Foul Smelling Ears in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Foul Smelling Ears in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Foul Smelling Ears in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Foul Smelling Ears?

Is that foul smell really coming from Fido or Fifi?  The short and simple answer is yes and it could be coming from various locations on your canine family member: ears, mouth or anal area.  

There are a number of things which can cause foul smells in those areas but in particular, a strong odor coming from the ears of your canine can mean illnesses ranging from mites to ear infection. A condition concerning the ears must be evalauated in order to avoid pain,  loss of hearing or balance.

Foul smelling ears in dogs can be the result of a number of issues with your canine family member and some of those issues can be serious.

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Symptoms of Foul Smelling Ears in Dogs

There are a number of things which can cause the canine ear to become stinky.  Here are some of the symptoms you may notice:

  • Persistent scratching sometimes to the point of being obsessive
  • Red and irritated areas from constant scratching
  • Open scratch wounds or sores 
  • Pain or tenderness when the ears are touched or rubbed
  • Sour smell similar to the smell of sourdough starter
  • Vigorous head shaking or rubbing ears on the carpet
  • Dark discharge or darkened and excessive amounts of earwax

Types 

There are several types of conditions which can result in foul smelling ears in dogs:

  • Ear infections - This can be bacterial or fungal in nature; yeast infections are among the fungal organisms which are known to afflict canines
  • Parasitic infestations - This can include fleas, ticks, mites and a variety of other parasites
  • Cuts, abrasions and other wounds in the ear canal - These can result from nail injuries from the persistent scratching that accompanies ear infections 
  • Cancer
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Causes of Foul Smelling Ears in Dogs

Ear infections are the most common cause of foul smelling ears in canines.  These infections can come from:

  • Various bacterial organisms which are common to the skin and ear canal of the canine can take advantage of opportunities created by abrasions, cuts and other wounds allow the bacteria to cause an infection
  • Fungal organisms - There are a variety of fungal organisms which are known to cause stinky ears in your canine family member, one of which  is yeast
  • Ear mites and other parasites can cause parasitic infections which will produce a foul smell
  • Earwax buildup - Periodic cleaning of your pet’s ears may keep this cause under control
  • Allergies - This can include food allergies as well as inhaled irritating allergens
  • Trauma to the ear
  • Hormonal abnormalities - This might include hypothyroidism
  • Ear environment - This includes moisture which is retained or other ear environment which prevents the normal natural cleaning process that is built into the canine ear
  • Hereditary conditions, immune issues and tumors
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Diagnosis of Foul Smelling Ears in Dogs

Any ear infection has the potential to not only affect the outer ear, but to also go deeper into the middle and inner ear.  It is for this reason that, if any of the above symptoms are noted, it is vitally important to get veterinary medical advice and treatment.  

It is important for you to be prepared to give your veterinary professional detailed information about the symptoms you’ve noticed, the severity and the duration.  Noting if the symptoms came on suddenly or more gradually will be helpful for your vet, too.  He might also need to know about the dietary regimen you’re feeding your canine family member, as well as exercise routines, bedding materials and any hereditary issues if known.  Providing as complete a health and vaccination history as possible will be very helpful as well unless the attending veterinarian has access to that information.

Your veterinarian will do a physical examination and may order blood testing to rule out some of the systemic (hormonal) issues and determine if the infection is bacterial, fungal or parasitic.  Once he has all of the results of his preferred testing, he will develop and initiate a treatment plan.

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Treatment of Foul Smelling Ears in Dogs

Treatment for foul smelling ears in dogs will be dependent upon the cause which has been determined by your veterinary professional.  Here are some components of the treatment plan you might see:

  • If the cause is simply dirty ears, your veterinarian will likely clean your pet’s ears and give you a cleaning regimen to follow along with a cleaning schedule with which to use it
  • If the cause has been determined to be a bacterial infection, your veterinarian will administer antibiotics topically, and there may be some administration of oral antibiotics which you will need to do at home for a specific period of time
  • If the cause is found to be fungal in nature, fungicides will be administered by your vet and perhaps by you at home
  • If a foreign body is determined to be the cause, removal of the foreign body will ensue and may be followed by a course of antibiotics if a bacterial infection is anticipated
  • If parasites are at the root of the foul smell coming from the ears of your pet, appropriate treatment will be provided for them
  • If hormonal imbalances, hereditary issues or tumors are found to be at fault for those smelly ears, appropriate medications and procedures will be recommended
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Worried about the cost of Foul Smelling Ears treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Foul Smelling Ears in Dogs

Recovery of your canine family member from foul smelling ears is generally considered to be good, provided diagnosis and appropriate treatment are given in a timely manner.  The longer an ear infection is allowed to fester and deepen, the chances of deeper middle and inner ear damage is higher and the damage caused in these sensitive areas can be serious and permanent.  In the event that the cause is cancer, the prognosis for your pet will depend upon the type and extent of the cancer progression.

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Foul Smelling Ears Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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German Shepard border collie

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Four Years

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13 found helpful

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13 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Shaking Head, Itching Ears, Dry, Scaley Flaky Skin Inside Ears,

Been about 2 weeks, should we go to vet

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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13 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Ear infections can be quite painful, and often do require specific medication to help. I do think that It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment.

Oct. 12, 2020

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Labrador Retriever

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8.5 Years

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1 found helpful

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1 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Ear Discharge Smell And Pain In Ear

My dog is facing ear discharge since one day his one ear get moist properly he use to flap his ear has smell or might hv pain in that

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in my reply, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. It sounds like your dog has an ear infection, and needs medication to help clear that up for him. It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 19, 2020

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