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Why Does My Dog Smell So Bad + Is it a Cause For Concern?

There's no way around it – dogs stink sometimes. As dog owners, we get used to a certain amount of Eau de Dogue in our lives, but how much 'dog stink' is typical, and when should you be concerned that something might be wrong? We've sniffed out everything you need to know about this smelly subject below. 

If you own a dog or even come within a 5-foot radius of one of our furry friends, your nose may have picked up the scent of something a little less than what we'd call pleasant. 

Why do dogs smell?

Many doggos spend most of their days smelling pretty good or at least neutral, but even good dogs have their stinky days. And for water dogs or those that love to roll in the scent of every fresh kill, they often have more bad days than good! 

There are plenty of usual reasons that can make dogs smell a little funky, but sometimes, a prolonged or unusual smell can be a sign of an underlying health condition. 

Learn more below about normal dog smells, which ones are a cause for concern, and how to get rid of dog smell at the source by changing your extra-stinky friend’s cleaning and grooming routine! 

The Normal (But Still Pretty Gross) Doggie Smells

The smell of a dog is something a puppy parent learns to love. If you've owned a dog for a while, you likely don't even notice the scent of your doggo anymore – unless you're away from home for an extended time. 

Why do dogs stink?

Here are the most common and completely normal reasons why your dog emits a little smell:

  • Canines sweat slightly from their hair follicles and paws, leading to what many owners lovingly refer to as 'Frito feet' – footpads that vaguely smell like corn chips. 
  • A dog's skin produces natural oils to keep its skin and coat hydrated and healthy, which may be a little smelly. 
  • Glands within a pup's ear canal can smell a bit doughy or yeasty.
  • Canine anal glands secrete an odor meant to attract other doggos.

On top of these natural reasons for a stinky dog, many dogs will pick up smells from their environment, including the dead animals they touch, the water they swim in, and the dirt they roll in. 

Unsurprisingly, sometimes a dog smells like fish because he just rolled in a dead one. Yum.

Problematic Reasons Why Your Dog Smells Bad 

If you bathe your doggo and it doesn't cure the stink, it may be time to look deeper to find the smelly root cause of the issue, as some problems with smell can require further treatment. 

And while it's rare to find any smells dogs hate, even they can't stand certain foul odors on this list!

Skin Infections

Skin infections can occur pretty quickly in certain dog breeds that have extra folds and floppy skin. All of our dogs' skin contains harmless bacteria and yeast, but these cultures can grow out of control in their bodies' warm, moist skin folds. 

Yeast infections smell like old beer, and bacterial infections tend to stink like dirty socks. On top of the smell, you may also notice some itching. 

A medicated skin cleanser or specialized skin wipes from the vet can help clear up the issue before it worsens!

Anal Gland Impactions & Infections

While a little smell is standard in the anal gland region, these glands often discharge involuntarily when they're scared or stressed and may become infected and impacted. 

Luckily, you don't need to try to touch your dog's anal glands yourself – groomers can help expel them, but for an infection, a vet's help is necessary. 

Dental Disease and Oral Cancer

Doggie breath is normal, especially after a meal or stinky snack, but a sudden change in the scent of your pup's breath can point to dental diseases like fractured teeth, root abscesses, and even oral cancer. Oral conditions are more common than you think in adult dogs – up to 85% of pups over three have a mild to moderate form of dental disease. 

To prevent oral diseases, brush your dog's teeth at least every two days with a specialized toothbrush and doggie toothpaste.

Canine Diabetes

A dog's breath can smell a little sweeter if they have diabetes, which is more likely than you think – 1 in 300 dogs develop diabetes in their lifetime! If you notice a sweet odor on your dog's breath along with extra thirst and urination, it may be time to get them to the vet and have them tested for this blood sugar-affecting condition.

If your pet is diagnosed with doggie diabetes, your vet will likely put them on medication to manage this incurable health condition. 

Kidney Disease

Puppers with kidney disease don't eliminate waste from their bodies properly, leading some of them to have the smell of ammonia or urine on their breath. Other common symptoms that show your doggo's kidneys may be off include increased urination, thirst, nausea, and vomiting. 

Kidney disease and failure have plenty of underlying causes, like cancer, hereditary problems, and more. A vet will be better able to diagnose your pup's kidney issues and treat the root cause. 

Ear Infections

While a dog's ears may smell a little yeasty naturally, ear infections are prevalent, especially in breeds with floppy ears that trap moisture, allowing bacteria to grow out of control. 

If you don't dry a dog's ears well after swimming, this can also lead to infection. Check for extra scratching and head shaking, along with a foul-smelling odor coming from the ear area. 

A vet can diagnose your pup's ear infection and give you medicated ear drops to clear up the issue. 

Excessive Gas

Happy, healthy pups should have a certain level of gas occurring naturally through the standard digestive processes. If your smelly dog is excessively gassy and the foul wind is nearly knocking you over, it may have eaten something bad.

Horrible gas that doesn't pass over the next day or two points to a potential problem with your dog's diet.

For prolonged and foul gas, consult a vet who can rule out any other health conditions and recommend the best dietary options for your doggo. 

Final Note: Simple Doggie Smell Prevention and Remedies

Committing to dog ownership doesn't mean you have to be stuck with many of these preventable and treatable smells. 

On top of the treatments listed above for more severe problems, try to:

  • Start dental hygiene routines straight from puppyhood before your dog has a problem.
  • Dry your dog's skin folds and ears after baths, swims, and on hot days when they can become extra moist.
  • Feed your dog a quality healthy diet, as recommended by your vet.
  • Bathe your pupper once per week or two to stay on top of any minor stink that builds. 

We hope this article has helped you solve – or at least better understand – your dog smell concerns! Why not bookmark it so you can find it again if the problem comes up again later?

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