Why Your Dog's Ears Smell Bad (And How To Clean Them)

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Have you ever noticed a foul or strange smell coming from your dog's ears? If so, you likely have an infection on your hands, which should be dealt with as soon as possible for the sake of your dog's health and comfort. Cleaning a dog's ears is a fairly simple task for many dog owners and one that gets easier over time.

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Why do dog’s ears smell?

A dog's ears can give off a foul odor for a number of reasons, and identifying the right one will help you implement an effective treatment plan as quickly as possible. A very common cause of smelly ears in dogs is ear infections. Ear infections can affect the external ear canal connected to the ear flap known as outer ear infections, or the inner ear canal, which can impact a dog's eardrum and middle ear. Infections are either caused by an overgrowth of bacteria or fungus, and you will need to determine which type your dog is dealing with in order to treat it properly. Fungal and bacterial infections are usually seen in tandem with redness, swelling, and sometimes head shaking or excessive scratching as it is, in most cases, very uncomfortable for dogs.

Sometimes, odorous ears can be the result of irritation caused by pests like fleas or ear mites, or allergens, like food ingredients or things found in a dog's external environment. Additionally, a cut or scrape that's become infected on any part of your dog's ear can become infected and smell if left untreated. Common signs of a dog with ear infection and irritation include frequent head-shaking, scratching, and crying and whining. Having a veterinarian determine the cause of your dog's infection is a necessary step in treatment.

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How to clean a dog’s ears

Cleaning a dog's ears is most easily done when your dog is relaxed, and may require the help of an extra set of hands. To start, get yourself and your dog in a comfortable position where her ears are within easy reach. Holding up one ear flap at a time, squeeze enough ear-cleaning solution to fill your dog's ear canal. Ear cleaner can be purchased from your veterinarian or at some pet supply stores. Then, gently massage the base of her ear so that the solution can break up any ear wax or debris in her ear. Next, use a cotton ball, never a Q-Tip, to gently wipe the ear clean.

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If your dog requires medication, like an antifungal or antibacterial rinse or cream, read and follow the instructions that come with those meds carefully. Most likely, your dog will shake her head after having her ears treated, which is completely normal and harmless. To make the process worth her while, you can offer her a treat and some praise to help her build positive associations with ear cleaning.

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Healthy ear tips for dogs

The easiest way to avoid smelly ears as the result of an infection is to take preventative measures and practice healthy habits. One good way to keep ear infections at bay is to dry your dog's ears after baths, swimming, or even walks during heavy rain or snow. This is especially helpful in preventing ear infections in dogs with floppy ears, as heat and moisture can become trapped, leading to excessive bacterial or fungal growth. Taking a look inside your dog's ears every once in a while can help you to gauge what's abnormal for him as well.

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Cleaning a dog's ears is best done regularly, not only for the health of your dogs, but because the process can take some getting used to and not all dogs enjoy it. If your dog has trouble holding still for his ear-cleaning ritual, simply massaging or touching his ears during non-stressful occasions, like after an exercise session or while he's relaxing with you on the couch.

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In conclusion

A dog's ears usually smell because of a bacterial or fungal infection, and should be treated with the proper medication following a veterinary examination of the issue. Cleaning a dog's ears, with or without medicated products, can be done easily at home, and should be part of your regular pet care routine, especially if your canine is prone to ear infections. Buildup, like dead skin, can be removed with a few basic items, like an ear cleaning rinse and cotton balls or a clean piece of fabric, but never a Q-Tip, which can damage the eardrum.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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