Though we still love them intensely, some dogs are just stinkers — literally. If you’ve got a smelly one, you may have acclimated to the odor until you just don’t notice it (unless your dog is wet or has rolled in something offensive). But other people notice. That doggy odor has probably permeated your home, your car and any other indoor environments where your dog spends time.
If you’re wondering if that smell is normal, the answer is complicated. While some breeds tend to have more of a noticeable odor due to excessive folds in their skin where bacteria can breed, all dogs can become smelly — for obvious reasons, says Dr. Antje Joslin, veterinarian at Dogtopia, a provider of dog daycares.
Sometimes a stinky dog is just a dirty dog that needs a bath. “Dogs often like to go outside and roll around in some seriously stinky stuff. Fecal matter and other foul-smelling things can get stuck on their fur,” says Dr. Joslin. Dogs that have a lot of fur or long hair, particularly around the face and backside, will need more frequent baths to cut down the stink factor.
“The frequency of bathing depends on several factors such as their breed, the type of hair coat, the lifestyle they live, indoor versus outdoor, how often they are brushed and the general health of the dog,” says Dr. Joslin. Dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors as well as very small dogs that are low to the ground may need more frequent baths.
“The general ‘doggy smell’ that is sometimes more noticeable to an owner with a wet dog is usually a combination of oils on the skin and fur,” she says. “Normally occurring bacteria on the skin as well as dust and dirt picked up in the environment combine to create the smell.”
Breeds that are More Stinky
Yet, some dogs just smell more than others. This may depend on the type of coat they have as well as the amount of oil produced by their skin, says Dr. Joslin. “Dogs with many skin folds can also have a stronger odor as these folds often can be the site of chronic infection.” This also includes some breeds with long, floppy ears.
If you’re thinking of getting a dog, but you’re hypersensitive to smells, you may want to pass on these breeds (or be prepared for a lot of baths and spot cleaning):
- Basset Hound
- Cocker Spaniel
- English Bulldog
- Saint Bernard
While individual dogs may smell better than others, these breeds are known for their strong odor. Sometimes it’s due to excess skin, like the Shar-pei, and sometimes it’s down to a breed that drools excessively, like the Mastiff and Newfoundland. With the droolers, all you need to do is wipe it off; it’s the smell of dried drool on their skin and hair that smells horribly.
Health Issues that Make Your Dog Stink
Sometimes a bad smell is a sign of a medical issue because a healthy dog should not have an odor that is unpleasant, notes Dr. Joslin. Dental disease, skin infections and some health conditions may cause a dog to smell.
Small dogs in particular are known for dental issues. The Yorkshire Terrier and the Chihuahua are prone to serious dental disease — so make sure you start brushing their teeth regularly as a puppy. For older dogs that just won’t cooperate, consider other hygiene products, like dental chews and dental powder.
The Maltipoo is prone to ear infections that smell horrid. Clean their ears frequently and check for ear mites. Use a cotton ball or gauze and a good ear cleaner. Squeeze solution into the dog’s ear, massage and wipe away debris gently from the outside of the ear canal.
Certain dog breeds, like the Boxer (who is notorious for their horrible gas) are prone to malodorous flatulence. “Although not truly ‘doggy smell,’ it may make your dog a less favorable bedtime companion,” says Dr. Joslin. Use slow feeder bowls, which reduce the amount of air a dog swallows, along with a high-quality diet. You can also try feeding two or three smaller meals rather than one large meal.
There are also certain diseases that cause excess gas. These include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease: a syndrome that causes inflammation of the intestines
- Pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas
- Histiocytic ulcerative colitis: inflammation of and ulcers in the lining of the large intestine
- Enteritis: an inflammation of the small intestine
- Parasites: Hookworms in particular cause gas and diarrhea
Other conditions that make a dog smell less than fresh include canine seborrhea, which is a skin condition in dogs that causes flaky skin (dandruff) and greasiness of the skin and hair.
What Can You Do About a Stinky Dog
The most obvious solution is to bathe your dog more frequently. However, says Dr. Joslin, healthy dogs do not need frequent baths. “Some dogs may only need a bath every few months while others may receive one every two weeks.”
But too many baths can have a negative effect. “Bathing too frequently or with harsh shampoos can remove the healthy oils from the skin, break down the skin’s natural barriers and possibly increase the risk for bacterial or fungal skin infections,” she notes.
When you do give your dog a bath, be sure to always use a shampoo made specifically for dogs; never use human shampoo because human skin is different.
“On the other hand, if your dog is suffering from certain conditions affecting the skin or hair coat, your veterinarian may prescribe a medicated shampoo with a more frequent bathing schedule until your canine companion is feeling better,” says Dr. Joslin.
Other factors that make a dog stinkier include impacted anal gland, poop that’s stuck to a dog’s coat, urinary tract infections and other complications, says Dr. Joslin. “It is important to address any of these unusual smells with your dog’s veterinarian as soon as possible.”