Why does my dog stink? 8 common causes and cures

Dogs don’t sweat like we do, but they do perspire from their paws, and they do emit a light perspiration from their hair follicles, which has a chemical scent that is your dog’s own signature scent. Dogs may smell the same to us, but they don’t smell the same to each other. They also produce oil, an important part of healthy skin and hair, which also has its individual scent. Along with the glands in their ears, which produce a light yeasty smell, these are all normal body odors, and can be kept to a pleasant minimum with normal, regular bathing and grooming.

If your dog smells so bad even you can’t stand him, that’s a completely different thing. Here are some common causes and what you can do to help get the stank out:

First, we’ll ask the obvious… did he roll in something or get sprayed?

Perhaps feces, or something rotting? Sometimes it might seem like they’re trying to be as stinky as possible by rolling in the grossest thing they can find!

Cure: A good bath with a gentle, yet effective cleaner, such as earthbath™ or Tropiclean shampoos.

A stink that’s like no other in this world is eau de skunk. If your dog surprised one, well, let’s just say you’d know.

smellydog-earthbathCure: For the best results, we’d recommend Odor Out Skunk’t, which is an enzyme-based de-stinkifier that is safe for the entire body. The catch is, especially for skunks, you need to spray it within about 30 minutes to make him your sweet smelling baby again. And, in the case of skunk, DO NOT WET, or lather before you use Odor Out for best results. We wrote an entire blog about getting Skunked and there’s lots of helpful information in it.

If your dog’s mouth stinks from the skunk incident, EnviroFresh (maker of Odor Out Skunk’t) also makes Slurp ‘n Fresh, an enzyme-based odor removing product you add to your dog’s water.

Some folks use hydrogen peroxide, but it can be quite harsh to a dog with sensitive skin and you can’t get it into their ears or eyes, or mouth (a very common place for the stink to stick).

Yeast infections

Yeast is a common issue for dogs and can result in much more than just a not so great smell. Yeast has a very pungent, musty, unique odor that has been compared to moldy bread, cheese popcorn, or corn chips.

Stinky paws or musty-smelling ears are usually a sign of yeast overgrowth. Scratching. Itchy ears, itchy paws and butt scooting are all signs of a potential problem with yeast.

Cure: For immediate relief, yeast in the ear requires daily ear cleaning until the issue is resolved. But, the root cause of yeast overgrowth is diet. A better quality food, or for best results, a raw diet, is in order. Switching to a food that is low in carbohydrates that feed yeast is the best plan. Come by the store and we will be happy to work with you to find the right food. And best of all, it’s at no risk to your pocket book. We’ll replace any food that causes a reaction or your dog doesn’t like and find you something he will.

A better diet will also help with itchy paws, skin, and butt too, and you can wash those areas with a cleaner too for more immediate relief.

Infected ears

Bacterial infections of the ears are often extremely smelly. Vets often diagnose this type of infection by smell. Your dog will usually be scratching or shaking the head, but not always.

Cure: If it’s not a yeast infection, take your dog to the vet. But can we just say again how important a healthy diet is for a healthy dog?

Skin infections

naughtynice-aquaveggiesA dog with a skin infection will typically show more signs of problems than just a bad body odor, but sometimes the smell is the first sign. A dog with allergic disease and skin infection will have a distinctive, almost sweet, but offensive odor from the oils in his skin becoming rancid from bacterial action. You might notice thinning hair, flaking skin and redness/itching in addition to odor.

Cure: Diet and lack of certain nutrients can play havoc with your dog’s skin. We most often recommend Dr. Maggie Skin and Coat or AquaVeggies. They are both rich in plant-based essential fatty acids and we have seen some amazing results in our furry customers.

Skin infections could require a veterinarian to prescribe medications to address the primary issue and many times secondary issues also.


Gas may indicate a dietary or intestinal problem. Some flatulence is normal, but if this is regularly occurring, it could be a dietary problem.

Cure: Once again, feeding your dog a biologically appropriate diet that is low in carbohydrates and as close to his wolf heritage as possible will make a huge difference. We are here to help! If the problem persists, a visit to the vet may be necessary.

Impacted anal glands/sacs

This is perhaps the most common cause of odor that won’t go away. Anal sacs are two small scent-sacs in the area of the anus. When a dog has a bowel movement, these sacs are normally squeezed and a very smelly, oily secretion is released with the feces. Many people associate this smell with rotting fish.

If these sacs become infected or impacted by a thicker secretion than normal, or if they can’t empty properly, problems result. It can be very painful for your poor pooch. If a dog is scared or overly excited, the smell can get on the surrounding fur, causing bad odor. This odor can then be passed onto places where your dog lies, and then it’s just unpleasant everywhere.

Cure: This is one for your vet to deal with. But, once again, diet does play a role. If your dog frequently has loose stools because he is sensitive to the food he eats, his anal sacs may not be emptying, which can lead to problems. A raw diet works wonders to not only reduce food sensitivities (and therefore diarrhea) and it also greatly  reduces the smell and volume of output.

Bad Breath

smellydog-badbreathBad breath is the result of a build-up of odor-producing bacteria in your dog’s mouth, lungs, or gut. Ongoing bad breath can mean that your dog needs better dental care or that something is wrong in his gastrointestinal tract, liver, or kidneys.

Cure: It could be dietary issues (again better food), plaque build-up (we have a selection of plaque busting remedies to add to your dog’s water, or food that really work).

Dental disease can cause a lot of pain, so a visit to your vet to rule out anything serious could also be in order.

Other oral diseases, such as mouth ulcers and tumors of the oral cavity can also cause very bad breath. It can also indicate issues such as kidney failure or diabetes.

Your local Global Pet Foods New Brunswick store also carries some superb shampoos, skin conditioners, food additives and ointments to help your dog return to his usual sweet-smelling self.