Why Does My Dog Smell So Bad?

Dog smells bad and needs a bath

It’s normal for dogs to carry a unique smell that can be noticeable from time to time, and sometimes it might not be pleasant. The kind of smell and how strong it is can often be linked to where they spend their time. For example, dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors might carry a grassy smell, while those from country homes may smell a bit like hay.

Remember, dogs don’t understand human ideas of what smells good or bad. They might pass gas at less than ideal times, which can make a room smell quite strongly!

However, it’s important to remember that if a dog consistently smells bad, it could be a sign of a health problem. Keep reading to learn about some common health issues and what to do if your dog has a bad smell.

Why Does My Dog Smell Bad?

Most of us are quite familiar with the phrase “doggy smell”, but what does it really mean? Dogs release a mild sweat from their paws and hair follicles which carries a unique chemical scent that’s specific to each dog.

Even though dogs may all smell similar to us, they don’t smell the same to each other. Dogs also create oils that keep their skin and hair healthy, and these oils have their own distinct scent. The glands in their ears also give off a mild, yeast-like smell.

It’s natural for microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast to live in your dog’s fur. If the fur stays dry, the smell is usually faint. However, when your dog takes a bath or goes swimming, the water can cause certain compounds to be released, creating a stronger smell.

These are all normal body smells that you can control with regular bathing and grooming of your dog.

Ear and Skin Infections

Bacterial and yeast are the most common culprits in dogs that smell particularly unpleasant. They tend to be most common in dogs’ ears or on their skin.

Certain dogs are more prone to ear infections than others. Those with a lot of hair in the ears or those with long floppy ears may suffer more. However, any dog can pick up an ear infection and they can smell particularly pungent.

When dogs get allergies, they can also suffer from dry skin. That can lead to licking and scratching which in turn can lead to further issues. Skin infections in dogs become problematic when particular bacteria take hold. Keep an eye on these signs that might indicate a problematic skin infection: 

  • A display of discomfort like head shaking, scratching, or rubbing on furniture
  • Inflammation underneath the coat and missing hair
  • A bad smell that gets worse along with other symptoms like red ears
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Anal Sac Issues

In healthy dogs, the anal sacs emit a specific odor whenever your dog passes stool. This scent is unique to each dog and is used by dogs to recognize each other. However, there are times when these anal sacs can get blocked and fail to empty properly. When anal glands become impacted, it can cause discomfort for your dog. If the fluid inside these glands thickens excessively, it can congest the glands, resulting in firm masses that you can feel.

Additionally, infection can occur if a gland gets blocked, leading to the buildup of pus inside. The infection can cause an abscess, where the inflamed tissue and pus-filled sac block the gland opening. If such an abscess isn’t treated promptly, it could burst, leading to significant pain for your dog. In such instances, you might notice and smell a greenish-yellow discharge coming from the ruptured gland.

Dental Infections

Sometimes a dog’s breath is so bad, it’s enough to make you wretch. Poor oral hygiene is often to blame, so make sure to practice proper preventative dental health for your pup! Ideally, you brush their teeth regularly. Other aspects include dental food, treats, and chews.

Bad breath may also be a sign of an infection or other serious problems such as periodontal disease. These infections can lead to a rotten, decaying stench from the infected tissue in the mouth. Looking deep inside your dog’s mouth isn’t always easy to do at home – so if you’re at all concerned, absolutely visit your nearest vet for a thorough checkup.


Passing wind can also be a source of bad smells. Like us, dogs produce intestinal gas that needs passing. A little gas is normal. 

If your dog’s gas begins to smell unnaturally bad or if they start to pass wind almost constantly, you should talk to your vet about your dog’s intestinal health. You should also take into consideration what your dog is eating as too much of a particular food could lead to excessively smelly gas.

What Not to Do When Your Dog Smells Bad

Some dog owners may simply assume their dog has rolled in something that stinks if their pet starts to smell bad. You should always keep an eye on your dog, however, being mindful of signs of infections or allergies.

You should not use non-dog products if your dog develops an ear infection. Some can do more harm than good. You should avoid coal tar, borax, bleach, or hydrogen peroxide products. 

Dogs’ ears are extremely sensitive and need products developed for their needs. 

Specially formulated products for dogs also tend to work out to be more cost-effective as well. Avoid deodorizers as these simply cover up problems without solving the underlying issue. They can also cause allergies.

Even if you do not see outward signs of allergies or infections, you should make an appointment with a vet. As with all issues, the sooner you can get a diagnosis and treatment, the more effective the outcome is likely to be.

Doggy Hygiene Tips

  • Bathe your dog regularly: every 1-3 months is what most vets recommend
  • However, remember too many baths can dry out your pet’s skin and cause further issues
  • Use a specialist shampoo formulated to combat dog odors 
  • Check your dog’s teeth regularly
  • Consider professional grooming, depending on your dog’s coat type
  • Feed your dog high-quality food to optimize digestion and keep gums healthy 
  • Make sure you wash your dog’s bedding on a regular basis

When to See a Vet

If your dog has its usual doggy smell, then you can relax. However, if you notice an unusually pungent odor along with other symptoms such as allergies, skin issues, scooting, or ear infections, then you should see a vet straight away.
We have a team of highly qualified vets available to offer expert advice when your dog smells bad. Book a time slot with one of them today! We have a range of other helpful articles. Find out about preventing worms in dogs and more about giardia in dogs here.

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