Where does the odor from your dog come from?

By Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM | March 15th, 2017

So many persons conclude that dogs are very dirty animals due to the reoccurrence of that characteristic and consequent dog smell which many find offensive. Haven received so many questions on this subject with a lot of explanations to help dog owners to solve this problem I wish to write about it here. One very important point to be made here is that majority of this problem come from the way we keep our dogs.

Dogs locked up in a small enclosure for long hours of over 8 hours will tend to have offensive smell emanating from several factors like their urine & poop. Dogs like humans need to ‘pee’ or urinate several times a day and when these dogs are locked up when they need to urinate may have no option but to urinate right where they sleep and may also lie on it. This urine contains ammonia which when left for some time starts to emit offensive smell.

Dog owners who live with their dogs in the same house might be cleaner than the category of people described above and yet have the same problem. If you own a very hairy dog or dog with a lot of fur, it might happen that some of the poop (especially when the poop is soft or watery) gets smeared on the hair around the anus of your dog which starts to smell offensively.

Dogs possess anal glands at the base of the anus, just some half inch from the anus. You will not see this with your naked eyes. It is placed under the skin on the both sides beneath the anus. The fluid content of this gland, when you squeeze it out and smell it you will quick identify the smell if you have been staying with that dog indoors. It is said that each dog has a different smell due to the difference in the smell of this anal gland fluid. Dogs can tell if a dog has been in a new area they visit by sniffing for the deposits of this fluid around the environment. The anal gland fluid usually accompanies feacal deposits or poop deposits. Some humans are very sensitive to the smell of this fluid deposit and find it offensive while some may not.

Dogs can be infected or infested by skin parasites whose activities might produce offensively smelling puss which is very difficult to wash off permanently except they are treated properly. These skin infestations include mange or mite infestation where these mites who is microscopic in nature, burrow into the skin to survive. This burrowing action causes perforations that elicit inflammatory reactions resulting in tiny reddish patches that degenerate into puss formation and massive loss of hair. The puss resulting from this activity tends to emit very offensive smell.

Other skin infections like common dermatitis, otitis (Ear infection), Scrotal dermatitis (Scrotal skin infection) etc. also produce offensive smell which I think is good because it will draw your attention to the developing problem.  They can smell very offensively until treated properly.

I’m sure you are waiting to read about the oral part (mouth). Yes, healthy mouth of your dog has a characteristic smell emanating from the saliva but when there is any infection in the mouth there will be marked difference in the smell of the oral side (mouth) that might be very offensive. Of course when infection occurs here, your dog may refuse to feed or drink water worsening the smell.

Let me state here first that dogs are very clean animals and hate bad smell. If you have ever seen your dog poop on sand, you will see them trying to cover it by digging with their back legs. They will not stop there but will turn back to smell to check if the smell can be perceived by others. Also, watch your dog going to urinate, observe the dog urinating on grass, a heap of sand or a soft absorbable cloth. They do this to make the urine disappear from sight. This is how they try to keep their environment clean. So you can see that they are clean by nature but this practice by these dogs has been altered by humans resulting to messy environment not intended by the dogs themselves.


1.       If you must lock up your dogs for long hours please provide measures to allow them urinate or poop every 4-6 hours daily.

2.       Check the hairs around the anus of your dog for hanging poop and trim of those hairs. Practice trimming these hairs occasionally to prevent this.

3.       Squeeze the anal gland occasional with soft cotton wool to eliminate the smell from this gland.

4.       When you notice this offensive smell please check for any of the infections explained above and consult your veterinarian immediately for treatment.

5.       Do oral examination on your dog regularly to prevent any infection that might result to mouth odor and do something about it immediately.


Your dog can be clean and odorless if you can help the dog remain healthy and properly cared for. Careful observation is required to achieve an odorless healthy canine! Thank you.


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    Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM

    Founder of Fairvet Animal Clinic Ltd since 2011, studied at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He is well experienced in small animal, large animal & poultry medicine, and also skilled at zoo medicine. He loves animals and builds both professional and personal relationship with pet owners in order to sustain a good interaction with pet and animal owners, coupled with His great skills in programming; he brought about www.fairvet.com which he personally built from scratch.

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