Unpleasant Odors in Dogs

Golden retriever dog in bath
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If your dog is still stinky even 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, although these smells can usually be eliminated after a good bath (or two). For both indoor and outdoor dogs, there are also causes that are related to medical conditions. It may take a veterinary exam to pin down exactly what's making your dog stinky and recommend a treatment.

Why Do Dogs Have Unpleasant Odors?

If your dog continues to stink following a bath and you've ruled out skunk spray and other external causes, a medical problem is likely the reason. Contact your veterinarian to help determine the possible reason.

Ear Infection

A dog with bacterial infections in its ears can cause a terrible odor. Baths do nothing to help eliminate the smell. 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.

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.

Smelly Breath

Sometimes smelly breath is caused by something other than dental disease. 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. Note what your dog is ingesting. Eating feces, onions, or garlic can cause bad breath.

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 the dog's whole body a foul odor.

Inflamed Skin

Dogs with inflamed or allergic skin secrete excess oil. In just a short time, this can turn rancid and generate noticeable body odor. This is more likely to occur in areas with dark moist areas like skin folds. Check mouth, ears, under the tail, and other wrinkly areas. While you wait to determine the exact cause, cover your furniture with a towel or blanket to prevent the transfer of the smelly oil to your furniture.


The treatment will vary based on the reason for the odor. The vet will do a physical examination to determine the source of the odor. Once identified, the treatment will vary based on the cause.

Ear Infection Treatment

If an ear infection is the cause of the odors, your vet will likely prescribe a prescription treatment for your dog. They will also recommend you take steps to keep the ears dry during a bath. This may require changing how you bathe the dog or thoroughly drying the dog's ears after bathing.

Dental Disease Treatment

If the cause of the smell is dental disease, your vet will advise you how to best treat your dog's dental problems. This might include extractions of damaged teeth, a professional cleaning, or medication for the gum infection.

Smelly Breath Treatment

If your vet has ruled out medical issues, try some daily routine changes. Feed your dog high-quality dog food and brush its teeth every day with dog-formulated toothpaste. Give your pet canine hard chew toys or treats that promise to improve their oral health and breath. Don't let your dog eat feces or table scraps. If the cause is diabetes or kidney failure, there will be medications and a more in-depth action plan to treat the underlying health issue.

Anal Glands and Skin Treatment

With infected anal glands or sacs, your vet can drain and treat the infection. If you are up for it, they can teach you to drain the sacs yourself. If inflamed skin is the culprit of the smell, the vet may prescribe a special shampoo to use at bath time to improve the skin condition. They 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.

How to Prevent Odors

As most dog owners know, odors cannot be entirely preventable. There is a distinct difference between regular dog smells and "other" dog smells. Keeping up with regular baths and routine grooming will help you maintain a clean dog and allow you to quickly identify any irregular and particularly bad odors. Speak with your vet to establish the appropriate bathing routine for your dog. The dog's fur, skin sensitivities, and level of activity will determine how often to bathe. Be aware of other behavioral changes and reach out to your vet right away if you notice irregular smells that don't seem to go away even with a clean and well-groomed dog.

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.