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Pet Peeves: Why Is My Dog Still Stinky?

When your dog comes out of a shampoo with that same nasty stink that sent him to the suds, it might be something besides smelly fur causing the trouble.

When is a foul ball a really foul ball? When it's a ball of fur, and your girlfriend says:

"What is that smell?"

She smells something. She has just sacrificed 30 or 40 good minutes, gotten drenched with soapy water, carefully toweled Fido to make sure no moisture is trapped in his ears, no secret dirt piles hide in between nails.

"What do we have to do to make him smell good again?"

Her doggie, OP, was stinky and required a good, careful bath. OP had a nice, long shampoo and scrub. He was wiped clean, dried thoroughly, brushed fluffy.

"Oh, my God!"

OP still smells like a dead thing, though. It's a terrible, backed-up-toilet kinda stench. An invisible, barn animal cloud of yucky pucky floats around OP for yards. Why? After all, she just washed him!


There is an outside chance your problem is shampoo. Some dog shampoos really do smell bad. Some attempts to clean your dog will actually make it smell worse. But that is easily solved. Change shampoos.


You change the cleaning materials, and your dog still smells like an outhouse. After the first disappointing grooming, OP was cleansed with a second, different shampoo; and he still smelled like my bedroom when I was 13, suggesting the problem might not be soap. In fact, it might not be external at all.


It could be one of several skin problems. It may be a troublesome coat. It could be a medical problem causing that nasty stench. If a bath doesn't help and changing shampoos doesn't end this soap opera, you could use a veterinarian's ability to rule out serious troubles and to help solve some simple ones that may be difficult to solve on your own at home. 

Let's first look at obvious things that cause stinky problems on the outside of your dog, maybe in the outside of your home. 

1. Skunk spray? You'll probably know this one right away with no puzzling, so let's just rule that out.

OP had not been sprayed by Skunk, but both of my hunting dogs in Maine were sprayed regularly. Dogs hate it, being that their whole world is about making sense of everything making scents. Poor dogs. Poor owners who have to deal with that odiferous maliciousness, too. There are many cures on the internet for being skunked, should that be your problem. It's not OP's.

2. Dead bird? Did Fido roll in something icky? Did she get it all over herself so badly that even the first or second shampoo didn't effectively eliminate the stench?

Probably not. My dogs used to love to roll in dead squirrels, dead birds, dead rodents, and other rotting horrors. They delighted in bringing peace on earth to pieces with those decaying odors. Truth be told, one or two shampoos would usually cure that, though. This was not OP's problem.

3. Messing with nasty substances? Did Fido get into some chemical or food or other disgusting item causing this trouble? I had a dog who could find mud so fast, I started to believe he made it himself. I had a dog who had a knack for rolling himself into a turd cocoon, hand-making a doo doo wrap.

Usually one or two shampoos will save the day. This was not OP's problem at all.


There are many possible medical problems that make dogs smell icky. When external sources prove unlikely, take a look at the infield. Ask yourself about some of the following possible internal problems related to smells.

WAITING TO EXHALE? Maybe their little huffs and puffs are not a breath of fresh air? Troubles with breath can indicate the need to clean their tongues, to brush their teeth (yes, doggie tooth paste is available at pet stores), or more seriously, bad breath can suggest more dangerous diseases, like internal infections, diabetes, and even kidney failure. All of those can create a foul atmosphere in the mouth, creating a horrible smelly breath.

THE GUM LOST ITS FLAVOR? Dental problems and gum problems can make terrible stinky breath. Check your dog's teeth and gums for signs of dental disease or infected gums. 

Don't know what to look for? Write me and I'll give you more details, but I suggest a trip to the vet to help you rule out the more dangerous possibilities here—and to get some simple routines for keeping your pet healthy and smelling decent.

Ever had dental appointments when your numbed out mouth couldn't hold onto the glass of water and you drooled all over yourself in the dental chair? Dogs, too, drool with many mouth infections or problems. The drool, itself, can cause bacterial smells on their fur or in the house.


Does your dog have an infectious smile, but lately you've all stopped smiling? Maybe he has an infectious ear. Bacterial infections in the ears can really stink. They may make the dog more upset and unhappy after a shampoo, in fact. Fido may scratch at his ears or may shake his head or both.

OP did neither, but I wasn't convinced it wasn't an ear infection. I cleaned his ears carefully using a soft, dry cloth. They weren't dirty, and he didn't squeal or respond very much. If he had, I'd have guessed the vet would suggest a diagnosis of ear infection, a common smelly thing.


Sometimes diet changes (or need for a diet change) can make a dog smelly. They may be flatulent or odiferous from an unsettled stomache. Did you change foods recently? Did Fido hit the snack tray at your last dinner party? Did your beagle successfully run away for an hour to visit unstrapped garbage?


It's my job, at this point, to bring up the rear, so to speak. Ever seen a dog scooting across the rug like he's playing, "I am skiing...on my fanny!" It's a clue there is a problem, itching or discomfort, with the anus. If smell is a problem, it may be the anal sacs.

The dog has anal glands, two little sacs to add his signature smell to an otherwise ordinary dog doo. He uses his little anal sacs to mark his feces. Quite often this creates a big stink, and it's quite common.

The glands add an oily, smelly substance to Fido's bowel movements. But if the sacs get impacted because something like an infection makes the emission so thick that the sacs can't empty out normally,  this can lead to pain and a bad odor! Or they can have absesses.

Vets can help squeeze these sacs and treat the infection. You can first check to see if the problem is more with the fur surrounding the anal area, because a startled or anxious animal may secrete the oily substance all over its own fur causing bad odor--but they might not be infected, per se. Again, take a look but take it to a pro if your not sure.

OP had been through two shampoos, so fur was fine. His sacs, though, brought us to the vet. And, sure enough...

...The Veterinarian found impacted anal sacs, showed us how to relieve them, and treated his infection.

OP smells good again. Isn't that a refreshing story? Tell us your stinky stories.

Don Helverson July 11, 2012 at 08:33 AM
Ah, the mysteries of the cat. Thanks for reading, and let's hear about those cat smell stories...
Mary McGrath July 11, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Here's one of my many cat stories Don...Enjoy! http://www.examiner.com/article/does-this-cat-box-make-my-butt-look-big
Ann Hoffman. July 11, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Very informative yet entertaining
Don Helverson July 13, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Thanks, Ann. If you have any stories like Mary, please share them, too.
Sissy Chennault August 20, 2012 at 03:50 PM
I have a Pug 2 1/2 yrs old. He is groomed about every 4 to 6 weeks. They always express his anal glands. I bathe him at home almost weekly when not groomed. He expresses his own anal glands almost weekly. Always inside on furniture and or me. We have had him since he was one. This started after we began having him groomed about 9 mos. ago. What are his needs? What should I do now? We also have a 9# 5 yr old chihuahua who never does this on his own. Sissy


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