Why does my dog smell?


There are several different reasons why your dog may smell: all animals, including humans, have their own distinctive scent. Love it or hate it, dogs have an instantly recognisable odour, and because we share our homes and lives with dogs we can become less aware of the smell ourselves.

All animals, including humans, have their own distinctive scent. Love it or hate it, dogs have an instantly recognisable odour, and because we share our homes and lives with dogs we can become less aware of the smell ourselves.

One of the problems is that dogs love to smell bad. They roll in muck, relish mud or smelly water, and, in the main, hate being bathed. Enter a doggy household and no matter how clean the home, there is usually a waft of dog.

In general, the smell of your average canine can be minimised by regular bathing, grooming, and household cleanliness. Some breeds smell more than others. This is because some have greasier skin and waxier ears than others - Cocker Spaniels and retrievers for example. You know how it is: you stroke some dogs and a musky odour is instantly transferred to your hand.

Medical conditions

There could also be a medical reason why a dog has a more distinctive odour. Here are just a few possible smell-producing medical problems:

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Smelly breath

Some diseases, such as kidney failure and diabetes, can cause a change in odour. In the case of diabetes a sweet odour is detectable.

Diseased teeth and gums

Dental disease and infected gums can produce a foul odour. Additionally, a sore mouth may cause increased drooling. The malodorous saliva can coat the fur and furniture, and owners may not recognise that this originates in the mouth.

Infected ears

Bacterially infected ears are often extremely smelly. A vet can usually smell these while the pet is still in the waiting room. A dog with infected ears will usually be scratching or shaking his head, but not always. A bath may make ears worse if water gets trapped in the ear canal.


Is the odour on the dog, or in the dog? Flatulence, or gas, may indicate a dietary or intestinal problem or be the result of a poor diet. Some fl atulence is normal, but if this is regularly occurring, a visit to the vet or a change of diet might be necessary.

Anal glands/sacs

This is perhaps the most common cause of doggy odour that won't go away. Anal sacs are two small scent sacs in the area of the anus. These are a type of marking gland. When a dog has a bowel movement, these sacs are normally squeezed, and a very smelly, oily secretion is released with the faeces. You usually know if your dog suffers from anal problems if he scoots or drags his rear end along the ground. Problems result if these sacs become infected or impacted.

This can be a very painful situation. If a dog is scared or overly excited, these glands can secrete the smelly, oily substance on the surrounding fur, causing bad odour.


Inflammation of the skin that causes severe itching due to seasonal or food allergies. This condition triggers an overproduction of sebum (oil on the surface of skin) by the inflamed skin. It gives the coat an oily feel and a musty, foul odour. Poor diet and associated bad breath can cause this in some cases.

Especially in older dogs, it is possible that food is not being adequately digested, moving slowly through the digestive tract offsetting abnormal bacteria growth. The dog may need supplements that will aid digestion. When food is properly digested, all the nutrition in the food can be utilised. Food can be used constructively, by building new tissue to ward off diseases, for example. As animals get older, healthy activities like digestion can become more labour intensive. This could be due to the fact that the body is not producing the necessary digestive enzymes to break down food into easily absorbable components.

Other diet-related conditions may cause problems. Homeopathic vet Richard Allport said: "Dogs who get malassezia - a yeast infection - often have a musty smell. This kind of problem is often diet related. High carbohydrate, processed diets seem to predispose to this and other yeast, fungal, and bacterial infections in the skin, many of which cause an unpleasant aroma. High protein, low carbohydrate, non-processed diets usually give dogs a healthier skin with little or no odour."

Keep your dog on a healthy, complete diet. If you're worried about his smell, changing his diet can help elliminate problems. In the case of any lingering strong odours, visit your vet to eliminate any possible medical causes.

How to stop your dog from smelling

  • Have usual cleanliness routines in place to keep pets, bedding, and the house clean.
  • In the case of any accidents around the house use a non-toxic enzyme-based cleaning solution to clean up any urine, faeces, or sickness. This doesn't replace one smell with another and biologically cleans up messes.
  • There are also pet wipes available for removing any surface dust or dirt from your pet.