Why Does My Dog Stink?

A dog lays on a colourful rug at home
John Short / Design Pics / Getty Images

Although you love your cuddly pooch dearly, the next time she leans in for a kiss, you recoil in horror at the stench emanating from her. Did she roll in something dead? Did she irritate a skunk? Did she get into the litter box again? There’s a variety of causes for doggy odor, and if you can't remove it with a good bath, it will likely require a visit to your veterinarian to diagnose an underlying medical condition. Here are seven reasons why your dog may smell bad.

Illustration of reasons why your dog stinks
The Spruce / Ashley Nicole DeLeon

Dental Disease

Did you know that the majority of pets—up to 85 percent—over the age of three have some form of dental disease? You would, too, if you went three years without brushing your teeth. Within hours of a meal, sticky plaque begins to accumulate on your pet’s teeth, slowly hardening into cement-like tartar. Plaque and tartar are loaded with bacteria, which leads to gingivitis and infections. While a slight odor is normal for pets, stinky doggy breath indicates an underlying dental infection, diseased tooth, or oral tumor.  

Kidney Disease

Pets with kidney disease suffer from the inability to eliminate waste products from the bloodstream, which build up and can create an ammonia-like odor to your dog’s breath. Some people also say that pets in kidney failure have a metallic odor to their breath. If your pooch’s kidney function is decreased, you’ll also likely notice an increase in thirst and urination. As kidney disease progresses and your pet cannot take in enough fluid to flush out the toxins building up, she may become nauseous and vomit, or not want to eat. 

Diabetes

Pets in late-stage diabetes may also have a unique odor to their breath. If your dog is either not producing enough insulin or not using insulin properly, her body will be unable to use the food she eats for nutrients. Without adequate nutrition, despite how much she eats, her body will begin to break down itself for nutrients, which generates ketones. When your pup is creating ketones, her breath will have a distinctive odor, which some say smell like nail polish remover, while others say the odor is sweet.

Skin Infection

Dogs with wrinkly skin, such as English bulldogs, Shar Pei's, or pugs, are prone to developing skin fold dermatitis. This stinky skin disorder occurs because of close skin contact, creating a warm, moist environment perfect for an overgrowth of surface microbes, such as bacteria and yeast. These organisms produce toxins that cause irritation and inflammation, breaking down the skin barrier and leading to an infection.

Allergies can cause other skin infections. Allergies in dogs manifest in itchy skin, rather than watery eyes and sneezing like they do in people. As your pup scratches, licks, and chews at her skin, she traumatizes it enough to damage the skin barrier, allowing bacteria to enter through breaks in the skin, leading to a stinky infection.

Ear Infection

Allergies in pets are also a common cause of ear infections. Some dogs may simply be prone to developing ear infections because of their anatomy, such as hounds with long, droopy ears that trap moisture. Dogs who swim frequently without a proper ear-drying routine afterward are also likely to develop recurring ear infections. Similar to skin infections, the warm, moist environment in ears is ideal for yeast and bacteria to set up shop and take over. Normal debris in your dog’s ears should not have an odor, but when you notice a particular stench coming from her ears, or excessive head-shaking and scratching, it’s time for a visit to your veterinarian.

Anal Sac Issues

Anal sacs are two small glands located on either side of your dog’s rectum that emit a thin, foul-smelling fluid when your pet defecates. Occasionally, pets may suffer from anal sac infections or impactions, causing them to lick their hind end excessively or scoot along the floor to relieve the pressure from full anal sacs. If your pet shows signs of anal sac issues, schedule a visit with your veterinarian for a manual expression before your pup’s anal sacs rupture and form an abscess, which can also create quite a stench.

Flatulence

Some dogs have powerful enough gas to clear a room, usually after they’ve eaten something particularly nasty, such as moldy trash or a rotting carcass. Often these severe cases of flatulence are accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea if your pooch ate something she shouldn’t have. On occasion, your pet’s diet may simply not agree with their gastrointestinal system, and a food change is in order. If you believe your pup’s gas is out of the ordinary, it’s time to visit your veterinarian. 

If you notice a foul smell coming from your dog, and you can’t remove the odor with a good bath, there may be an underlying health issue. When in doubt, contact your veterinarian to get to the root of the problem.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Campbell, Elle. The Dangers Of Dog BreathSunrise Veterinary Clinic

  3. Clues To Your Dogs Health Can Be Just A Whiff Away. Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

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  5. Flatulence - Farting And Gas Problems In DogsVetwest Animal Hospitals