safe for use in both puppies and adult dogs. It is made in the USA in a GMP-certified plant to ensure the highest level of quality control and safety measures during the manufacturing process.

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Zymox Otic Ear Solution with 1% Hydrocortisone. This ear cleaning solution features 1% hydrocortisone, a steroid that is effective in treating inflammation. Its gentle, no-sting formula helps ease tender ear infections caused by germs, yeast, and fungi.

This solution provides a safe alternative to oral medications and requires no pre-cleaning and a patented LP3 enzyme system helps to clear out ear secretions. The advanced formula has an added biofilm-reducing complex to help clear hard-to-penetrate germy biofilms that can lead to infection.

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VetWELL Dog Ear Wipes. This product is formulated to clean, deodorize, and dry your pet’s ears. It is safe for regular use to prevent ear infections, reduce wax buildup, and remove debris in and around the ear. It is alcohol-free and features soothing aloe and eucalyptus to provide a gentle, non-irritating cleaning experience.

The formula is made to prevent infections and reduce ear odor and itching without the use of medicine or medications. It is made in the USA in a federally regulated facility to ensure quality and safety.

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Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Ear Therapy. These medicated ear drops help to relieve bacterial and fungal infections in a dog’s ears. It cleans and deodorizes the ear canal to help ease symptoms associated with ear infections.

It is gentle enough to be used on sensitive ears and alcohol-free to be used regularly. Safe enough for both dogs and cats over 12 weeks, this is an effective and affordable way to combat waxy buildup and prevent ear infections in the future.

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Miracle Care Ear Powder. The powder formula in this ear treatment helps remove dirt and debris from the ear canal. It keeps ears dry to prevent the growth of the type of bacteria that causes infections.

By reducing the waxy buildup inside the ears, this product helps to reduce the risk of yeast, fungal, and bacterial infections. It is made in the USA to ensure the best quality and contains only four ingredients, so there are no fillers or artificial additives.

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Pet MD Otic Cleanser for Dogs to Stop Ear Itching, and Infections. The powerful deodorizing formula in these wipes helps to gently clean and dry your pet’s ears. It prevents ear infections by combatting earwax buildup and removing dirt and debris from in and around the ear canal.

Each container has 100 alcohol-free, non-irritating disposable wipes that are safe for use on dogs older than 12 weeks. It reduces odors and prevents infection without the use of medication. It is made in the USA in a federally regulated facility to ensure the best quality and safety of each product.

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How do I Prevent Smelly Dog Ears?

There are several things pet parents can do to prevent smelly dog ears. Here are some tips on what to do when your dog’s ears stink:

  • Adequate Grooming. Taking your dog to a groomer regularly can help prevent odors from a dog’s ears. A groomer will clean the ear flap and inner ear when cutting their hair and shampooing them. 
  • Regular Ear Cleaning. Cleaning a dog’s ears at home can be tricky but doesn’t have to be costly. There are a number of at-home treatments that require little more than a cotton swab and some solution. When your dog’s ears stink, a simple cleaning can do the trick. 
  • Vet Checkups. Finally, make sure your dog gets checked by a vet regularly. During the regular exam, vets check the dog’s ear with a device called an otoscope. That way, they can spot ear issues early on.