Why Does My Dog Smell So Bad?
Estimated Read Time: 4 minutes
Summary: "Why does my dog smell so bad?" Fear not, pet parent. In this blog, we'll learn about 5 smells that indicate a health problem in your dog. From ear and skin infection to blocked anal glands, learn why your dog smells bad below...
As a pet parent, it is imperative that you’re aware of different health problems; what they look like, what they sound like… And, even what they smell like!
Lucky for us, a bad smell is normally very noticeable and unpleasant – none of us want to be around a horrible stench! So, what do you do if that pungent smell is coming from your dog?
We all know that our canine companions have an incredible sense of smell, one that is far superior to ours, but, did you know that you and your vet can discover some illnesses or health problems from the odors coming from your pet?
When you visit the vet with your fur baby, they will visually examine your pooch, listen to their heartbeat and check for any lumps or pumps…but you may also find that they sometimes sniff for tell-tale odors that could flag a serious health issue.
You don’t have to be a trained professional to smell bad odors! If you do notice a new or horrible smell coming from one of the key areas listed below, you should book your pup in to see the vet as soon as possible. After all, the sooner you get your pet sorted, the easier and quicker recovery should be.
Does your dog smell bad? Here are the key 5 ‘danger’ smells you need to be aware of;
Why Does My Dog Smell So Bad?
It could be an ear infection
When it comes to our doggo's, ear infections can be rather common – especially if your pup has floppy, drooping ears, like a Cocker Spaniel’s or a Basset Hound’s. These particular dogs have ears that are deep, warm and moist – the perfect environment for yeast or bacteria to grow, leading to potential infections. Across America alone, 20% of dogs will develop some form of ear condition or disease in one or both ears.
Just like many skin infections, lots of ear infections can be caused by an overproduction of certain types of bacteria, like yeast. Yeast infections are common in both dogs and humans alike, causing all different types of problems within the ear.
Healthy dog ears shouldn’t have an odor, which makes it a lot easier for us to notice if there is a problem in that area. Every now and then, give your pup’s ears a sniff, to make sure there is nothing strange going on.
The intensity of the smell will depend on the type of infection – ranging from mild and subtle to a pungent, rancid odour, normally accompanied by pus, blood, and your pup pawing at their ear. If you notice a smell or weeping from your pup’s ear, take action and visit your vet as soon as possible.
It could be their anal glands
Sometimes more commonly known amongst puppy parents as ‘fish butt’, your dog’s anus can produce an unpleasant odor – and it isn’t caused by your pup passing gas!
Every dog has two glands either side of their anus that produce fluid when a bowel movement takes place. Why does this happen, you may ask? Well, some scientists believe that it could be another way of marking their scent, just like urine.
And, unfortunately, just like us humans, your dog may sometimes suffer from a poorly stomach, which can lead to loose stools and result in your pup not being able to release their anal gland fluid naturally. If this becomes the case, your pooch may suffer from an infection or worst case, a rupture.
A healthy anal gland does have a pungent smell, but an infected gland is more extreme and unavoidable. Both you and your vet will normally be able to notice this smell even when you’re a few steps away – not great!
It could be dental disease
When it comes to your pup’s dental hygiene, nothing is more important as a puppy parent than keeping on top of their oral health. Whether it is brushing their teeth once a day, using a specific dental mouth wash in their water or giving your pooch a dental stick; actively looking after their oral hygiene is paramount when trying to avoid dangerous teeth and gum illnesses or diseases.
Now, although it is very common to associate dogs with bad breath, dental disease is a noticeable, pungent pong that can make your own tummy turn, let alone your vet’s!
So if your dog smells bad and you notice your pup’s kisses are becoming incredibly pungent and verging on unbearable, take a look inside their mouth...
First, check to see the color and health of their gums; are they red, bleeding or swollen? Healthy gums should be bubblegum pink, turning white when pressed, then quickly returning back to pink after a few seconds.
Secondly, look at their teeth. They should be white/cream, not discolored, broken or surrounded by thick tartar and plaque. If this is the case, a build-up of tartar can lead to gum infection and diseases, which will be uncomfortable and painful for your pup. And, to top it off, dental disease is not only painful and smelly, but it can lead to more serious, fatal illnesses, such as liver, kidney or heart disease.
It’s important to take your dog to the vet for a deep tooth clean at least once a year, preferably twice. These visits also give your vet a chance to do a thorough check, enabling them to spot and respond to any issues before they become big (and expensive!) problems.
Although it may seem morbid and scary, there are easy ways you can avoid dangerous dental disease.
Simple changes like adding dog friendly dental formula to your pet’s water every day could be the difference between optimal oral health and heart-breaking dental conditions.
It could be a skin infection
Did you know, dogs do not sweat the same way as humans do?
Although they still perspire a small amount, it should only leave a subtle ‘doggy’ odor in their fur – nothing too offensive. However, if your pup is suffering from a skin infection, the skin will smell unpleasant, cheesy and sweet.
Bacterial and fungal skin infections both produce similar smells, which makes it harder for us owners to know what is causing the pong.
That is where your vet will step in and save the day!
If you notice this smell, along with itching, biting, hair loss or a greasy looking coat, this could be a sign that the skin infection is getting worse. At this point, you will need to see your vet to help stop the spread of the infection.
It could be an abscess
Dog smells bad? Very similar to a skin infection, an abscess can create quite an unpleasant smell too. These pockets of pus build up under the skin, originating from an infection (maybe skin), a wound, or a bite from another animal or insect. Abscesses can cause extreme discomfort and irritation, with many also triggering a fever, lack of appetite or energy. Sometimes these abscesses can rupture, which will produce an awful pong that you won’t be able to miss.
If you have a pooch that has a thick, full coat like German Shepherds or Akitas, abscesses can grow large and undetected by the cover of long hair. As long as you visit your vet and have them treat it, your pup should be able to make a full recovery.
Dog Smells Bad
Any horrible odor coming from your pup is a key sign that something isn’t right. Whether it is coming from their ears or their anus, bad smells are an obvious way to tell you your pup isn’t well.
Your vet will be able to tell what is wrong with your pup through these bad aromas and pinpoint the cause easily. As a puppy parent, your job is to try to keep your fur baby healthy, so, as soon as you notice any of the above pongs, seek out the advice of your vet ASAP.
Author Racine, Elizabeth DVM "Dog Ear Infections: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention" American Kennel Club, Sep 02. 2019 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-ear-infections/
Author Dr. Klein, Jerry CVO "Anal Glands in Dogs: Everything You Need to Know" American Kennel Club, Aug 31. 2021 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/vets-corner/anal-gland-disease-in-dogs/