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Reasons Why Your Dog’s Ears Smell, Treatment & Guide

Grooming a dog can be a fun and bonding experience, but you would have to deal with some issues.

One of such is the repulsive smell that may emanate from your dog’s ears.

Not only is it troubling, but it could also be a cause of concern. 

Ear issues are common amongst dogs, some more than others, and it can be painful and discomfiting for them.

There could be several reasons why your dog’s ears smell.

Early diagnosis and treatment go a long way towards relieving the ailing pooch, as well as some preventive measures.

That’s why this guide won’t stop at explaining the reason for ear odor in dogs.

It will also provide information on the anatomy of a dog’s ear, how you can take care of it, what to use in treating it, and the best dog ear cleaners.

The Anatomy of a Dog’s Ear

The Anatomy of the Dog's Ear
A look inside the dog’s ear. © MSD Veterinary Manual

According to experts, there are three main parts of a dog’s ear: the outer, middle, and inner ear canal.

Under the outer part, there is the pinna and the ear canal.

The pinna captures sound waves which go through the ear canal to the eardrum, located in the middle ear.

The middle ear also contains 3 bones named the hammer, anvil, and stirrup.

The inner ear houses the cochlea which enables hearing and the vestibular system which creates balance.

Dogs’ ears also come in different shapes. While some are long and droopy like the Cocker Spaniel, others are more erect like the Siberian Husky.

There are many variations, but they tend to fall under droopy or erect ear shapes.

Top 4 Reasons Why Your Dog’s Ears Smell

As we mentioned in the introductory part, ear problems are common with dogs.

All dogs can get these issues, but those with floppy or hairy ears are more prone to it.

If you notice your dog’s ears smelling, here are four reasons that can cause this problem:

1. Ear infection

The most common reason for an ear issue is an infection, but don’t be too quick to resort to this as other possible problems could make a dog’s ear smell.

With ear infections, you will notice other symptoms like swellings or red spots.

2. Allergies

Allergic reaction is another issue that can make a dog’s ears smell. When your dog comes in contact with an allergen it is allergic to, it may make the ear smell.

3. Ear mites

Ear mites may get into your dog’s ears and reproduce. They cause itchiness, discomfort, and a bad smell.

Ear mites are highly contagious and should be treated immediately.

4. Objects in the ear

It isn’t strange to find objects lodged in a dog’s ears. These objects can block off ear ventilation, resulting in an offensive odor.

They also make the dog uncomfortable and can even lead to bleeding.

Smelly Dog Ear Infection Treatment (Pro Tips)

When you notice the bad odor, the best thing to do is take your pup to the veterinarian.

Do not leave the problem for long as it puts your dog at risk.

The veterinarian is also in the best position to get an accurate diagnosis and prescribe medications.

You have a part to play as well, so here are some pro tips that can facilitate healing:

  • Administer prescribed drugs: When the veterinarian prescribes any medication, follow the instructions given accurately. Do not go overboard or stop halfway, even if your dog appears to be getting better. 
  • Calm your pooch: Ear issues are painful and uncomfortable, yet you have to stop your dog from being antsy and causing more issues with excessive itching. 
  • Hygiene is essential: Clean the dog’s ears with a prescribed ear cleanser. Do not clean before diagnosis, however, as it makes the vet’s job harder. 

Getting a good ear cleaner is key to keeping your dog’s ear infection-free.

There are many you’ll find on the internet, but you should get one that is recommended by veterinarians.

We provide a vet-approved list of five of the best dog ear cleaning solutions, in no particular order.

1. Zymox Ear Cleanser

Zymox Ear Cleanser

Zymox Ear Cleaner is one product that falls under the Zymox group of pet products which includes shampoos, tropical creams, and hot spot spray.

Altogether, these products work on both the skin and ears of dogs. The products also help tackle the symptoms of fungal and yeast infections without the use of harsh products.

Amazon’s review posits that veterinarians and pet parents have been patronizing this product for two decades.


  • It has some enzymes that can disinfect the ear canal.
  • It aids in treating all forms of ear infections.
  • It has no strong properties, so it can be an ear cleanser for hygiene purposes.
  • It has a property called hydrocortisone which eases itching. 

Important notes:

  • It may not be the best option for strong infections. Only your veterinarian can determine that.
  • Hydrocortisone can affect a dog’s ears if this product is used too frequently.

2. Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Cleaner

Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Cleaner

This is an efficient ear cleanser for removing excessive ear wax and keeping the canal dry.

It also helps soothe the ears with monosaccharides and is anti-adhesive.

Furthermore, this product helps remove cellular debris and has a neutral pH that makes it tolerant to other ear products.

Some of the ingredients in this product include lactic acid, salicylic acid, chitosanide, propylene glycol, and sodium docusate. 


  • It has a good smell.
  • It helps with allergies and doesn’t affect dogs with sensitive ears. 
  • Removes excess wax. 
  • It dries the ear canal with salicylic acid. 

Important Notes:

  • It may not work well if the dog’s ears are too waxy.
  • It is available only in two bottle sizes.

3. Great Ears Multi-Symptom Dog Ear Cleaner

Great Ears Multi-Symptom Dog Ear Cleaner

Great Ears cleaner is, yes, great for adult dogs and puppies of over 12 weeks.

The natural ingredients are all made in the United States and deal with the issues of dirtiness, itchiness, and odor.

It removes ear wax, and also helps condition and moisturize. These ingredients include water, fragrance, preservatives, and surfactant gotten from coconut and palm.


  • Very suitable for dogs with droopy ears. 
  • Clears excessive wax.
  • Helps combat bacterial infection and yeast infection. 
  • Doesn’t use any strong chemicals.
  • The ingredients make frequent ear cleaning safe.

Important Notes:

  • Uses a light fragrance.
  • The owner should use it once a day for three days or more if the problems persist.

4. DECHRA MalAcetic Otic Cleanser

DECHRA MalAcetic Otic Cleanser

MalAcetic Otic Cleanser is very suitable for bacterial infection, and it also helps with balancing the pH on your dog’s ears.

Besides dogs, it is suitable for other animals like cats and horses.

It dries the ear and works as an antifungal and antimicrobial agent for the prevention and treatment of ear infections using acetic and boric acid.


  • It is easy to use.
  • Comes in 3 sizes.
  • It contains acetic and boric acid that does the pH balancing.
  • Antimicrobial agents help with infections.

Important Notes:

  • The smell is not pleasant to everyone.
  • It may not be suitable for sensitive ears.
  • May not work against all forms of infections.

5. TrizULTRA + Keto Flush

TrizULTRA + Keto Flush

This is especially efficient for a fungal infection because of its antifungal ingredients.

It can be used as additional treatment in serious cases, but this should be with the vet’s approval.

Like the product above, it is suitable for other animals like cats and horses. It is good for long-term use and gentle with the ears.


  • It has no fragrance, good news for dogs with sensitive ears.
  • It doesn’t sting.
  • It isn’t for dogs alone. Cats can benefit from it too.
  • The antifungal ingredient in it is ketoconazole.

Important Notes:

  • Doesn’t work for bacterial infections. 
  • It is costly. 

How to Clean a Dog’s Ears

According to the American Kennel Club, ear cleaning should be done regularly. There should be limits, however.

Too much cleaning can be as harmful as not cleaning at all.

Some dog breeds need ear cleaning more than others, so you should know where your pet dog lies.

Here are some tips that can help when cleaning a dog’s ears:

  • Get all the tools you need.
  • Clean your dog’s ears when it is calm.
  • Use treats to keep it happy.
  • Fill your dog’s ear canal with the vet-approved ear cleanser.
  • Massage the dog’s ears gently.
  • Your dog should shake its head. 
  • Once it does that, use a cotton ball to clean out the ear canal.
  • If your dog shows pain or discomfort, take it to the veterinarian.

These tips are for those who want to attempt it on their own. If not, get a groomer to do the job.

Why do my dog’s ears stink?

Odor in a dog’s ears is caused by different issues, including ear infections and allergies.

How do I get rid of the smell in my dog’s ears?

When you notice a smell in your dog’s ears, take it to the veterinarian. He/she will know what you can use to get rid of the smell. 

Will dog ear infections go away on their own?

Do not ignore the signs of an ear infection thinking it will go on its own. Left untreated, it can deteriorate into something more serious.

Final Thoughts

Ear infection and other issues that make a dog’s ear smell should not be overlooked because of their long-term consequences.

Get your dog treated once you notice any bad symptoms. In the hands of a qualified veterinarian and effort from your part, your dog’s ears will get back to normal. 

In line with the cliche ‘prevention is better than cure,’ take care of your dog’s ears regularly with any of the vet-recommended dog ear cleaners.

This would lessen the chances of an infection, even with dogs prone to it. 

You May Also Like:
Dog Dental Insurance: An Ultimate Guide
How To Cut An Uncooperative Dog’s Nails (Pro Tips)

Authored By

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is a canine behavioral and nutritional specialist, professional dog trainer, and the CEO of Puplore. A former military working dog handler, Ben founded Puplore to provide owners with breed-specific information and to act as a go-to guide to health, nutrition, care, and to help them find the confidence they need to step up to the plate and become the best pup parents they can possibly be. A firm believer in treating all animals with kindness and compassion, and that positive discipline is paramount in achieving a harmonious canine-human relationship, Ben’s former and present careers have enabled him to become a leading light in his chosen profession and business.

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