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Why Does My Dog Stink?

Learn why a dog might by stinky.

It's a super common question for veterinarians to hear: my dog often stinks, and I don't know why. If your dog suddenly has a foul odor you can't identify, make a veterinary appointment to have everything checked out. In the meantime, here are some common causes of canine odors.

Skin Infections

Yeast and bacteria that become out of control on a dog's skin can cause a stinky infection. Sometimes the dog will lick or scratch at the infected skin. Other times, you might see hair loss, redness, or raised bumps. If your dog has a vague stinky smell that you can't narrow down to a specific area of the body, a skin infection might be the culprit, and a veterinarian should take a look at him and run some skin tests.

One place on the skin where odors like to lurk is in folds. This might be on the face of some dogs with wrinkles or around the vulva of dogs that are overweight or have inset vulvas. If your dog has folds of skin somewhere that tend to get moist, skin infections will take root there easily. You will need to clean these folds with warm water or a baby wipe and dry them thoroughly once or twice a day or as needed.

Ear Infections

Otitis externa, or an infection of the external ear canal, is pretty common in dogs, and it can be quite stinky. That's because the yeast or bacteria involved in the infection produce an odor. If your dog is shaking his head or scratching at his ears or you identify an abnormal odor and/or discharge from one or both ears, an infection might be the problem. Your veterinarian will examine and run tests on the ear to determine the cause and plan treatment.

Anal Sac Issues

Anal sacs sit just inside a dog's rectum at around the 4 and 8 o'clock positions. They usually contain material produced by scent glands that is quite stinky—many people liken it to rotten fish. These sacs frequently get emptied during defecation, but sometimes there's a problem and they become overly full, impacted, or even infected. When that happens, they can leak small amounts of normal anal sac fluid or infected fluid continuously, resulting in an extremely stinky pooch.

Some dogs need to have their anal glands routinely expressed by a groomer or veterinarian, while others never need to have it done. If you think your dog has an odor related to anal sacs, take him to the vet and find out what's going on and whether he needs routine maintenance for them in the future.

You can learn more here: "Dog Anal Sacs."

Foreign Material

Dogs like to roll in stinky things outside. Maybe it's to disguise their own odor from potential prey, or perhaps it's just because they actually think it smells good and want to use it as perfume. Whatever the reason, if your dog rolls in something dead or decaying, you'll have a stinky problem on your hands.

Bathing your dog in mild pet shampoo should get rid of the odor when it's something your dog rolled in. However, you'll need to try and find the offending thing and remove it from your yard or wherever your dog found it, or he's likely to just go roll in it again the next time he goes outside.

Wet Dog Smell

When dogs get wet, they often have a characteristic "wet dog smell," and that can even occur after a bath. A dog's skin and fur have normal bacteria and yeast on them that aren't necessarily causing a problem but that release an odor when they get wet. If your dog only stinks when he's wet and doesn't have any other indications of a health condition, this might be the cause, and it shouldn't be a problem.

Mouth Problems

Odors from the mouth are common culprits when an owner says their dog stinks. Several issues can cause a stinky dog mouth, including:

If you narrow your dog's stinky odor down to his mouth, make an appointment for him to be checked out right away because mouth odors can indicate serious health problems.


Dogs that routinely get people food, have their diet changed often, or have problems digesting certain foods might be stinky quite often because they have gas. Occasional gas can be normal, but if your dog is suffering from routine smelly flatulence, have him checked out.

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