Skip to main content

Why dogs smell bad, and what you can do to help

Whether your dog is a young pup or an old dog, stinky canines could be a cause for concern, and not just for your nose! While most of our dogs spend relaxing evenings on our laps or at our feet, it can sometimes be miserable to be so close to them when they are smelly. This is not only stinky for you, but also for them when you banish them to another room. Let’s bring cuddling back into your nighttime routine and find out why your pup might be a stinky dog.

dog in yellow raincoat on bench

Why does my dog smell?

Here are some of the reasons your dog might be more smelly than usual.

Bad breath from tartar buildup

One of the most common complaints about dogs is their bad breath. Buildup of tarter and possible gum disease can cause some incredibly bad breath for your pup.


Depending on their diet your dog might suffer from room-clearing gas. This stinky flatulence is usually caused by diet but could also be a sign of a more severe ailment. If your pup’s smelly gas does not improve with a new diet, it might be time to see a vet.

Skin issues

Many breeds suffer from chronic skin issues. These issues can range from dry skin to itchy skin that leads to excessive scratching and infection. If your dog is a smelly felly, check their skin for red spots or flakes.

Ear infections

Breeds with ears that hang down can easily get ear infections that smell to high heavens. Ear infections typically have a yeast smell and can be a serious and painful problem for your dog. If you smell something rotten coming from your dog’s ears and see red and inflamed skin, take them to see their vet.

Anal glands

Dogs have two glands in their rectum called anal glands. These glands hold and secrete a malodorous oil every time your pup poops. Sometimes these glands can get infected or impacted, causing the oil to secrete at other times in your home. This is a pungent and unmistakable smell once you know what it is. Take your dog to the vet to get their glands checked if you suspect this is the issue.

Lack of grooming

Dog baths are not always fun for you or your dog, and it can be expensive to take them to a groomer. Sometimes grooming can be put on the back burner, and the reason for your pup’s smell is simply that they’re dirty. Remember that over-grooming is also terrible for your dog’s skin and can cause other dry skin issues.


Seborrhea is a skin condition that needs a section of its own. Scaling and flaking of the skin, seborrhea is most common in dogs with folding skin. Breeds like English bulldog, sharpei, and pugs should be checked regularly for this smelly issue. It can also be painful and cause infection if not treated.

Kidney disease or diabetes

In older dogs, kidney disease and diabetes can cause your pup to have bad breath, stinky urine, or sweaty paws. If other options have been eliminated, it might be time to look into the possibility of these more serious issues causing your dog’s smell.

How to keep your dog smelling fresh!

While dogs are still animals and will always have a bit of smell that comes with them, here are some ways to keep your pup smelling better for longer. These are also great ways to increase your dog’s health and well-being!

Daily brushing

Baths are not the only way to keep your dog clean. Brushing them regularly will help remove dead skin, dirt, hair, and other bits that might get stuck in their hair. A deep brush once a week will exfoliate their skin and keep it healthy! This is also a great way to help prevent skin conditions that could lead to infections.

Wash their bed

Humans, on average, change their sheets once a week. When was the last time the dog bed was washed? Washing your dog’s bed regularly will keep it and them smelling fresh and clean. Things like bacteria can live on their bed and cause stinky odors to stick to them.

Wipe their paws at the door

Those cute doormats say, “Wipe your paws!” and it’s a great idea to wipe your dog’s paws before they come into your home. Not only will it keep your floors clean, but it can also wipe away any nasty smells your pup might have walked in while they were outside.


Take a look at your dog’s eating habits and maybe try a new food or eliminate human food treats. Check labels and dog food ingredients so that you’re certain they’re consuming nutritious, high quality food. Some dogs have sensitive stomachs that can get gassy if given low-quality food or too many human treats.

Brush their teeth

A routine of brushing your dog’s teeth will cut down on nasty dog breath, as well as prevent gum disease and tartar buildup. It’s a win-win!

Invest in quality shampoo

Not all shampoo is created equal. If you can, invest in a higher quality shampoo for your pups bath time. High-end shampoos usually contain better conditioning ingredients to help prevent dry skin. The scent can also last longer, keeping your dog smelling fresh. Avoid overly perfumed soap! Dogs have very sensitive noses, and these intense scents can make them uncomfortable or irritate their nose.

Clean the ears

After bath time, take a few minutes to clean out your dog’s ears. Do not use a human Q-tip or any other long device to stick into your dog’s ear. It will be enough to use your finger and the towel to dry out and clean their ears. If you are noticing excessively dirty ears, take them to a vet to have them professionally cleaned.

By nature, dogs are not the most pleasant smelling all of the time, but with some extra love and care you can keep your pup smelling fresh for longer. At the same time, keep in mind that bad smells can be a sign of severe illness and should be checked into by a vet.

Editors' Recommendations

Rebecca Wolken
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Rebecca's has written for Bob Villa and a Cincinnati based remodeling company. When she's not writing about home remodeling…
Does your pet need to visit the dentist? Here’s how a dog teeth cleaning works
It seems scary but they won't feel or remember a thing
Doctor cleaning dog's teeth with toothbrush indoors

In theory, we all go to the dentist every six months to get our teeth cleaned, which helps keep the pearly whites in check and also contributes to overall health. Surprisingly, our pets also benefit from annual (or biennial) dental treatments. While these cleanings do wonders for your dog's teeth, they can make owners nervous and burn a hole in their wallets to boot. Here's why you should schedule regular cleanings for your pup.
How do I know if my dog's teeth need cleaning?
Unless it's a really severe case, you probably can't tell just by looking. Instead, your vet will take a peek in your animal's mouth during their yearly checkup. Your pet's doctor may give your furry friend a dental grade between 0 and 4, with 0 being reserved for puppies that have perfect teeth and 4 meaning Fido will likely require more advanced care, including extractions. Once you have the assessment, you can better determine if your pup needs a cleaning, but it's frequently recommended.
What happens during a dental cleaning
Some of that depends on the grade and your specific beast, but the gist of it stays the same. The main thing is not to worry too much because your little guy will be well cared for, and even though there's always some risk to anesthesia, this is a routine procedure.
Getting your pup ready
Before you even begin, you should get pre-op blood work done to make sure they can handle being under anesthesia. Have your vet discuss any outside-of-range findings and figure out the best way forward. Some older dogs develop kidney and liver problems, and your dog doc might decide that a cleaning isn't worth the risk.
Prepping for the cleaning
Your little guy will likely fast leading up to treatment (just as you would if you were going in for surgery). When you arrive, your vet will go over the schedule and almost certainly give them a once-over to confirm they're ready. Then they will get a sedative in preparation to go under. Figure out what time you need to pick them up and then try to distract yourself for a few hours.
During the procedure
Most vets will take X-rays, clean the teeth, and perform extractions as necessary. Don't worry — your pet will be fully asleep and will not remember or feel a thing. If they do need any teeth pulled, they might get additional shots during the visit (again, just as you would get Novocaine while getting your mouth done). Your vet may also take this opportunity to clip their nails (since they are asleep), if necessary.
If your dog had to have any work above a cleaning, you'll have a couple of meds to administer, such as pain medication and antibiotics. Follow the dosage carefully, especially if you're dealing with strong meds like codeine. In some circumstances, they may have to wear the cone of shame to prevent scratching at their mouth.
How else can you help your dog's oral hygiene?
There's a lot you can do as the pet parent in between cleanings. Consider brushing their teeth, giving doggie dental chews, putting an additive in their water, or putting them on prescription food if the issues are really severe.

The most important thing is to stay on top of your furry friend's oral health, just like you would with any other issues. That often means not feeding them human food, which can cause decay, and providing dry dog food or even dog bones to chew. As long as you stick with the routine, hopefully, you won't need too much extra detail care.

Read more
What to feed dogs with diarrhea: These dietary staples might already be in your kitchen
Diarrhea in dogs can be remedied with these simple ingredients
A large dog squats to poop in a field of tall golden grass

Just like with children, adopting a dog comes with its fair share of messes. Whether you have torn-up squeaky toys strewn about your house or a muddy dog streaking through the yard, these are the things pet owners have to learn to take in stride. Besides, a little mess can be fun sometimes!
Dog diarrhea, though, is the opposite of a fun mess. No one enjoys trying to clean up something so runny and stinky, and it's even more miserable being on the other end. Luckily, there are a few simple home remedies for diarrhea in dogs that you can whip up from the comfort of your own kitchen. Odds are, you already have some of these ingredients!
Here's what to feed dogs with diarrhea.

Pumpkin is packed with helpful nutrients to help a dog's system reset
When your dog has diarrhea, you might not think of feeding them some pumpkin, but this vegetable can be a great source of bowel-regulating soluble fiber. Believe it or not, this fiber also helps dogs with constipation, so pumpkin can be a great choice whenever your pup is under the weather.

Read more
Did you find worms in your dog’s poop? Here’s how to identify and treat them
Parasitic worms can cause real problems in pets — here's how to treat them and take care of your furry friend
Dog runs through the grass outside

Keeping our dogs regular is a fundamental part of pet ownership and is usually pretty easy. Their food includes all the nutrients they need plus maybe a built-in probiotic to help maintain digestion. Sometimes, though, you'll suddenly find your pup has diarrhea, and you'll have to figure out exactly what's going on inside. While there are a number of different possible causes, it could be worms, which can turn serious and even into a life-threatening situation if left untreated.
What are parasitic worms?
When we're talking about worms here we don't mean the kind in your yard and we also aren't including heartworm and ringworm. The type that usually leads to vomiting and diarrhea are intestinal parasites, meaning they're living in your pup's gut. There are a bunch of different worms in dogs out there but the most common in dogs are hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm, and roundworm. Each can have slightly varied effects but likely all include problems with your pet's poop.
How do I know if my dog has worms?
Remember vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms of a lot of issues in dogs, everything from eating something they shouldn't have to serious illnesses, like cancer. The best thing to do is call your vet. They will likely have you bring in a stool sample to test for parasites and possibly other conditions -- sometimes our animals catch a tummy bacteria from other dogs that's easy to treat with antibiotics.
Where do they catch worms?
Sadly, some puppies are born with them and that's when they're most fatal, too (particularly hookworms in dogs). In adulthood, your animal might get them from dirt, poop, a rodent, fleas, or another infected pet. It's best to test your pet before bringing them home or make sure the adoption agency or breeder has thoroughly ruled out worms in dog poop. Even then, you might include a fecal examination as part of a routine screening during their first checkup.
How do I go about identifying dog worms?
Some worms are easy to spot with the human eye, and if you notice something in Fido's poop, you should keep it for later and bring it to the vet. Otherwise, you won't always necessarily see the worms, but you'll notice the effects clearly. When you bring in a stool sample, the tests will determine the type of worm, which also can influence treatment.
How do I treat dog worms?
The best way to take care of worms is with preventatives. Check your heartworm or flea medicine to see if they already contain the right chemicals to keep them at bay. That way, the parasites never have a chance to take root inside your beastie at all. However, once the bugs set in, you might need an additional dewormer to get them out. Your vet will prescribe this, possibly over the course of many months.

We say this a lot, but the best defense is a good offense when it comes to worms in dogs. If you're already paying for preventatives, you can look around and see which ones kill the most worms. One note, cats and dogs sometimes do share parasites if they live in the same household. If you find that your pup has caught one of these, you'll need to look at your other pets, too.

Read more