What to Do If Your Dog's Odors Are Disturbing

Golden retriever dog in bath

Dogs aren't immune to being filthy and stinky, but it's not always because it's time for a bath. Various diseases, dental disorders, and even encounters with animals can generate smells in dogs that require more than a bath and shampoo to resolve.

What Causes Us to Smell Bad Odors?

When we think of what causes classic body odor, we think of bacteria on the skin that break down proteins and produce a terrible stench. Our olfactory cells are unique cells in our nose that detect airborne particles and relay the kind and degree of the smell to our brain. But what about scents that aren't associated with bodily odor? Sulphur compounds and yeast fermentation products, for example, can contain components that release their own unique fragrances, which humans perceive as disagreeable odours.

What Causes Foul Odors in Dogs?

There can be many reasons why a dog has a foul odor. Sometimes a bath may be all that a dog needs but other times veterinary attention is necessary to fix the source of the smell.

  • Ear infections: Some of the most common pet insurance claims are for ear infections in dogs so the ears are also likely sources of unpleasant odors. Ear infections can either contain yeast or bacteria and both types of infection are malodorous. Simple ear debris will often not have an odor to them like infected ears will have. So if you notice an unusual odor or debris in your pets ears, or they are scratching at them, it may be time to see your veterinarian.
  • Skin infections: The skin is a natural barrier to infection and when it is compromised, infection is possible. There are several reasons why a dog's skin may be compromised, resulting in a skin infection. Allergies, hormonal imbalances, fungal infections, external parasites, inflammation, wounds, bleeding tumors, and other skin issues can cause bacteria and yeast on the skin's surface to take hold and produce foul odors. Your veterinarian can perform tests to identify the type of infection or the underlying cause of the infection through blood work or directly sampling the skin. Medicated shampoos, antibiotics, and other treatments are usually required to combat these causes of odor.
  • Dental disease: Bad breath is difficult to ignore, especially in a dog that regularly licks your face. If bacteria is left to cause dental disease, foul odors will soon follow. Dental disease can also lead to infection in other organs such as the heart and kidneys. and professional dental cleanings at your local veterinary hospital are typically necessary to keep bad breath and tooth decay away.
  • Skunk spray: This distinct smell only comes from one source. If your dog has been sprayed by a skunk it will need a special bath .
  • Rolling in something smelly: Dogs love to roll around in smelly things but it results in a smelly dog. If your dog has been having a little too much fun outside in the yard, a simple bath will undo this damage.
  • Dirty water: If your dog has recently been swimming in dirty water, an unpleasant odor might linger even after your dog has dried. If this occurs, it's time for a shampoo!
  • Gas: Dogs occasionally experience flatulence and unfortunately we have to smell it. But what causes this gas? Digestive upset from dietary changes like a new food or treat, eating something in the yard, medications, and even just stress can result in some noxious fumes coming from your dog's hind end. Bland diets, probiotics, and decreasing stress may help with this issue. Talk with your veterinarian if the the amount of gas seems abnormal or it coincides with other symptoms such as diarrhea.
  • Anal gland issues: Anal glands are two small sacs in the rectum of dogs that contain foul smelling liquid that is used in scent marking in the wild. Dogs will naturally express their glands if they are defecating or sometimes when scared. If a dog expresses its glands, a very unpleasant odor will sometimes remain. A good bath can easily clean this up, thankfully.
  • Internal organ disease: Some diseases that affect the internal organs of a dog can result in bad breath. Both kidney failure and diabetes can give your dog an unusual bad breath. These diseases often also cause your pet to feel unwell, eat less, and be less active. If these issues are noticed, contact your veterinarian right away.

How to Make the Odor Go Away

Regular or medicinal baths may help, depending on the source of the foul odor. Antibiotics, antifungals, and other drugs will need to be administered by a veterinarian if there is an infection anyplace on the body. Surgery may be required to eliminate the source of the odor, which might be caused by damaged teeth, an infected tumor, or infected anal glands. However, for simple odors, a mild wash and frequent tooth cleanings can typically assist to eliminate the issue odor.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.

CITATION

"Otitis Externa in Animals. Merck Veterinary Manual", "Dental Disorders of Dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual", "Bartlett, Paul C et al. “Case-control study of risk factors associated with feline and canine chronic kidney disease.” Veterinary medicine international vol. 2010 957570. 20 Sep. 2010, doi:10.4061/2010/957570" ;

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