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Answers from vets about your dog:

Why Does My Dog Smell?

Posted December 24, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

dog playing in mud

My dog goes everywhere with me—from rides in the car, to sleeping in my bed (Yes, he sleeps under the sheets), to lying on the sofa with me. And while I don’t mind the occasional dog hair, I like to consider myself a neat freak. So if my dog starts to stink, he gets the boot, a bath, and a veterinary examination.

If you’re not letting your dog sleep on the bed with you, ask yourself why. Is it because he stinks?

While we as veterinarians don’t get asked this question very often, we should let you know that there is often an underlying medical problem if your dog stinks. (Of course, we smell pets all day long and don’t want to offend you by asking if you are noticing this malodorous stink!).

What are the medical causes of a smelly dog?
Dogs may smell due to underlying skin oils that accumulate in their fur, typically these oils need to be washed every few months (depending on how fast the oil accumulates, how much your dog swims, how long the hair is, etc.). If you find yourself noticing a smell more frequently, note that there may be an underlying medical cause for the stink including:

Otitis causing dogs to smell
Ear infections can be due to yeast or bacteria, and often may be due to the breed confirmation of the ear (e.g., long floppy ears like Cocker spaniels), or due to underlying food allergies or atopy (e.g., hay fever). If your dog has chronic ear infections, check with your veterinarian for an underlying cause!

Dental disease causing dogs to smell
If you’re not brushing your dog’s teeth at least once a week, please do. That’s because tartar can harden into rock hard plaque, resulting in inflammation to the gums and secondary infection. This can cause severe halitosis (i.e., bad breath).

Allergies causing dogs to smell
As previously mentioned, certain types of allergies (like food allergies or inhaled allergies) can result in itching, excessive grooming, and secondary skin infections which can cause a foul, yeasty smell of your dog’s skin.

Metabolic disease causing dogs to smell
Underlying metabolic problems like kidney failure or rarely, liver failure, can result in ulcers developing in the mouth. This can cause drooling,

Related symptoms: 

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.