Smell is a very powerful sense. Smells can evoke memories, influence your mood, affect your hunger levels, relationships and work performance. We tend to be captivated by things or people who smell good whilst shy away from foul and pungent “smellies”. To put this into context, we would be less inclined to interact with a smelly dog. To prevent your dog’s smell from driving everyone crazy and away, we have to get to the bottom of the causes of offensive smells. 

Foul breath

Have you ever had lingering coffee breath after having your morning pick-me-up espresso? Or felt conscious because you had a sneaky garlic bread snack before your date? Smells could linger around in your pups mouth as well, especially since they cannot brush their own teeth. Generally, the build-up of plaque and tartar which can progress into infections are the main culprit for the stench in their mouth.

Bad breaths could be an indicator of your pet’s health as well. For example, a dog’s breath can smell like nail polish or sweet if they suffer from diabetes; or smell metallic or ammonia-like if they develop kidney disease.

As an owner, keeping your dog’s teeth clean (through brushing their teeth, regular scaling and polishing at the vet’s) and frequent vet checks are steps you can take to ensure the health of your pet.

Skin problems

It is spring again and you let your dog out more often to enjoy the sunshine. As your dog comes back with grass seeds sticking on it’s fur, your nose picks up that your dog seems to smell more than usual. The reason for this could be seasonal allergies which result in excessive secretion of oils by the glands in your dog’s skin and constant licking and scratching of itchy areas. Seasonal allergies can in turn, result in the introduction of secondary bacterial infections. Other causes for skin problems could be due to food allergies, hormone imbalance, fungus and parasites. All these could consequently lead to an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast, producing an unpleasant smell.

Dogs with many skin folds like Shar-Peis, bulldogs and pugs require constant cleaning to keep their skin dry and odour free. If these folds are not cleaned regularly, it will provide an environment for bacteria and yeast to grow resulting in dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) and with that, a smell develops.

Ear infections

As ears are warm and good at trapping moisture, it makes a good atmosphere for bacteria and yeast to set up their campsite. Dogs that swim often and those with droopy ears like basset hounds and cocker spaniels are more prone to ear infections. If  “yeasty boys” have made themselves comfortable in your dog’s ear, you would often see signs of ear scratching and head shaking as well. It is important to bring your dog to the vet to make treatment more pleasant before it progresses – dogs do not like vets to look down their ears particularly if their ears are painful.

Grooming inadequacy 

The most apparent reason for why your dog smells is because they haven’t bathed. Like humans, dogs have to bath. If your dog is starting to smell, then it is an indication that it is time to take out the dog shampoo. Bathing can help remove the allergens (dirt, dust, seeds and pollen) stuck on your pet’s coat, therefore alleviating allergies. Note to use the right shampoo – a dog’s skin is not the same as ours so using human shampoo is improper.

Like two ends of the spectrum, over-bathing your dog is damaging as it strips protective oils from their skin. A sign that you are over-bathing your dog is when dandruff and scales start appearing on your pet’s coat. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer on how frequent to bathe your dog. The answer depends on their needs – type of breed, lifestyle and length of coat (and how good you are at it!). 

Anal glands

Anal glands play a part in your pet’s scent marking and are located on both sides of your dog’s rear end. Do you smell something fishy? Problems with anal sac(s) are described as an emittance of fishy odour. Often your pet would be in pain or would be scooting on their bottoms if the problem involves their anal glands. Anal gland diseases include infections, impaction (inability to empty them out naturally) and tumours. Vets are able to help express your pet’s anal glands, as well as check if there are any underlying issues that require further attention. 


Basically gas attacks – if you think that dogs are not capable of passing gas, you are wrong! It could be a once-off event where your dog might have eaten something their stomach does not agree with. If the gas attacks occur daily and consistently, there could be an underlying issue and you would need to consult a veterinarian. 

What to do with the funk?

  • Dental hygiene – give your dog a reason to smile
  • Diet – ensure the diet is suitable for your pet and if introducing new diets, your pet is transitioned slowly (eg. mix old and new food)
  • Consult with your vet if you notice a persistent foul smell
  • Bathing your dog as necessary