Why is my dog so smelly?

Let’s be honest. Our pups are never going to smell like a bouquet of roses. But you also shouldn’t have to hold your nose to get within a few feet of them. Or recoil in horror whenever they offer you a cheeky kiss.

Did a skunk break into the house? Did everyone dump their rubbish into your living room? Or is it just your pooch?

Now we’re not talking about your average wet dog smell after their quick dip in the local pond. Or the grim bad breath after a delicious dinner of haddock, salmon, and trout. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid these. You can only give them a bath or brush their teeth after the fact.

We’re talking about those smells that don’t have any clear cause. Because anything over and above those usual doggy delights could actually be a sign of a deeper problem. Let’s have a look at what else could be leading to your smelly, smelly dog. 


Allergies are a common reason your pup’s stench might be getting out of control. Food, environmental, and seasonal allergies may cause their skin to become inflamed. And if your skin is really angry, it gets itchy, right? Dogs are no different. They’ll scratch and lick the area in the quest for some sweet, sweet relief. But this can quickly send them down the road to infection. 

The extra attention causes excessive oil secretion, disrupting the skin’s balance. All that extra oil and moisture allows yeast and bacteria – which in small doses are normal – to run rampant. It can eventually result in a pyoderma infection, often a result of the bacteria staphylococcus pseudintermedius. Other than unfortunate smells, symptoms of this infection could include redness, rash-like pustules, and hair loss.

Before you know it, you’ve got a sore pup who’s probably in a bad way. And with that comes a smell that’ll make you want to burn anything they touch. All because they ate a piece of carrot or chewed on a bone they’re allergic to.

If their symptoms are accompanied by any other allergy symptoms (you can find a more in-depth guide here), we recommend a sensitivity test. A quick fur sample can show you exactly what they’re reacting to in just a few days.

Other skin conditions

It’s worth noting that allergies aren’t the only reason they might develop pyoderma. It can happen whenever a wound, scrape, bite, infection, or hormone imbalance causes too much microbial activity on their skin. Anything that could cause your pooch to scratch or chew at a certain area excessively.

So some causes may include:

  • Flea bites
  • Chronic dermatitis
  • Open wounds
  • Hereditary conditions (some dogs are just more prone to infection)
  • Poor grooming
  • Broken skin from scratching
  • Fungal or yeast infections
  • Endocrine imbalances or hyperthyroidism

If you’ve already done a test and ruled out any allergies, then you can ask your vet what they recommend. They’ll likely prescribe some sort of lotion or tonic to soothe the area. You’ll also want to keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t get infected any further.

smelly dog 2

Dental problems

You know when you’re cuddling your pooch and they yawn? And next thing you know, your eyes are watering? Well if that’s a persistent problem that brushing regularly isn’t nipping in the bud, or the smell emanates even when their mouth is closed, they could be suffering from more severe dental problems.

Just like humans, a build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth can be problematic. For one, it opens up their risk of gum disease – which could explain the rotten smells coming from their corner of the room. But there’s also Gingival Hyperplasia. This is when they have overgrown gums. Small bits of food, fur, or dirt can get trapped and lead to some impressively horrific scents. 

If regular brushing isn’t doing the trick to keep any odours at bay, it might be time for a professional teeth clean at the vets.

Ear infection

Healthy dog ears shouldn’t produce an odour. So if you’re getting hints of what smells like bad breath or mouldy cheese from your pup’s ears, it’s a clear sign something’s not quite right. Remember when we said that moisture helps bacteria thrive on their skin? Well, the same holds true. Ear infections are common because it’s the kind of warm and moist environment bacteria love.

While a healthy ear is usually able to fight off bacteria, there are plenty of reasons ears can become infected – ranging from allergies and yeast infections to fleas and ear mites. Other signs that something is wrong include pain and tenderness, excessive pawing at the ears, rubbing them on furniture, ear discharge, or head shaking. 

Ear infections are most common in pups with longer, floppier ears. But they can be a stinky issue for any pooch if the conditions are right. So, if they’re no longer as enthusiastic about their favourite ear rubs – and this is coupled with other symptoms of an ear infection – your best bet is to take them to the vets. No amount of home cleaning will help the infection. In fact, it’s likely to only make the pain and irritation worse.

Anal glands

Another reason your pooch might be stinkier than usual is their anal glands. All pups have two small scent sacs on their rear end. They’re used for marking territory and are why dogs greet each other with a friendly butt sniff. If these become impacted, it can lead to smelly, fishy secretions – which aren’t fun for anyone in the vicinity.

It’s normal for these glands to secrete a small amount of oil when they do their business. However, if there’s too much of a build-up – say if they’re having digestive trouble – the smell can become more noticeable and, shall we say… distracting. Another sign their anal glands are causing problems is if they start scooting around your floor on their backside like a toddler.

If you suspect your pup’s glands are causing them discomfort, it’s often a simple enough fix. Your vet can express them and quickly confirm all is healthy.

Other than rolling in poop or diving headfirst into a nearby lake, there are many reasons they might be stinkier than usual. If you suspect an allergy to be the culprit, a sensitivity test could solve the mystery in a matter of days. It’ll tell you exactly what you need to avoid. 

If the test results come back clear, have a chat with your vet. There are plenty of natural remedies available to save your pooch (and nose) from any further trouble.

With a Swagwags sensitivity test, you’ll learn exactly what’s triggering a reaction. With a quick fur sample, you get results in as little as 72 hours. It’s never been easier to go from a sad, really smelly dog to a happy, normal smelly one!