Ear Odor in Dogs

Ear Odor in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Most common symptoms

Depression / Itching / Odor / Redness / Shaking / Swelling


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Most common symptoms

Depression / Itching / Odor / Redness / Shaking / Swelling

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Ear Odor in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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What is Ear Odor?

Often the smell is accompanied by excessive ear scratching by your dog, which can cause further injury to the ear area. It is advisable to take your dog to the veterinarian to check how serious the condition is; it may be that your dog’s ears just need a clean and some drops to prevent a yeast infection. While you are there, your veterinary specialist can show you the safe way to clean your dog’s ears. The ear is a delicate area which can often have dark crumbling material accumulated within them which needs regular, careful removal.

A foul smell emanating from your dog’s ears is a sign of infection, needing treatment to relieve your dog from this smelly and irritating condition.

Symptoms of Ear Odor in Dogs

The pungent odor is a dead giveaway that something is not right– always get veterinary assistance to check deep inside your dog’s ears.

  • Your dog may be depressed or a bit irritable – be careful with handling the ears as they may be very tender and painful 
  • Persistent shaking of the head
  • Rubbing the head on the ground 
  • A musty smell may indicate a yeast infection of the inner ear 
  • Redness may be present on the ear flap or within the ear 
  • Constant scratching of the ear area  
  • Tenderness of the ear area 
  • Discharges from the ear 



Dogs are known for their sometimes-odorous perfume. The type of smell and where it is coming from is what needs to be determined. Diet can be a large part of the problem; your dog’s smell can alter depending on the type of food you are giving him and whether his system is reacting to any ingredients. Systemic disease such as a hormone abnormality can also affect the ears. Ear problems can come in many forms for your pet, with various parts of the ear being affected.

Causes of Ear Odor in Dogs

  • Excessive buildup of moisture within the ear (this often affects dogs with floppy ears such as Spaniels and Labradors)
  • Mite infestation can be a cause (look for dark brown granular deposits within the ear) 
  • Your dog’s scratching can make the ear infection worse due to trauma or scratches 
  • A bacterial infection with a strong discharge often causes an obnoxious smell 
  • Excessive hair within the ear area may need to be trimmed to allow air flow 
  • A foreign object may be trapped, for example, an embedded seed head
  • Abnormal hormonal development such as hypothyroidism 
  • Allergies within the diet or to ear cleaning products 
  • Yeast infections create a very strong musty smell 
  • Tumors within the inner ear 
  • Wax build-up within the ear

Diagnosis of Ear Odor in Dogs

If your dog is smelling less than rosy, check the source of the smell. Dogs are notorious for rolling in all sort of unpleasant things, so do make sure it is coming from the ears. As this area can have many sources of the cause, it is best to get your dog’s ears checked by a veterinarian as they will be able to check deep within the ear without causing harm. Dogs ears are a sharp L-shape which means debris can collect at the corner of the shape. Your specialist will look deep into the ear canals with an ophthalmoscope and will be able to check the tympanic membranes (ear drums) just to see how far the infection extends. He will also be able to see if anything is stuck in the ear, causing the infection. 

Depending on the cause of the problem, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe the correct treatment. Never try to clean your dog’s ears yourself unless you know how to do it correctly. Get your specialist to show you how and then you can schedule in a regular weekly ear check and clean for your dog. If your dog has excessive hair inside the ear, your specialist will clip the hairs very carefully, which will allow the air to circulate within the ear and prevent moisture build up.


Treatment of Ear Odor in Dogs

Antibiotics are used to treat any bacterial infections, and an antifungal is needed for a yeast infection. Medications, like glucocorticoids such as dexamethasone, are used to reduce inflammation. Your veterinarian will prescribe treatment to deal with each case, and you will be required to continue the treatment at home. For a systemic disease or an allergy, a whole-body approach is required. Allergies are treated with regular ear cleaning with a topical lotion. An antihistamine can help reduce the irritating effect. Ear mites and yeast infections all require special treatment. 

The main thing is to clear the condition and then keep up with regular treatments and cleaning to prevent further infections. Ear infections can spread to the middle and inner ear which can be severe and cause hearing loss, so care must be taken. Some ear problems can be so severe that your dog may need to be anesthetised to allow the veterinarian to be able to do his job without causing pain to your pet. With the unique shape of your dog’s ear, going in too far with a swab can just cause impacting of the material, rather than remove it. Great care is needed when working in this delicate area.

Recovery of Ear Odor in Dogs

Recovery from an ear infection takes time, especially if it was a severe condition. Keeping your dog calm and from scratching its ears will help with healing. Gently cleaning your dog’s ears as he heals is important. Often, massaging your pet’s ears gently once you have dropped ear cleaner into his ears will help loosen the wax and debris within the ear. Make this a special time for your dog rather than one to be endured. Keep calm and relax, so your dog feels that and does the same. Giving encouragement and a reward for being a good dog will help your dog to look forward to these ear cleaning sessions. Always continue the medication right to the end of the program to ensure that healing has occurred. Ending too soon may cause a relapse of the problem, especially if it is bacterial or fungal.

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Ear Odor Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals