Why Does My Dog Still Stink After a Bath?

Golden retriever dog in bath
JanuarySkyePhotography / Getty Images

If your dog is still stinky immediately after a bath, there are several possible reasons. For an outdoor dog, rolling in something dead or being sprayed by a skunk are two sources of persistent odor. For both indoor and outdoor dogs, there are causes related to medical conditions. It may take a veterinary exam to pin down the exact cause and recommend a treatment.

Reasons a Dog Stinks After a Bath

If your dog stinks a short time after a bath, a medical problem may be the cause. Your veterinarian should be contacted whenever your dog's behavior changes. The vet will check for the following reasons your dog may be stinky:

  • Ear infection: A dog with bacterial infections in its ears stinks, and baths do nothing to help—in fact, a bath may make the problem worse if water gets in your dog's ears. Vets can recognize this unmistakable odor and its cause almost immediately just by walking into the exam room. When your dog has an ear infection, it may be shaking its head or pawing at its ears, but not always. Your vet will likely prescribe a treatment for your dog and recommend you take steps to keep the ears dry during a bath. 
  • Dental disease: Decayed teeth and infected gums produce a nasty odor. By itself, this is an unpleasant odor, but the dog may also be drooling onto your furniture or its own fur, and the drool smells terrible. You may not realize the odor is coming from the dog's mouth. Cover the furniture with towels until the problem is treated. Your vet will advise you how to best treat your dog's dental problems, either with extractions of damaged teeth, a professional cleaning, or medication for the gum infection.
  • Smelly breath: Sometimes smelly breath is caused by something other than dental disease. Feed your dog high-quality dog food and brush his teeth every day with dog-formulated toothpaste. Give him hard chew toys or treats that promise to improve his breath to improve his oral health and breath. If your dog's breath has changed for the worse, diabetes or kidney failure may be the cause. Your vet can test for these potential problems and advise treatment.
  • Anal glands and sacs: These two small scent sacs in the anus area are "marking" glands. In the best of circumstances, the secretions are odiferous. When the sacs become infected, the scent goes from bad to worse. The smelly secretions can spread to the dog's fur, giving him foul odor. Your vet can drain and treat the infection and—if you are up for it—teach you to do it yourself.
  • Inflamed skin: Dogs with inflamed or allergic skin secrete excess oil, which is just a short time turns rancid and generates body odor. The vet may prescribe a special shampoo to use at bath time to improve the skin condition. He may also prescribe a conditioner to follow the shampoo and fatty acid supplements for your dog's diet to help restore the skin and coat to optimal condition. In the meantime, cover your furniture with a towel or blanket to prevent the transfer of the smelly oil to your furniture.

    Don't give up on those weekly baths. Just make sure you and your vet identify and take steps to address whatever is causing your dog to stink within days of a bath.