Why Do My Golden Retriever’s Ears Smell?

Quick Answer

Your golden retriever’s ears can smell because of an ear infection, or simply because they’re overdue for a cleaning.

a golden retriever with a pink, healthy ear
Luna with a slightly pink, healthy, smell-free ear

Why do my Golden Retriever’s ears smell? It’s a question that plagues many dog owners, and for good reason. Our furry friends’ ear health is vital to their overall well-being, and understanding the causes of unpleasant odors can help us better care for them.

In this article, we’ll delve into the anatomy of a Golden Retriever’s ear, explore common causes of ear odor, and discuss how to properly clean and maintain your dog’s ears. By the end of this informative guide, you’ll have gained valuable insights into keeping your canine companion happy and healthy.

Anatomy of a Golden Retriever’s Ear

Ear Structure

Golden Retrievers, like other dog breeds, have a unique ear structure that sets them apart from humans. Their ears consist of:

  • Outer ear: Comprised of the visible ear flap (pinna) and the ear canal leading to the eardrum.
  • Middle ear: Contains the eardrum and small bones responsible for transmitting sound vibrations.
  • Inner ear: Houses the delicate structures responsible for hearing and balance.

Role of Ear Canals and Ear Flaps

The anatomy of a Golden Retriever’s ear plays a significant role in their susceptibility to odors. Key factors include:

  • L-shaped ear canals: This shape makes it difficult for debris and moisture to escape, creating an ideal environment for bacteria and yeast growth.
  • Floppy ear flaps: Unlike breeds with erect ears, Golden Retrievers have large, floppy ears that cover their ear canals. While endearing, this trait traps moisture and reduces airflow, increasing the risk of infections.

How Ear Structure Contributes to Odor

Understanding your Golden Retriever’s unique ear anatomy is crucial when addressing unpleasant smells. The combination of L-shaped canals and floppy ears creates a warm, moist environment that can harbor bacteria, yeast, and debris—culprits behind those pesky odors. In the next section, we’ll delve deeper into common causes of these smells and how you can tackle them effectively.

Common Causes of Stinky Ears in Golden Retrievers

When it comes to ear odor, there are several culprits that might be responsible. Let’s explore the most common causes and how they contribute to your Golden Retriever’s smelly ears.

Ear Infections

An infection can develop when bacteria or yeast multiply within the ear canal. These pesky microbes thrive in warm, dark, and moist environments—like your dog’s ears! Signs of an ear infection include:

  • Redness or inflammation
  • Discharge
  • Foul smell

Yeast Overgrowth

Yeast is a type of fungus naturally present on your dog’s skin, including their ears. However, when conditions are right (e.g., excessive moisture), yeast can overgrow and cause a strong, musty odor. This issue often accompanies ear infections.

Excessive Earwax Production

Earwax is essential for maintaining a healthy ear environment by trapping debris and providing a barrier against microbes. However, excessive wax buildup can trap moisture and create a breeding ground for bacteria or yeast, leading to unpleasant odors.


Allergies to food or environmental factors can prompt inflammation in your Golden Retriever’s ears. As a result, their body may produce more earwax or discharge than usual, providing an ideal environment for microbial growth and foul smells.

Foreign Bodies in the Ear

Objects like grass seeds or burrs can become lodged in your dog’s ear canal. Not only does this cause discomfort, but it also creates an obstruction that traps moisture and debris—again promoting bacterial or yeast growth and odors.

Knowing the potential causes behind your Golden Retriever’s smelly ears allows you to take action before these issues escalate. In the following sections, we’ll discuss signs and symptoms of ear problems as well as diagnosis and treatment options to keep your furry friend comfortable and odor-free.

Signs and Symptoms of Ear Issues in Golden Retrievers

Being able to recognize the early signs of ear problems in your Golden Retriever can help you address the issue promptly, preventing complications and keeping those ears smelling fresh. Keep an eye out for these common symptoms:


A persistent, unpleasant smell emanating from your dog’s ears is often the first sign that something isn’t quite right. While some earwax odor is normal, a strong or foul scent may indicate an infection or other issue.

Redness or Inflammation

If your Golden Retriever’s ears appear red, swollen, or inflamed, this could signal irritation or infection. Regularly inspecting your dog’s ears can help catch these visual cues early on.


Excessive discharge (whether clear, yellow, brown, or black) can be a symptom of ear infections or allergies. Keep an eye out for unusual buildup when cleaning their ears.

Scratching or Pawing at the Ear

Pay attention if your dog frequently scratches their ears, rubs them against furniture, or paws at them—it could be a sign of discomfort due to an underlying issue.

Head Shaking or Tilting

Repeated head shaking or tilting can indicate an ear problem as well. Your pup might be trying to dislodge debris, alleviate itchiness, or relieve discomfort caused by inflammation.

If you notice any of these signs in your Golden Retriever, it’s essential to take action and consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. In the next section, we’ll explore diagnostic tests and common treatments to keep those smelly issues at bay!

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you suspect your Golden Retriever is experiencing ear issues, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian. They will perform diagnostic tests and recommend appropriate treatments to keep your dog happy and healthy.

Importance of Consulting a Veterinarian

While it might be tempting to diagnose and treat your dog’s ear problems at home, a professional assessment ensures accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment. This approach helps avoid complications and prevent future recurrences.

Diagnostic Tests

Your veterinarian may perform one or more of the following tests to determine the root cause of your Golden Retriever’s ear issue:

  • Physical examination: A visual inspection to look for signs of irritation, inflammation, or foreign objects.
  • Ear swab: Collecting a sample from the ear canal to identify bacteria, yeast, or other microbes responsible for an infection.
  • Allergy testing: If allergies are suspected, additional tests may be conducted to pinpoint the allergen.

Common Treatments and Medications

Depending on the test results, your veterinarian will prescribe appropriate treatments for your dog’s ear issue:

  • Antibiotics: For bacterial infections, oral or topical antibiotics may be recommended.
  • Antifungal medications: Yeast infections often require antifungal creams or drops.
  • Steroids: To reduce inflammation and itching, corticosteroids can be prescribed.
  • Ear cleaning solutions: Regular use of veterinary-approved ear cleaners can help maintain a healthy environment within the ear canal.

Home Care and Prevention

Once you’ve received professional guidance on treating your Golden Retriever’s ear problem, it’s essential to follow up with proper home care:

  • Administer prescribed medications as directed
  • Clean their ears regularly using veterinarian-recommended solutions
  • Monitor their ears for any changes in odor or appearance

In the next section, we’ll delve into how to clean your Golden Retriever’s ears properly, ensuring a fresh and healthy environment for your furry friend.

Cleaning Your Golden Retriever’s Ears

Proper ear cleaning is crucial for maintaining your dog’s ear health and reducing the risk of odor-causing issues. Follow these guidelines to keep your Golden Retriever’s ears clean and comfortable.

When and How Often to Clean

It’s essential to strike a balance between over-cleaning and under-cleaning your dog’s ears. Aim to clean their ears every 1-2 weeks, or as recommended by your veterinarian based on their specific needs.

Choosing the Right Ear Cleaning Solution

A key aspect of proper ear care is using a veterinary-approved ear cleaning solution designed for dogs. These solutions help dissolve wax and debris while maintaining an appropriate pH balance within the ear canal. Avoid using harsh chemicals, alcohol, or vinegar, as these can cause irritation or further complications.

Proper Cleaning Technique

To clean your Golden Retriever’s ears effectively, follow these steps:

  1. Fill the ear canal with the cleaning solution.
  2. Gently massage the base of the ear for 15-30 seconds, allowing the solution to break up wax and debris.
  3. Let your dog shake their head—this helps dislodge any remaining material.
  4. Use cotton balls or gauze (never cotton swabs) to gently wipe away loosened debris from the outer part of the ear canal.

Remember to praise your dog and offer treats during this process to create a positive experience!

What to Avoid During Cleaning

To prevent injury or discomfort, always:

  • Refrain from inserting anything into the deeper parts of the ear canal.
  • Avoid over-cleaning as it can strip away natural oils, leading to dryness and irritation.
  • Never use human ear cleaning products on your dog; they may contain ingredients harmful to canine ears.

With proper cleaning techniques in place, you’ll be well on your way to keeping unpleasant odors at bay! In our next section, we’ll discuss the role of nutrition in your Golden Retriever’s ear health.

Nutrition and Ear Health

A balanced diet is essential for your Golden Retriever’s overall well-being, including their ear health. In this section, we’ll explore the role of nutrition in maintaining healthy ears and how to make dietary adjustments if necessary.

The Role of Diet in Ear Health

A nutritious diet can bolster your dog’s immune system, helping them fight off infections that could contribute to smelly ears. Furthermore, certain nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce the risk of ear issues caused by inflammation.

Common Food Allergens

Food allergies can lead to ear problems in some dogs. If you suspect a food allergy might be causing your Golden Retriever’s ear issues, consult with your veterinarian. They may recommend an elimination diet or allergy testing to identify the allergen. Common food allergens for dogs include:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Dairy products
  • Wheat
  • Soy

Supporting Your Golden Retriever’s Immune System

In addition to providing a balanced diet free from potential allergens, consider these tips for supporting your dog’s immune system and promoting ear health:

  • Ensure your dog stays hydrated by providing fresh water at all times.
  • Incorporate sources of omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., fish oil or flaxseed oil) into their diet.
  • Provide high-quality protein sources such as lean meats or fish.
  • Offer a variety of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and antioxidants.

By paying attention to your Golden Retriever’s nutritional needs, you can help keep their ears healthy and odor-free. In our final section, we’ll address frequently asked questions regarding ear odor in Golden Retrievers.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we’ll address some common questions related to Golden Retriever ear odor and provide helpful answers to guide you in maintaining your dog’s ear health.

How can I tell if my Golden Retriever’s ear odor is a sign of a more serious issue?

While some earwax smell is normal, a strong or foul scent could indicate an underlying problem. Keep an eye out for other symptoms such as redness, inflammation, discharge, excessive scratching, or head shaking. If you notice any of these signs alongside persistent odor, consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Can I use human ear cleaning products on my Golden Retriever?

It’s important to avoid using human ear cleaning products on your dog, as they may contain ingredients that are harmful or irritating to canine ears. Instead, opt for veterinary-approved solutions specifically designed for dogs’ unique ear structure and pH levels.

How can I prevent my Golden Retriever from developing ear issues in the future?

To minimize the risk of ear problems in your Golden Retriever:

  • Clean their ears regularly with a veterinarian-recommended solution.
  • Maintain proper grooming and care by trimming hair around their ears and keeping them dry.
  • Monitor their diet to ensure they’re receiving adequate nutrition and address any potential food allergies.

By following these guidelines along with regular check-ups at your veterinarian, you can help keep your Golden Retriever’s ears healthy and free from unpleasant odors.


In conclusion, understanding the causes of ear odor in Golden Retrievers is essential to keeping their ears healthy and comfortable. By recognizing early signs of ear issues, consulting your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment, and implementing regular cleaning and dietary care, you can prevent complications and keep those lovely ears smelling fresh.

Remember, it’s crucial to address any concerns promptly and always consult with a veterinarian when unsure about your dog’s health. With proper attention and care, you can ensure a happy, healthy life for your beloved Golden Retriever.

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roger stanley site owner and primary author
Meet The Author Roger Stanley

Co-owner of goldenretrievergoods.com. 15 years of experience living life with Golden Retrievers and 15 years of experience spending way too much money on them – I believe life’s not worth living without a Golden involved!

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