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Causes of odor in dogs

Updated on October 20, 2008

What makes a stinky dog stinky?


"Doggy breath"

"Doggy smell"

"Stinky dog"

Call it the way you want, but a smelly dog is simply put, a smelly dog. Smelly dogs were those usually hard to forget at the animal hospital I used to work for.

I remember holding my breath as I put them on the scale to get their weight properly registered on their chart. Then as I finally accompanied them into their room I would finally exhale happy to breath some fresh air again.

Once the pet was discharged, a little while after check-out, I would then take a look at the chart and look for the doctor's notes and search for the diagnosis. I know I was being nosy, pun intended, but I really wanted to know what was causing that terrible odor that made us all wish the vet would hurry up and have the dog evacuate the building ASAP. I remember the smell still lingering in the office hours post visit, regardless of the tons of freshener we desperately sprayed.

If you own a dog you certainly know your dog will tend to smell if you do not bath him every once in a while. Better known as "doggy smell", this odor can be easily removed and relief is sure to come shortly after a visit to the groomer or a nice old bath with a nicely scented body wash. However, there are many cases that cause dogs to smell terribly and many are very likely medical related.


A common cause of strong odors are yeast infections(Malassezia dermatitis). The smell has an almost "sweet scent" but has nothing to do with a pleasant smell. Rather, the smell can turn out being pretty nauseous and with an over all rancid tendency. Dogs with a skin yeast infection may present with an extra greasy skin that is often itchy as well. Proper diagnosis is obtained via a skin scrape biopsy or via cytology. Treatment consists of anti-fungal medications such as Flucanazole or Ketoconazole. Special shampoos with anti-fungal properties may be helpful such as Nizoral. In mild cases, a vinegar and water rinse may suffix to allow the skin to recover and may be helpful to prevent relapses.


Some dogs may develop bacterial infections that may cause a typical rancid odor Other symptoms may be hair loss, patches with no fur, bumps and redness. In more severe cases pus will be secreted. Treatment involves antibiotics along with topical medicated shampoos.


A dog affected by this condition will have an unusually oily skin. If you pass your hand on a the coat of a dog affected by this disorder you will feel your hands to be very greasy. This is the origin of the problem, the dog has overactive sebaceous glands and the grease is what is giving this offensive smell. Most cases are treated by clipping the hair and applying a medicated shampoo prescribed by your vet.


If your dog is exhibiting a typical fishy smell and he has not eaten fish, very likely he has an anal gland issue. Anal glands are found on the 4 o'clock and 8 o' clock sides of the rectum and usually are expressed naturally during a bowel movement. However, some dogs may need them to be manually expressed every now and then by the vet. In some cases, the anal glands may become impacted and infected requiring a round of antibiotics.


O.K. some dogs seem to be prone to flatulence more than others. It may be due to their diet, a digestive issue or it appears that some breeds seem to be particularly prone to this stinky issue. A gas bomb dropped every now and then can be a normal occurrence, but if this happens way too often you should have your pooch checked out just to rule out some medical condition.


Many times the odor is coming from other infected areas. Dogs with rotten teeth may develop an odor which owners may not know where it is coming from. Ear infections as well may not be detected as the source of the smell. A veterinarian visit is recommended for some investigative work in order to find the source of infection and provide proper treatment.


If your dog was sprayed by a skunk, of course your dog will smell like....a skunk! Many dog owners will never forget that horrible smell that tends to return with damp weather or if the dog's coat gets wet. Fortunately, there are products on the market to help overcome the smell or you can try at home by mixing 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide,1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap. Use only when needed and be aware that the hydrogen peroxide may bleach the fur a bit!


Many dogs love to roll into animal droppings or dead animals. This comes from an old inherited behavior where the dog assumes the predator's smell so he cannot be detected when going hunting. While it may have worked great in the past, nowadays, this behavior is often scolded and misunderstood.

Concluding, a smelly dog may have more than a dirty coat, so it is always advisable to start off by having him/her seen by a vet to rule out any possible underlying medical conditions.

Once medical conditions are ruled out, then you may want to stop by your dog groomer and have a special shampoo recommended in order for your dog to smell... well, as the best case scenario, as a normal dog again!



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      Tee Tee 8 years ago

      This is kinda helpful thanks