What Makes My Dog Smell So Bad?

It's more difficult to keep longhaired dogs clean, so grooming and bathing are necessary if you notice a bad odor.
i dachshund image by Zbigniew Nowak from Fotolia.com

It’s easier to cuddle and show affection to a furry friend that is nice to be near than to dog that smells like eau de chien. You can rid your dog of common doggy odors once you learn what’s causing them.

Dirt, Dander and Being Wet

Dogs have a natural scent. “If the dog is well-brushed, and all the dirt and dander is gone, a wet dog smells like what is around it in its environment,” says Diane Wallace of the Fells Point Pet Center in Baltimore, Maryland. In other words, a wet -- and clean -- dog can smell like rain, or a spruce tree you are picking up for the holidays, or a citrus or lavender spray disinfectant or insecticide. Dead skin and dirt on the dog, though, can make its wet smell unbearable, and citrus or lavender sprays mask the smell only for a few minutes. A bath and brushing, especially for long-haired breeds, can address a dirty-dog smell.

Dirty Teeth

Your dog's teeth can accumulate quite a lot of what Everett Mobley of the Southeast Missouri Veterinary Medical association calls “gunk” in his vet information blog. The gunk -- actually tartar -- appears as brown material around the gum line that eventually spreads to the tooth. Bacteria are in the tartar, which causes the odor. The smell worsens if your dog licks herself to “bathe” or chews herself from itchiness. Gingivitis also can arise from bacteria in the gum area. It causes bleeding and inflammation. Prevent these problems by brushing your dog’s teeth daily. If your dog has bad breath from tartar or gingivitis, have your vet clean your dog’s teeth. Your dog may need to be anesthetized for the procedure.

Skin Problems

All dogs can get yeast and bacterial infections, but dogs with skin folds, like the Chinese Shar-Pei and English bulldog, have more trouble with odors because these infections can grow inside the folds. When that happens, your dog can smell really bad. Your vet can give you shampoos to treat skin infections. When you bathe your dog, clean inside the skin folds.

When dogs are itchy, they scratch constantly. This can lead to sore spots, and flaky and oily skin. The oil is from a fatty secretion that “gets rancid pretty quickly,” according to Mobley. This condition is called seborrhea. Any type of itch can cause this: allergies, parasites and yeast infections. A bath works only short term because the skin continues to produce the smelly grease. The solution is to find the reason for the itchiness and treat it.

Rolling in Detritus

If you ever see your dog rolling around in the grass, approach her cautiously. She might have just rolled in feces or dead worms. Many dogs enjoy those smells so much, they rub it on themselves, much as people wear perfume and cologne. Your dog might not enjoy the overly scented shampoo you use on her and this could be her way of making herself smell “better.”

Impacted Anal Sacs

Dogs have anal sacs that secrete a pheromone after each bowel movement. Dogs with poor muscle tone, such as small, old or fat dogs, might not empty their sacs. They then scoot their butt across the carpet or floor to help empty them. By scooting in this manner, they usually succeed in getting some secretion out, but some gets on their rump during the scooting, and it smells bad. A groomer or a veterinarian can empty your dog’s anal sac.

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