Sometimes our dogs can still stink even after a bath. Skin issues like hot spots to anal sac impactions, we look at the most common causes of smelly canines.
It’s impossible to come across an odor-free pup. Dogs are domesticated animals, so they’re bound to have some smell. However, the stink shouldn’t be overwhelming and should definitely not persist even after a bath. Excessive dog stench suggests underlying medical conditions.
Canine parents are well aware of the musty “wet dog” smell after washing your dog or when they’re rained on. We tend to underestimate how long it takes for dogs’ coats to dry completely, leaving them smelly. These are 5 reasons your dog still smells when completely dry after a bath.
Excessive sebum production
Dogs produce an oily substance called sebum which keeps the hairs waterproof and the coat supple. Bathing your dog frequently with harsh and low-quality shampoos can cause excess sebum production, resulting in poor coat health. Overactivity of the sebaceous gland leads to coat oiliness and smelliness, which can result from overbathing your pup.
Ironically, bathing your dog can sometimes be the very cause of odor in the first place. Using high-quality products like the natural dog shampoo from PawSafe maintains coat health and lightly deodorizes hair. This all-in-one professional dog shampoo allows you to give your dog a quality bath without visiting the groomer.
The number of times to wash your dog is subject to hot debate among experts. Some claim that many of us harbor misconceptions about bathing dogs too often. They argue that shampoos containing ceramides and lipids protect the skin from drying out, even with frequent baths.
However, most dog experts agree that monthly washes can suffice for most pups. This number increases or reduces depending on the coat length and type. You’d think that hairless breeds like the Chinese Crested Dog do without too many baths, but they’re pretty care-intensive, as most need weekly baths.
Medium to long-coated dogs do well with baths every 4-6 weeks or even weekly if they get too dirty. Corded breeds like the Puli require less frequent baths than most breeds. Ultimately, there’s no need to wash your dog too many times, provided you keep up with brushing their coats some days of the week.
Secondary Skin Infections and Dermatitis
Secondary bacterial and yeast infections on the skin are major causes of an awful dog stench. Microbes, like some bacteria, harmlessly exist on your pup’s skin and fur. When something goes wrong, an overgrowth of bacteria occurs, leading to a secondary skin infection.
Too many yeast and bacteria living on your pup’s skin produce stinky waste products. These organic acid compounds undergo aerosolization upon contact with water leading to a foul smell. Dogs with overlapping skin folds are susceptible to skin infections when these folds trap moisture and microbes.
Malassezia dermatitis (yeast) and superficial pyoderma (bacterial) are dogs’ most common skin infections. It’s not easy to get rid of the stench resulting from skin infections, even with frequent baths. Your vet can prescribe antibacterial soaps or shampoos and antibiotic therapy to combat skin issues.
The easiest way to detect dermatitis is to inspect the skin for redness, flaking, or inflammation. You’ll also see your pup scratching and biting at the problem areas to get relief from the itchiness. Nibbling at the problem area worsens dermatitis because of the moist environment.
Bacterial and yeast infections can have underlying causes such as endocrine disease, allergies, and immunosuppression. Once you treat skin infections as the root cause of the odor, the stench should gradually decrease.
Ear infections cause inflammation of the inner ear, leading to the production of pungent odors. You may bathe your dog thoroughly but still, end up with a smelly dog because of infected ears. Healthy dog ears don’t produce odor, but if you catch a whiff of a cheesy and funky smell, they may need medication.
Cleaning the ears with water during baths may actually do more harm than good. The water will create a moist environment, perfect for the multiplication of ear microbes. Use an ear cleaning solution to clean your dog’s ears when you notice a mild smell, and be sure to dry the ears thoroughly after use.
If an ear cleaning solution doesn’t rectify the odor, it may be time to visit the vet. Otitis externa (inflammation of the external ear canal) is one ear infection that your vet can diagnose and treat. The vet will use an otoscope to check the eardrums and take a culture test to determine the exact ear organisms.
Seasonal, environmental, and food allergies are common causes of ear infections in dogs. When a dog has an allergic attack causing ear problems, you’ll notice them shaking their head regularly. Other signs to watch out for include pawing at the ears, discharge, and swelling at the ears.
If your dog exhibits these signs and shows a level of aggression when you go for the usual head rubs, have the vet check them out. Once your vet identifies the guilty parasites and ear infections, you can get your dog started on treatment. Medication includes ear solutions, antibiotics, and pain medication.
Anal Gland Problems
Dogs have two anal sacs at their rear that secrete a pungent smell. This odor marks a dog out from the others, explaining why dogs sniff each other’s bottoms. When your dog poops, they naturally express their anal sacs, thereby emptying them.
If the anal sacs are inflamed or have another issue, your dog will have a horrid, fishy odor. You may stick to the right frequency of giving dogs baths but still have a stinky dog because of anal gland problems. The anal glands produce a pungent smell, even when they’re in a healthy condition, but you may not smell it.
Changes in stool consistency can interfere with the normal process in which dogs express their anal glands. Dogs with gastrointestinal issues that experience diarrhea can fail to express their anal glands because the poop isn’t solid enough. Try to occasionally check your dog’s poop to know when your pup diarrheas.
Failure to express the anal glands during pooping can cause your dog’s anal glands to be impacted. This occurs when the anal sacs fill up with fluid, causing them to become swollen and painful. A vet is the best person to empty impacted anal glands because it’s a sensitive process that could hurt your pup.
If you fail to express impacted anal sacs for long, painful abscesses may develop in that area. These abscesses make your dog susceptible to infections that can spread to the intestines and stomach. Anal gland problems can cause your dog to really stink. Luckily, these issues are treatable with prompt intervention.
Oral Issues like Periodontitis
Poor oral hygiene causes countless dental issues that, at best, cause a deathly odor in your pup’s mouth. Dogs with dental issues that drool may get their smelly saliva to their beddings, your sofa, and even their fur. The worst-case scenario with dental diseases is your pup losing a tooth or contracting organ failure.
Failing to brush your pup’s teeth leads to plaque buildup, which is a sticky film of bacteria. Plaque hardens to calcified, yellow tartar, which you can’t effectively remove from the teeth at home. Tartar accumulation results in diseases like gingivitis, where your pup experiences gum inflammation.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 80% of all dogs suffer from canine periodontitis before the age of 3. Periodontitis is a dental disease that results from tartar accumulation and gingivitis.
To keep your puppy from being part of the above statistic, brush your dog’s teeth at least twice a week. You can give your pup chew toys and dental chews to promote oral health further. Small dogs and those with short snouts (brachycephalic) need special attention to the teeth, including bi-annual vet visits.
Dogs due for a bath tend to smell, but a bath often rectifies this odor. However, sometimes baths don’t get rid of odor, contrary to our expectations. Anal gland issues, skin infections, excessive sebum from overbathing, and ear infections are the most common causes of dog odors that linger after showers.
Meet Your Experts
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.