Long haired chihuahua in a vet's arms

If your dog doesn't smell very good, you could bath them.

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Should I take my dog to the vet if they smell bad?

By Dr Hester Mulhall MA, VetMB, MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

Diet, something they picked up in the park or an underlying health condition are just some of the reasons why your dog may be smelling.

Got a pongy pooch on your hands? Sometimes there’s an obvious cause for this: rolling in stinky fox poo or eating something particularly unpleasant. But, it can also be a sign of an underlying medical cause, and your dog might need a check-up with a vet.

Why does my dog smell bad?

There are lots of causes of bad odour in dogs. Some dogs are gassier than others, and this could indicate an underlying dietary intolerance, particularly if accompanied by other gastrointestinal symptoms. Bad breath, known as halitosis, can be a sign of dental disease. If your dog’s skin or fur smells, this can indicate a dermatological condition such as a bacterial or yeast infection, which can be secondary to other skin diseases including allergies. Similarly, ear infections can be quite smelly.

Other problems associated with distinctive odours include a ‘fishy’ smell, which could be a sign that your dog’s anal glands are full and require attention. If you have a female (usually un-neutered) with smelly discharge from her back end, this could indicate a pyometra or womb infection, which should receive urgent veterinary attention.

Is it a good idea to take my dog to the vet if they smell?

Unless there is an obvious and resolvable reason for the smell, such as rolling in something on a walk, it’s worth booking in a vet check-up. Many of the possible underlying causes will be affecting your dog’s overall health or quality of life. For example, skin and ear disease can be very itchy and uncomfortable, and require treatment.

If your female dog is showing signs of pyometra, this can become very severe and even life-threatening, so you should seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

Do dogs stink when they've been sick?

This can depend on what your dog has thrown up. Most often your dog’s vomit will smell sour and of partially digested dog food. But their vomit can be very odorous if they’ve eaten animal poo, for example. Your dog may smell if they have some remnants of this around or inside their mouth, particularly if they are a bit dehydrated. Make sure that your dog has access to plenty of fresh water, and gently wash around their mouth if necessary.

What can I do if my dog has unpleasant odours?

If you think there could be an underlying cause, book a vet appointment for your dog. Otherwise you can try giving them a bath. Only use shampoos that are designed for dogs, and chose a product for sensitive skin if you have not bathed them before. Do not wash your dog if they are showing any prior signs of skin irritation, as this could worsen the condition – seek veterinary advice first.

What can I do if my dog stinks?

Book a vet appointment to rule in or out some of the potential underlying causes, and then follow the advice and any prescribed medication.

Are there home remedies for dog odour?

Avoid home remedies for dog odour, as some of these can cause skin irritation and may ultimately worsen the problem. If there is an underlying cause, it is important that this is diagnosed and treated rather than masking the problem.

When should I go to the vet?

Most causes of a smelly dog are not an emergency, although pyometra is a notable exception. If the cause is very obvious, for example your dog has scavenged on a walk but is otherwise well, a veterinary appointment is probably not necessary. Yet if your pet is showing other symptoms, or the smell does not resolve within a couple of days, book an appointment.

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