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Why Does My Dog Smell So Bad?

Picture of a wet dog on the beach

If your dog has developed a rather unpleasant stench, you’ll need to get to the bottom of the problem to eliminate the odor for good. Since dog fur easily absorbs and traps smells, you may find your best canine pal is far less than April fresh from time to time. But unpleasant canine odors can come from a variety of sources including their infamous corn chip paws, foul-smelling breath, and even just plain old wet dog. Though sometimes the solution is as simple as a bath, other problems resulting in a stinky dog are more complex and can even be brought on by underlying health conditions which must be addressed. If Fido’s stink is starting to make your eyes water, you’re likely asking yourself this question: why does my dog smell?

What Are Some of the Most Common Reasons Does Smell?

Your dog may smell for a number of different reasons. Getting to the root cause of the problem is important to help eliminate the odor for good.

Among the top reasons dogs may exhibit unpleasant smells are:

  • Dental issues

One of the most common problems owners complain about when it comes to their dogs is bad breath. If the smell of your dog’s breath is bowling you over, you’ll be happy to know that the solution to the problem is relatively simple: a visit to your veterinarian for a dental cleaning.

Maintaining proper oral hygiene through regular tooth brushing is the most effective way to keep tartar and plaque from accumulating on your dog’s teeth, the two items responsible for Fido’s malodorous breath. However, if the damage has already been done in this department, it will be necessary to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a dental to get your pooch’s teeth and gums back in tip top shape.

Many owners don’t realize that the teeth and gums are pathways to far more serious illness, and if neglected, can shorten the life expectancy of a dog. Appropriate dental hygiene is particularly important for small breeds that are already prone to a number of dental issues.

Sometimes a dog’s unpleasant breath is indicative of a more serious health concern. Sweet-smelling breath often belies a dog with diabetes or kidney issues. Likewise, if your dog’s breath smells strongly of pee, a bladder infection may be at play.

  • Flatulence

If your dog suffers from persistent gas, gastrointestinal problems could be to blame. Often gas is an indication that your dog has a sensitivity or an intolerance to something he is eating. A gradual switch to a different diet with ingredients that are easy to digest may eliminate the problem altogether. In dogs suffering from food-related allergies, it is best to work with your veterinarian to pinpoint which ingredients are problematic and remove them from your dog’s diet.

In some cases, excessive gas may indicate a more serious health problem. If after changing your dog’s diet and carefully considering any possible allergies, your dog is still farting a lot; it is a good idea to visit your veterinarian for a full wellness examination and possibly x-rays and bloodwork to rule out more serious health issues.

Some dog breeds are naturally predisposed to gas. Others produce excess gas because they eat too rapidly, causing additional air to accumulate in their bodies. To combat this problem, it is a good idea to consider a slow feeder bowl which will assist with a slower pattern of eating.

Feeding your dog a high quality probiotic supplement can also aid with processing food effectively, and thus, reduce flatulence.

  • Skin conditions

If your dog suffers from inflammation or itchiness of the skin, Fido’s skin will naturally release additional oils which can produce an unpleasant odor. Diet plays a vital role in skin health. Foods that are too rich in starches and sugars can feed yeast infections in dogs that are prone to developing them. Yeast infections have a musty, rotten cheese odor to them, making them quite easy to identify. If left untreated, yeast will spread throughout your dog’s body, exacerbating his discomfort and increasing his odor. For most yeast infections, prescription medications and medicated baths are required.

To prevent skin issues related to foods, select a diet that is based on excellent quality lean proteins and that contains no processed ingredients in its formulation. For dogs with environmental allergies, it may be necessary to consider a prescription medication such as Apoquel or monthly Cytopoint injections to provide relief for your dog from itching and from stinky odors for you.

Some dog breeds possess skin folds such as the Bulldog, Pug, and the Sharpei. Bacteria can collect in these areas causing foul smells and even infections. These areas must be cleaned regularly and kept completely dry to prevent skin problems from occurring.

  • Ear infections

Bacteria and yeast often collect in the ear canal, leading to ear infections in dogs. Since the ear is a dark, moist environment, it is the ideal place for problems to occur.

The ear naturally contains enough healthy bacteria to combat infection. However, in dogs with allergies or that suffer from hormone issues, yeast can dramatically multiply resulting in recurring problems. In addition to this, dog breeds with long, droopy ears that offer little ventilation are naturally more predisposed to the development of ear infections.

Make sure ears clean and dry to help keep ear infections at bay.

  • Anal glands

If you catch a strong smell of rotten fish every time your dog walks by, chances are pretty good he’s got an issue with his anal glands. Anal glands sit on either side of the dog’s bum. The anal glands contain information that dogs can use for “marking.” It is this region of the dog that other canines investigate when making new friends.

When a dog’s anal glands are not eliminating properly, they can become impacted or infected. This is particularly painful for your dog. The first sign you will notice in dogs with anal gland issues is the smell. The second thing is a scooting across floors, carpets, or grass in an attempt to cause the glands to release. Should the dog have success in getting the gland to express itself, the liquid inside will permeate the area and soak the surface it was released on, requiring thorough cleaning.

If your dog has persistent problems with his anal glands, diet may be to blame. Diets that are too low in dietary fiber can cause ongoing anal gland issues. A switch to a diet that is easy to digest and rich in fiber can be a great help in bringing this problem to an end.

Though you can be taught to release your dog’s anal glands at home, most owners prefer to leave that job up to their veterinarian.

  • Corn chip/Frito paws

The sweat glands of dogs are found on their feet. This leads to a unique smell that owners sometimes refer to as “corn chip or Frito paws.” Generally speaking, corn chip or Frito paws are of no concern. Though the smell is produced by certain strains of bacteria, these are not a problem if kept in balance.

The bacteria responsible for corn chip paws are called pseudomonas and proteus. They emit a distinctly yeasty smell that is reminiscent of many families’ favorite snack: Fritos. When your dog sweats, the fragrance of the corn chips emanating from the paws becomes more intense.

To ensure the balance of bacteria remains healthy, be sure to keep your dog’s paws clean by bathing on an as needed basis and removing any dirt or debris. Part of proper footcare includes trimming all long hair around the bottoms of the feet and paw pads as these areas naturally harbor bacteria, fungi, and debris that can lead to infection.

  • Infrequent grooming

If your dog smells rather ripe, chances are it could be because he could benefit from a bath. Regular grooming is key to keeping your dog smelling as clean and April fresh as possible.

But it is not just bathing that helps to keep a dog smelling his very best. Brushing can help remove all dead hair and encourages the release of oils that keep the skin and coat healthy and thriving. When you brush your dog, you not only remove hair; you also get rid of dead skin cells and dried saliva, thus improving the smell of your dog dramatically.

Your dog’s bedding should also be washed at least once a week. Dead skin cells and hair accumulate in beds, contributing to unpleasant odors. Chew toys should also be washed regularly.

How Can I Keep My Dog from Becoming Stinky?

There are many things that you can do at home to prevent stinkiness from becoming your dog’s claim to fame. Among our top tips are:

  • Regular dental care

Tooth brushing is a must to keep plaque and tartar at bay. This is the most important thing you can do to keep your dog’s breath smelling minty fresh and to prevent the development of disease.

Dental chews and raw meaty bones can also assist with keeping teeth clean and in good health. Dentals from your veterinarian can be considered on an as needed basis.

  • Keep skin and ears clean

Since yeast can build up in ears and skin folds, it is important to keep these areas of your dog clean and dry. This is particularly important after your dog has had a bath or has gone for a swim.

  • Feed a high quality diet

A high quality diet can help prevent a lot of problems that can lead to unpleasant smells in dogs. Choose a food that contains highly digestible ingredients that are rich in dietary fiber. In addition to this, the food should be free from processed ingredients, focusing instead on lean meat-based proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Many of the best foods for dogs contain supplements such as prebiotics, probiotics, glucosamine, and chondroitin to provide additional health benefits.

  • Keep your dog clean

Though how often you need to bath will depend on your dog’s breed and level of dirtiness, it is vitally important that your dog receive regular baths. Help keep Fido as clean as possible by brushing him regularly to remove dead hair, dead skin cells, and dried saliva. This will help encourage coat and skin health and will naturally reduce the possibility of your dog developing odors.

Fido not smelling like a rose? Follow our top tips to help keep your dog smelling April fresh all the time!

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