Keep in mind that for most of the conditions we’ve described, abnormal odors are a relatively insensitive indicator of a problem. The fact that your dog passes your sniff test does not mean you can skip regular veterinary visits!
Parvovirus, often accompanied by lethargy and vomiting in addition to smelly (and often bloody) diarrhea, is an extremely serious, life-threatening disease if left untreated. Just about all pet dogs are inoculated against the condition, but if for some reason yours has missed his booster shot — or your puppy has missed one of his initial vaccinations — and he exhibits the characteristic symptoms of the illness, don’t delay in getting him to the doctor. Young dogs are more apt than others to develop the problem.
Skinfold pyoderma. A pyoderma is a bacterial infection of the skin, and, not surprisingly, a skinfold pyoderma is a bacterial infection that takes hold in the folds of a dog’s skin. A fold, which allows two adjacent skin surfaces to touch each other or be very near each other, provides the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive: warm and humid. The bacteria are native to the skin, but when they overgrow in that moist environment, problems start. Along with discharge, there’s often a telltale foul, or musty, odor. Wrinkly breeds like shar peis and English bulldogs are particularly susceptible, but any dog could end up developing skinfold pyoderma in the folds of the lip, the groin, or the “arm” pits. Sometimes it develops in female dogs between the mammary glands if they have had multiple litters. A female dog might also develop the condition above her vulva if she has a congenital condition called a recessed vulva, which means there’s a skinfold right above the tissue on the external part of the vagina. Treatment includes using a medicated skin cleanser on the affected area along with antibiotics, and sometimes surgery. Owners need to keep susceptible areas clean and dry to prevent recurrence.
Note: Prior to coming into heat, a female dog’s urine may become especially pungent to alert male dogs that she is near ready to impregnate. Incontinence in, say, an older dog will lead to an unpleasant odor, too, but for an entirely different reason. If the dog dribbles into his fur or skin while resting or sleeping, the urine will dry there — and the scent will remain.
Kidney disease. Dogs with kidney disease do not properly filter breakdown products of protein into the urine. As a result, those breakdown products build up in the blood. One of them is blood urea nitrogen. A dog with high levels of blood urea nitrogen resulting from compromised kidneys enables a person to smell ammonia on his pet’s breath. Ammonia, a breakdown product of urea, contains nitrogen.
What Causes the Senior Pet Stank?
Naturally, most dogs smell a little musky because they have oils in the skin that emit that unique doggie smell. While it’s okay to have a bit of smelly dog odor going on, a lingering or foul indicates something that needs medical attention..
Some of the following conditions can cause your older dog to smell.
Other causes of an unusual odor in an older dog include diabetes and just plain stinky dog smell. Diabetes, while causing breath odor, usually causes a sweet smell to the mouth. If your pet is getting into things outside, rolling around in stinky stuff, or hasn’t had a bath in over a month, you can guarantee they won’t smell like potpourri.
Your dog might not just need a bath or a good toothbrushing. Lingering smells can signal potential ailments that need to be treated—stat.
How dogs can sniff out diabetes
Have you ever heard someone say that something “smells like a wet dog”? Poor dogs… they get blamed for any bad odor, don’t they? Truth is, your dog shouldn’t smell bad! Sure, some of his “parts” aren’t going to smell like roses, but overall, a bad smell is generally a problem.
Okay, this may be kind of gross for some people, but a true dog lover will understand… I actually like the way my dog smells. To me, his fur smells sweet and fresh. I remember a friend of mine who, while snuggling and rubbing her face in her dog’s fur, said, “Smells like “life”!” I totally get that!
Years ago, when I worked in the Grooming salon at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, I got to where I could pretty much detect health problems of our guests by the way they smelled. A pungent, yeasty smell was often bad skin issues, or sometimes overly yeasty ear wax; a potent, sharp, spoiled milk kind-of smell was usually an ear infection. And, of course, abnormally bad breath is most certainly an indicator of health problems. I have also noticed by working with dogs that some breeds, like hounds, for example, have a distinctive scent, as do cocker spaniels and others, but some, like poodles, have no discernible scent whatsoever.
Just like us, all dogs have a unique smell, caused by the oils in our skin or what we have ingested. Sniff a dog’s feet and they’re probably going to smell like frito chips or popcorn… Not a bad smell, but some people find it offensive. A dog sweats through his feet, and we can pretty much surmise that a sweaty area is not going to smell good, even on us. But put your nose in your dog’s fur or kiss the top of his head, and you should not detect any bad odor. Bad odors can be the sign of a serious disease.
While we at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts do not claim to be experts on dog health, our experience with handling so many dogs gives us a certain insight. We may not be able to diagnose your dog’s particular malodorous issue, but we can most certainly tell you what is a normal smell and what isn’t.