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Why does my dog smell?

Dogs smell! Not all the time, but at some point you will notice a not so pleasant odour coming from your dog’s direction. There are a number of reasons dogs can smell and anywhere from head to tail could be the cause of the odour, some of which can indicate a medical problem. Let’s look at some of the reasons why your dog is smelly: 

The most obvious cause of a stinky dog is they have rolled in something, played with or eaten something that stinks. Let’s face it, most dog like gross things so they will take pleasure in and enjoy something that to them is very aromatically pleasing and to us offensive. Generally a good bath and some dental treats will sort this problem out. 

Then there is always the classic wet dog smell which is caused by the bacteria and microorganisms that are always present on the dog’s coat/skin and when wet they cause a smell. Getting them thoroughly dry, best by sun or blow dry, to get rid of the smell. 

Gas (flatulence) is another obvious reason for a bad smelling dog. Bad or regular gas is generally caused by the dog’s diet and possibly an intolerance to something they are eating. It is best to discuss this with your vet to rule out any medical issues and possible diet changes.

The mouth can be a source of bad smells for a number of reasons. Bad breath can be just because of eating something gross but it is commonly a sign of a dental or oral health issue. This can range from a buildup of plaque or tartar, an infected tooth or gum diseases. Other causes for the mouth and/or breath to smell bad could be from something being stuck in the mouth, like food, a bone or a stick. A dog could also have bad breath if they are continual licking another area of their body where there is an odour, like anal glands. 

Ears are also a common source of smell caused by a few different reasons. Continual moisture, from swimming or baths, dirty ears or excessive hair in the ear canal can all cause a smell. When an imbalance or excessive growth of yeast or bacteria, often caused by allergies or hormonal imbalances, occurs in the ear it can cause an infection. These can be painful and should be treated by a vet. 

A dog’s skin can often be the source of a bad smell typically from an underlying allergen cause, either a contact reaction or food allergen. Allergies can cause inflammation of skin, an increased bacterial or fungal growth and excessive secretion of oils from the skin giving off a musty or yeasty smell. A dog’s feet are a common place for a smell, sometimes called “Frito Feet” because the feet smell like corn chips. A vet should be consulted to find the source of the cause.

Anal glands are small glands on either side of the anus that secrete a very strong smelling oil, it is their marking scent. These anal glands can cause problems for many dog’s becoming impacted, infected or leaking causing us to notice the smell. This smell is not for the faint hearted, it is very strong, some say a fishy odour, but most say disgusting. If you are noticing a problem with the anal glands, like a smell or the dog might be dragging their bottom or licking at it, please visit your veterinarian for a checkup as they might need to be expressed. 

If you notice that your dog is particularly smelly and it is not something a bath can fix please consult your veterinarian to determine the cause. 

Originally published in myPET Magazine Autumn/Winter 2019.
To view all editions of myPET Magazine click
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