Dog owners often notice an odor from their dog, sometimes offensive and other times less bothersome. 

Like people, dog smells have many causes, both normal and abnormal

Normal Dog Smells

Dogs have natural secretions that enable other dogs to recognize them by smell as dogs and as individuals.  People, however, do not always appreciate these smells! Natural dog odors are most prominent near the anus, the ears and around the paw pads.

Skin Glands: Dogs do not produce sweat to cool off. However, dogs do have sweat glands, called apocrine glands, associated with each group of hairs. Apocrine glands produce pheromones (chemical signals) for communication with other dogs.

Dogs also have another type of sweat glands, called eccrine glands, on the pads of their paws and on their noses, which help keep these areas moist and functioning properly. Natural micro-organisms live in the surface layers of the paws and contribute to the paw’s typical odor – like cheese puffs. This smell is normal.

Dogs also have numerous glands, called ceruminous glands and sebaceous glands in their ear canals. These two glands produce natural ear wax (cerumen). Micro-organisms live naturally in this material and give the ears a slight odor even when ears may be healthy.

Dogs have two scent glands in their anuses called anal sacs. They produce secretions that vary from thin and yellowish to pasty and grayish. Anal gland secretions may have a very strong musty odor. A small amount of this material is normally deposited when dogs defecate and a large amount may be extruded when a dog is frightened. When these glands get impacted, an infection can arise which can have a foul odor and make your dog uncomfortable.

Un-natural Sources of Odor on Pet Dogs

Poor grooming: Some dogs, especially those with long, thick or corded hair, need regular grooming. A coat that is not kept clean and groomed can trap dirt and other substances with unpleasant odors. If a dog’s haircoat is chronically wet, it can harbor lots of bacteria and yeast. 

Skin diseases: Dogs with allergies may have a musty odor. This is because allergies can cause increased sweating, bacterial and yeast skin infections. Dogs with deep skin folds are also prone to bacterial and yeast skin infections.

Ear diseases: External ear infections ( called otitis externa) are a common source of odor in dogs.  The smell can be yeasty or actually smell like sewage.

Anal sac diseases: Excessive anal gland secretion can result in a musty, pungent odor. Anal sacs can also become abscessed or infected, with bacteria or yeast organisms then producing an odor.

Dental disease: Various dental diseases can cause bad breath, or halitosis. Dental calculus harbors numerous bacteria that produce odor. Dental disease can also lead to excessive drooling, causing the skin around the mouth to become infected and odiferous.

Diet: Some dog foods based on fish meal or with added fish oil can make for fishy-smelling dogs.

Flatulence: The overproduction of intestinal gas can be a problem for some dogs.  This may be diet-related or a sign of gastrointestinal disease. 

If you think your dog smells bad or if your dog’s smell changes, bring your pet to see your veterinarian and make sure there isn’t a health issue that needs to be addressed.

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