The Answer to Dog Odor: Why Your Dog Stinks and How to Handle It

A dog wrapped in a towel in a bathtub: Why Your Dog Stinks.

Despite your penchant for cuddling up with your pooch on the couch, you may have recently recoiled when he leaned in to lick your face. Scrunching up your nose, you may be wondering what is causing that awful odor to emanate from your beloved best friend.

While most stinky dog situations can be cleared up by a bath, some may warrant a trip to the vet.

Normal Dog Smells

Aloe Shampoo by Dug and Bitch
Aloe Shampoo by Dug and Bitch

Most non-dog owners can immediately tell if a canine is in the house by taking a brief whiff inside. However, you probably don’t even notice that distinct doggy smell anymore … or you may have come to love it.

Natural dog odors are caused by a variety of things. Dogs don’t sweat from skin pores the way we do. They perspire through their hair follicles and paws, sometimes causing a musty scent. Other culprits behind canine odor include natural skin oils and anal gland secretion.

Routinely bathing your dog and washing clothing, bedding, and rugs can prevent the build-up of natural dog aromas. However, avoid using shampoos containing artificial ingredients and colors, formaldehyde preservatives, and parabens. These can all irritate sensitive skin.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Washing Dog Sweaters, Collars, and Bedding

If your dog’s stinky odor is stronger than his natural scent, an underlying health condition could be to blame.

Here are some unhealthy reasons behind your pup’s bad smell and what to do about it.

Dental Disease

Bye Bye Dog Breath Kit
Bye Bye Dog Breath Kit

Just like humans, plaque and tartar build-up can lead to seriously bad dog breath. Other reasons include oral infections, tumors, or a diseased tooth.

Smaller breeds are especially prone to oral issues like gum disease.

Gingival hyperplasia, or overgrown gum tissue around the teeth, is another breed-specific problem observed in Boxers and Bulldogs, among others. The overgrown gums can collect small pieces of food, producing a rotten smell.

Preventative maintenance is important to keep your dog’s mouth healthy and and happy. Giving him dental chew sticks, dental supplements, like our Bye Bye Dog Breath dental powder, and brushing his teeth can help promote your pooch’s oral health. If your pet’s mouth severely stinks, make a vet appointment for a professional dental cleaning and exam.

Related: How the Gut Impacts Your Dog’s Breath — and What to Do About It


Dogs suffering from late-stage diabetes could also have a unique oral odor. If your pet is having an insulin issue, his body will not be able to properly utilize the vitamins and nutrients from his food. Without this nutrition, his body will begin to break down fat for nutrients, causing ketones, which are molecules produced by the liver. If your dog is creating ketones, his breath will have a smell that may resemble nail polish remover.


Doggy flatulence can swiftly stink up any space. Your pet’s gas problem is commonly caused by a diet he cannot properly digest. Common foods that can cause gas include dairy, high-fat diets, and soy.

If your dog is passing excessive wind, consult with your vet about changing his diet.

Kidney Disease

Dogs with kidney diseases cannot remove waste products from their bloodstreams. This will lead to ammonia-like smells in your pet’s breath. Dogs suffering from kidney problems will also exhibit an increase in urination and thirst. If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, take him to the vet right away.


Bye Bye Shabby Coat with Salmon Oil
Bye Bye Shabby Coat

Food or seasonal allergies may cause skin inflammation, leading to excessive skin gland secretion. This can cause a musty odor. Diets high in processed fats and carbs may contribute to food allergies. Consult with your vet about changing your dog’s diet to anti-allergy or non-processed food.

Skin infections, such as skin fold dermatitis in dogs with wrinkles, can also cause bad odor. Clean their folds every day to prevent irritation and inflammation.

Related: Here’s What Is in Dog Food That Causes Allergies — and What to Do About It

Ear Infections

Yeast and bacteria can cause dog ear infections, which can lead to strong, unpleasant smells. Dogs with ear infections may also paw or shake their heads frequently. Your vet can supply you with ear drops to ease the symptoms. There is also everyday ear wash you can use to help with itchiness.

Anal Sac Problems

Anal sacs are the two tiny glands on each side of your pet’s rectum. Though they produce natural odors, an infected or impacted anal sac can lead to disgusting smells. Your dog may also scoot his butt along the floor or lick his rear end to sooth the symptoms. Schedule a visit with your vet before the anal glands rupture or form an abscess.

While all dogs have a natural scent that can be reduced by baths, some odors may signify a health problem. If you notice your pet stinks more than he usually does, contact your vet to schedule a wellness appointment.

By Stephanie Weaver

Stephanie Weaver is a freelance writer residing in Philadelphia, PA. When she's not locked down to her laptop, she can be found riding horses or playing with her Boston Terrier mix, Steve.

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