My dog’s ear smells bad

Our question this week was:

My dog's left ear smells gross and has a lot brown stuff in it, and he's always shaking his head, what can I clean it with?


Arlene Rios


Hi – thanks for your email. You indicated in your question that your dog's ear smells and has brown discharge. Your question is how do you clean it? The most likely reason that he is shaking his head is because the ear has discharge, and the ear smell is due to an infection.

I recommend that you see your veterinarian for examination of the ear, to determine the underlying cause of the infection and to obtain a prescription for medication that will treat that specific infection.

Without knowing for sure if the eardrum is intact, I'm reluctant to recommend any specific ear cleaner. However, one home medication that is recommended by many veterinarians is a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and isopropyl alcohol. If you feel that moisture is accumulating in your dog's ears, such as after a few laps in the pond or after a bath, place several drops of the vinegar and alcohol mix in the ear. The vinegar is acidic and helps destroy bacteria and yeast. The alcohol is a drying agent and helps remove excess moisture. This remedy is typically used as a preventative as well as a treatment in early ear infections. It is not very effective in treating full-fledged, active infections.

Two articles that might be helpful are: Otitis Externa in Dogs and Preventing and Treating Ear Infections.

Best of luck!

Dr. Debra

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