Why Does My Dog’s Skin Smell Bad?

One of the most common dermatological complaints in the veterinary clinic is the complaint that a dog’s skin smells bad.

One of the most common dermatological complaints in the veterinary clinic is the complaint that a dog’s skin smells bad. By far, the most common causes of offensive smelling skin are overgrowth of yeast or bacteria. Yeast and/or bacteria may overgrow for many possible reasons, including underlying inhalant/contact allergies, flea bite allergies, as well as food allergies.  Hormonal diseases, including hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease may also cause bad skin odor. Localized inflammations including allergic hot spots on the skin may also cause unpleasant odor of the skin.

In my practice I have often found that pets on poor processed commercial pet food diets often have a lot of allergies and bad skin odors. In these cases, I find that placing pets on naturally preserved diets including Petguard, Wysong or Nature’s Variety can be helpful in improving coat health and skin odor over time. Ideally, I recommend evolutionary appropriate home prepared raw meat based diets that are low in processed carbohydrates as the best way to go toward not only improved skin and coat health, but overall health of the patient in treating and preventing disease.

I also will recommend Omega 3 fatty acids, such as Be Well, as well as digestive enzymes including NaturVet Digestive Enzymes as nutritional supplements that may help with bad skin odor. Western and Chinese detoxifying herbs also may be helpful in those pets on poor diets. Treatment of bad skin odor may include medicated or prescription based shampoos. I often prefer natural tea tree based shampoos when yeast or bacterial infections of the skin occur. Diagnosis of the cause of bad skin odor is best made by veterinary exam and visit and specific treatment is best determined by a conventional or holistic veterinarian.

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40 Comments

  1. Stephanie BratcherMay 14, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    I have a pit- lab the scratches alot and smells really bad he scratches so bad that he has red spots all over his skin where he scratches what can I do

  2. Most of time this is due to secondary bacterial or yeast infection from underlying allergies. I would recommend a vet exam and evaluation as may need prescription antibiotics, etc. You can start with antfungal/antibacterial shampoos such as ketochlor or malasseb shampoo every few days from 1800petmeds. Also consider benadryl at dose of 1 mg per pound twice daily until vet exam and oral fatty acid like Be well fatty acid supplement

  3. Antonietta sanacoreJune 15, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    I have a Spanish water dog. She is on moist food, grain free because she has a history of bladder stones. She also scratches a lot and smells bad just a day or 2 after a bath. Her skin is so red. I have tried so many things to try to help her but nothing seems to be working. Sprays, tee tree oil. Medicated shampoos. All symptoms seem to point to yeast. Isn’t their a pill that I can just give her to help her?

  4. If your dog truly has a yeast overgrowth on the skin, your vet can diagnose and prescribe a prescription antifungal such as ketoconazole or fluconazole. There are shampoos like ketochlor or malaseb shampoo from 1800petmeds which are also anti fungal and antibacterial. You need to see your vet for full allergy workup, as could be inhalent/tontact allergies known as atopy. Add fatty acid like nordic naturals pet omega 3 to meals. History of stones should not preclude the use of fatty acids

  5. Hello Dr. Dym I have a almost 2 year old pug mix. He has these crusty little sores on his back and they itch and he stinks I’ve given him baths and have kept him clean but not sure as to what to do now I’m getting very bothered for him what could this be please help

  6. He most likely has underling allergies either inhalent/contact allergies known as canine atopy and/or less likely food allergies. These lead to secondary yeast and/or bacterial infections, which need to be treated most likely with antibiotics, etc as well as address these underlying causes by seeing your vet. For now, I would use benadryl at dose of 1 mg per pound twice daily, as well as add fatty acid like Be well to his diet from 1800petmeds. Shampoo with malaseb shampoo or another chlorihexiderm based shampoo from 1800petmeds every few days until vet assessment

  7. Dr. Dym, our 7 year old male German Shepherd has developed a bad skin odor. We eat a lot of wild salmon and give him the skin. We’ve always done this with all our Shepherds and from what I’ve read its okay. But I’m wondering now if this might be causing the odor. Aside from the fish skin we give him cooked veggies once in awhile with a high quality dog food. I’d really like to know your opinion on feeding salmon skin. Thank you!

  8. Hi Dave. I am all for feeding fresh salmon to dogs, which is an excellent protein source as well as source of natural omega 3 fatty acids for body and skin health. Not familiar with feeding specifically the skin, however I would go to your local vet and have full exam, as he may have overgrowth of yeast and/or bacteria on his skin from underlying allergies which is common in shepherds. He may need prescription antibiotic and/or oral anti fungal to help with yeast or bacterial overgrowth. For now, you can try shampooing with ketochlor shampoo and/or malaseb shampoo from 1800petmeds every few days.

  9. I have a mixed breed dog she will be 11 in July and no matter what I do or how many times I bath her, her skin is smelly. She stinks so bad and it’s a constant smell and she’s constantly chewing and scratching. She’s on flea preventative treatment she is on an all natural dog food I use coconut oil on her skin but I just can’t rid her of that smell. I have come to terms it’s just old dog smell. Any suggestions??

  10. HI Brandi. Sounds like you are doing best you can, but your dog sounds like she may have secondary yeast and/or bacterial infection of skin from itching due to allergies and these secondary infections should be addressed by local vet with prescription shampoos and/or anti fungals or antibiotics or problem will never get under control. You may need long term allergy meds like prescription apoquel or new injection called cytopoint. See local vet for allergy workup

  11. Hi, my girl is 14, she has had skin problems over the summer months but this time she has a really bad smell, I bathed her but can still smell her, I went to bath her today and her lower back is like scabs and you can pull her hair out with the black looking scabs. Do you think she needs to be treated or should I try and clean her the best I can, her lower back will be bald if I do, she has Shepard in her. Thanks

  12. Pingback: Best Dog Shampoos For Odor Reviews - My Pet District

  13. Our 8 yr. old Yorkie smells awful! It’s not related to her grooming or bathing as that is done regularly. She has awful allergies and is prone to yeast infections. She takes a low dose of Apoquel on a daily basis, and gets a monthly Cytopoint injection. She has hot spots, licks her paws frequently and gets really itchy in the days prior to her shot. She eats Pet Fresh wet food and boiled chicken. She’s an extremely picky eater and is very unpredictable with what she will and won’t eat. I’m open to suggestions with what to do with her! Thank you!

  14. Hi Leslee! Feel free to use our “Ask the Vet” feature to pose your question directly to holistic vet, Dr. Dym. Thanks!
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

  15. Hi, my pups are 2months and in just a matters of a week I have noticed their skin is red and has an odor even right after a bath. I was using some shampoo that the vet say wasn’t good for them and may be the cause of the itching. I’ve been using Dawn now and because they are all white I try to keep them clean so they get less baths. I’ve also been using hypoallergenic sensitive skin baby wipes for quick whip down but it seems like nothing is helping. Of course everyone has their own remedy for a healthy coat and they were already given antibiotics by the vet. What else can I do at home to help make them more comfortable, help the odor and get them back to healthy?

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