Dog with stinky ears

Question: My puppy has an odor inside his ears. Can you tell me what’s wrong?

I have recently bought a Chiweenie he’s 8 weeks old and his name is Jackson, Jax for short. I noticed that he had an odor inside his ears. I’ve given him baths and cleaned it out with Q-tips and warm water and within 5 minutes they smell again. I purchased puppy wipes and I use those and it’s still within minutes comes back. Can you tell me what’s wrong or what’s happening? Do I need to worry? Look forward to hearing from you. Have a good day. God bless.

–Grandmother in Florida


Thanks for sending me your question about sweet little Jax. Sounds like he is getting lots of TLC from an experienced grandmother.

A strong odor from a puppy’s ears is not normal. The reason it keeps coming back after you wipe his ears is that a dog’s ear canal is L-shaped. The deepest part is difficult to clean with wipes and swabs (learn how to clean your dog’s ears properly).

Many dogs with smelly ears eventually develop discharge, redness, swelling, itchiness and/or pain in their ears. Veterinarians call this “otitis,” meaning inflammation of the ear. That tells you where the problem is, but not what’s causing it.

There are several possible causes of ear symptoms in dogs and puppies:

1. Ear Mites

In my experience, puppies are not as likely to have ear mites as kittens, but it does happen. The mites are so small you won’t be able to see them without magnification, but your vet will be able to tell if creepy crawly things are the culprit.

Treatment of ear mites is pretty straightforward, but don’t assume your pup has ear mites without a vet exam. I’ve seen people waste time treating for ear mites when there was really a different cause for the otitis.

2. Ear “Infection”

Puppies normally have a few yeast and bacteria present in their ear canals. When the conditions become moist and warm from inflammation, the normal yeast and bacteria grow like crazy. It’s not that the yeast or bacteria jumped onto the pup and attacked, it’s just that they overgrow due to abnormal skin conditions.

Inhalant allergies and food allergies are common causes of inflammation in dog ears. Your vet can show you how to treat the secondary infection with an effective medicine. It might take some time to figure out what the underlying condition is.

3. Ceruminous Otitis

Cerumen is the medical term for ear wax. Ceruminous otitis means there is inflammation in the ear with a lot of ear wax but no infection. Some breeds seem more prone to this. It’s often associated with inhalants or food allergies.

4. Foreign Objects

This is a much less common cause of smelly and/or inflamed ears and often only affects one ear. Your vet can look deep into the ear canal with an otoscope to make sure there are no grass seeds or the like in there.

The best way to treat odorous ears is to identify what’s causing the problem instead of guessing. Unless you have an otoscope, a microscope, and the ability to write a prescription, you’ll need a veterinarian’s help!

I’d like to encourage you to get help soon since chronic ear inflammation can affect a pup’s hearing. He will certainly feel better after getting the proper treatment.


TB Thompson, DVM


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