Many pet parents love how their dog smells after a good shampooing. But if your dog doesn’t have that usual fresh scent following a bath, you’ll want to look into it. There are several root causes of lingering odor that not even the best odor-control shampoo can defeat.
Three common areas can be found in the skin, ears or anal glands. We’ll discuss these three areas, how they cause persistent odors and what you can do about it.
Why does your dog’s skin smell bad?
Get up close and personal with your pet. Do you smell something musty or even yeasty? If he’s also biting and scratching at himself more than normal, the source of your pet’s unique smell may be caused by an allergy that’s making him uncomfortable in his skin. If you look closely, you may notice redness and flakiness.
What happens in an allergic reaction is your dog’s immune system overreacts when the body is exposed to an allergen and has an unnecessary response to something harmless. When your dog is having an allergic response, it can cause inflammation in the skin, and sometimes trigger odor-producing oil secretions. (It doesn’t just happen to dogs. Mouse studies show that inflammation can cause changes in body odor, suggesting that ailments and allergic reactions can be detected in numerous ways in many animals, including humans.)
What causes allergies in dogs?
Environment: When your dog inhales pollen, dust and dander, that leads to a skin condition called atopy.
[Learn more about how to treat seasonal allergies in dogs]
Flea bites or flea allergy dermatitis: Not only is your pet itchy and uncomfortable from the flea bites, his allergic reaction causes these raised, itchy welts that your pup can’t help but scratch and bite at.
[Get the dirt on the best flea treatments for pets]
Diet: Certain proteins of insect, plant and animal origin can make your dog feel uncomfortable in his skin. Root causes can include filler ingredients in bargain brands, such as corn, or he may need a change in animal protein.
Why are your dog’s ears stinky?
If your dog still smells even after a bath, the ears are another area to check. Healthy dog ears don’t produce odor. But if you’re getting funky bacterial smells like morning breath or pungent cheese, there’s a problem. Smelly ears can be caused by allergies, yeast, infection, fleas and even ear mites. As the inner ear becomes inflamed and produces discharge, this also produces pungent odors.
Aside from odors, these are signs of an ear infection in dogs:
- Pain and sensitivity.
- Pawing and scratching at the ears.
- Rubbing head and ears on floors and furniture.
- Red inflamed areas and visible signs of discharge.
- More frequent head shaking.
If your dog is in pain — maybe he jerks away when you offer his usual ear rub — take him to the vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment. With a full-blown infection, cleaning won’t help. You’ll do little more than contribute pain and irritation. Without proper treatment, ear infections can result in hearing loss.
How to keep your dog’s ear’s healthy
To get proactive with smelly ears, you’ll want to get familiar with your pet’s “normal” ear scent. So when you’re snuggling, go ahead and check. When you start to notice a change, apply a dose of gentle ear cleaner and monitor his progress. If yeast or a small amount of material gets lodged in the ear, a quick assist from the cleaning solution can fix him right up, and keep you a step ahead of infection.
A dog’s ears are normally self-cleaning. Cleaning them more frequently than needed will only irritate the skin in the ear canal and set you back to square one, where your dog spends a lot of time scratching and shaking his head.
Which breeds are most likely to get ear infections?
Some dogs will need more frequent ear check-ins than others. If your dog is a spaniel, retriever, terrier, poodle or bulldog breed or blend, keep an eye on those ears.
What makes these dogs more susceptible to ear infection is long, floppy ears, or narrow ear canals or hair in their external ear canals. This environment can create the conditions for a buildup of ear wax, oils and debris (like dust and dirt from being outside). Then add darkness and moisture, and you have the perfect breeding ground for yeast and bacteria.
When there’s warm, humid weather or if your dog suffers from allergies, these can make ear infections occur more frequently. So if you’re spending extra time outside in the summer, or if your dog just suffered a recent reaction, these are both great times to check in more often.
How to get rid of the fishy smell from a dog
Time to get to the bottom of it. If your dog’s post-bath scent is on the fishy side, that’s a strong indicator that he’s having gland issues.
Fish smells happen when your dog has blocked anal glands. When they’re functioning normally, the glands secrete a small amount of pungent oil when your dog does his business. This scent serves as your pet’s calling card to other dogs — alerting them they just entered “their” territory, but also saying, “I was here.” This can explain why dogs sniff each other’s bottoms.
Just about every dog gets compacted anal glands at one time or another. As the glands experience a buildup, it can progress to an infection. But the buildup also can cause a pungent smell that’s difficult to ignore. Your dog’s vet can express the glands and make sure they’re healthy.
What causes compacted anal glands?
In order to understand this, we can’t avoid talking about your dog’s poop. Firm, normal-size stools put pressure on the glands so they can secrete normally.
But if your dog has bathroom issues for a few days, such as a bout of diarrhea, the glands won’t discharge and the result is a buildup in the glands. This causes pain and discomfort in your dog. You may find him seeking relief by scooting on his bottom.
If tummy issues and the eventual compacted glands are an ongoing thing with your dog, a change of diet is often the best remedy. There may be a filler ingredient, such as corn, that makes your dog’s system overreact.
[For more detail about the anal glands, read “Why does my dog’s breath smell like fish?”]
Diet: The key to a healthy, fresh-smelling dog
While bathing and regular brushings are ideal, a fresh-smelling pooch starts with a healthy body. Switching to a high-quality diet can help you better manage some of your dog’s smelliest issues. Here are three things to look for in your pet’s diet.
Protein: Digestible animal protein that’s bioavailable to your dog’s body lets him access the amino acids. Amino acids provide the “good stuff” that builds skin, bone and muscles but also helps cells function, without going to waste in your backyard. NutriSource’s high meat Element recipes contain at least 83% animal protein, sourced from our carefully vetted suppliers to ensure the quality of the ingredients.
Quality ingredients: Food allergies and sensitivities to certain ingredients, whether it’s corn or a specific animal protein, can trigger an overreaction in your dog’s system. Switching to a high-quality diet and trying novel proteins can bring your dog some much-needed relief from itchy skin and tummy issues.
Probiotics: Good health starts in the gut! Healthy bacteria in probiotics support the immune system, so your best friend can better fight off infection. Our proprietary new Good 4 Life Plus system has added digestive benefits to support the proper digestion of high-meat diets and gut health.
Learn more about NutriSource’s Element Series, and watch for it in 2021 in your community’s independent pet supply store.