Why Does My Dog Smell?

MON OCT 29 2018

This article is written by one of our in-house veterinarians, Dr Elise Barry BVSc.

All dogs smell and as much as you may try to disguise it, their woofy odour cannot be quashed. Dogs possess a unique scent emanating from the glands of their skin and hair follicles, and while it may not be particularly appealing to us, this smell is totally normal and specific to your pooch.

Scent marking is the way your dog marks out his territory and it helps other dogs identify your dog and where he’s from. Although this doggy cologne is normal, it should only be subtle if your dog is in good health with regular grooming and bathing.

At times your dog may be smellier than normal. Dogs love to roll and cover themselves in abhorrent scents including faeces, rotting material and decaying carcasses. This harks back to primitive behaviour when their ancestors had to hide their smell from prey or it could be used as a way to demonstrate to their pack what they had been up to. This particular problem is easily fixed by removing the offending scent by washing your dog in a dog friendly shampoo and by trying to prevent them from accessing the source of the smell. For more tips check out Why Does My Dog Roll in Smelly Things?

When a Bad Smell Means Something More

While all pooches will have their own distinct brand of 'eau de dog,' unpleasant odours arising from your dog can also be an indication of an underlying disease process. There could be a number of issues going on...

1. It may be their skin or ears.

Some dogs may have allergies to fleas, foods and environmental allergens which can lead to skin and ear infections. Often these infections can smell yeasty as they are caused by an overgrowth of Malassezia pachydermatis, a normal fungus that lives on your dog’s skin.  In these cases your dog will need to visit the vet to identify and treat the cause of the infection which is the source of the odour.


2. It may be dental disease.

Another often overlooked source of unpleasant doggy odours can be bad breath. Dental disease is very common, with over 80% of dogs showing signs of dental disease by the age of three.

Dental disease and its accompanying odour is caused by an overpopulation of bacteria in the mouth. If your pet's breath smells unpleasant your first step should be to head to the vet for a dental check up. While some pooches may just need to practice good dental hygiene by having their teeth regularly brushed or starting a dental diet, others will need to have a scale and polish performed under general anaesthetic to remove plaque and tartar build up.

3. It may be their tummy.

The gastrointestinal tract can be another culprit when it comes to unpleasant doggy odours. Excessive flatulence may indicate a tummy upset, so feeding a highly digestible diet designed for dogs with sensitive stomachs can help.

2. It may be their anal glands.

If you notice a fishy smell arising from your dog’s rear end it could be a sign of anal gland issues. Anal glands are part of your pooch's normal scent marking system but should be doing their job without causing any noticeable offensive odour.

If you notice your dog scooting (rubbing their backside along the ground), licking their backend or a disgusting fishy aroma then these glands may be impacted or infected and medical advice will need to be sought.


Although most of us would love it if our pooches smelled like a bed of roses, they certainly do not feel the same way! A little doggy odour is perfectly normal, however if you’re concerned your dog’s scent is excessively unpleasant or lingering a vet check may be required to find and treat the underlying culprit.