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Why Does My Dog Stink? Tips for Smelly Senior Dogs

Help! Why does my dog smell so bad?
By Daniela Lopez, September 2021
why do dogs stink

While all animal lovers share a close relationship with their pets, it often seems like dogs and their owners are virtually inseparable, even when they’re sleeping. As your dog ages, you may notice that they’ve started to smell a bit. You do regular grooming, yet somehow your dog still stinks

If that sweet puppy smell vanished and was replaced by what can only be described as a funk, well, there might be other issues. This strange smell could be from several things like dental problems, gas, disease, or ear infections. But most commonly, it’s a hygiene problem.

Causes for a Smelly Dog

Wet Dog Smell: This recognizable smell is caused by the yeast and bacteria that naturally live in a dog’s skin and fur. The ordinarily mild odor becomes noticeably stronger when dogs are wet as the yeast and bacteria react to water.

Dental Problems: One of the main culprits for a funky smell is bad breath, especially in older dogs. Like people, bad breath (halitosis) is caused by plaque and tartar on teeth. It’s important to brush your dog’s teeth regularly, just as you do yourself. Raw bones are great for teeth cleaning under close supervision. Consider visiting the veterinarian for a professional check-up and cleaning, especially if you notice a rotten smell.


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Ear Infections: There are many causes for ear infections, including allergies, mites, excess hair, excess moisture, diseases, and excessive cleanings. One thing that is certain is that ear infections in dogs can cause a really unpleasant odor. Dogs with especially hairy or floppy ears tend to be more prone to ear infections.

Kidney Disease: Beyond dental problems, bad breath may also be indicative of kidney disease or diabetes. Kidney disease is one of the top concerns among senior dog owners, and early signs include changes in body odor, bad breath, and incontinence.

Gas: Dogs fart. We have to live with it. Thankfully, more than 99% of gasses that pass the intestinal tract are odorless! But, as a dog ages, their body and needs change. Excessive farting could be a sign of food intolerance or other diseases. If you notice an unusual concert erupting from your dog’s behind, reach out to your vet.

Impacted Glands: If your dog is scooting around the carpet, your dog has an anal gland problem. These glands produce the foulest fish-like smelling brown material. Typically, these glands empty naturally when a dog poops, but if not, then a vet visit may be in order. Either way, it’s stinky business.

Skin Infections: Some dogs and breeds are prone to skin fold dermatitis. This smelly condition is the result of moisture caught between the warm folds of a dog’s skin. Breeds most commonly affected include Shar Peis, French Bulldogs, Pugs, Basset Hounds, and Boxers.

So, now that we’ve covered some of the common reasons why dogs stink, what can we do about it? If you confirm it’s not a medical issue after talking with your vet, then it’s a simple hygiene problem. The following tips can help you learn how to keep your older dog and home smelling fresh.

Bathing Tips

We know you’ve already been taking good care of your old dog, but it’s time to up your game. A lot of changes begin to happen as a dog grows older that can make them have a little extra stink. Baths will become vital in maintaining good hygiene for them and you, so experiment by washing them a little sooner than you usually would.

Bathe your senior dog no more than once every other week – and make sure to keep an eye on their skin because more frequent bathing could cause skin irritation.

Laundry Tips

How frequently should you wash your sheets?

If you’re like most dog owners, you enjoy sharing your bed with your canine. Sleep quality aside, hygiene can become an issue. Dog owners should wash their bed sheets more often because of the extra dirt and oils.

People who sleep with their dogs are advised to wash their bed sheets more than average, every 3-4 days, especially if you notice a smell coming from your dog. Washing your bedding more often not only will help to improve the hygiene of your senior dog but also the aroma of your home.

In addition to your own bedding, wash your dog’s bed regularly. An easy tip for remembering to do this on schedule is to wash your dog’s bed and blankets on the same days you give them baths!

Other helpful laundry tips:

  • Keep an extra set of linens at the ready in case of accidents or for a quick refresh.
  • Speed up your laundry cycles by reducing tangling and balled-up sheets with a Wad-Free bed sheet detangler.
  • For excess fur on clothing, the FurZapper is a highly rated reusable laundry lint catcher.
  • If your front-load washer gets a little stinky, add one cup of baking soda with the next load. It will help reduce smell and brighten whites.

Keep Things Fresh

Once the stinky smell is gone, you’re going to want to maintain it for as long as possible. One easy way to do this is by regularly brushing your dog. Brushing your dog also allows your bedding to stay fresh for longer because you won’t have as much fur transferring onto them.

Next up, vacuum regularly. Scratch that, vacuum daily. Any dog owner can attest to the enormous quantity of fur build-up caused by our furry friends. It does wonders to keep your home smelling fresh, plus keeps away pests like fleas.

Use some dog-friendly scents. Studies have shown that some essential oils, namely lavender and chamomile, provide relaxing aromatherapy for dogs and make your house smell good too.

Even though your dog may be smelly, it doesn’t mean you’ll snuggle with them any less. It’s important to keep close tabs on their body changes—smells included—in case there is an underlying medical condition. It’s always important to consult your vet before making any sudden adjustments, as they can help you better understand what’s going on.

Photo: Adobe Stock

Daniela Lopez is a digital media specialist and long-time contributor to The Bark.

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