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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  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

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  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?

  16. We just adopted a 3 month old Australian Shepard/Lab puppy from the humane society. She is the cutest little girl but OMG…she is a stinker. I bought some Burt’s Bees Puppy shampoo and have given her 3 or 4 baths to no avail. Within about 2 hours, she has a ‘sharp’ pungent odor….kind of like she has been rolling in pee. I tried spritzing her with Natures Miracle puppy deodorizer. It helps but only lasts a few hours. In reading other replies, I’m thinking fungal or bacteria? We have her set for a visit to the vet for wellness checkup that the humane society gave us and intend to address this there….but any ideas or tips until we get here there would be great.

  17. I took my dog to the parlour before lockdown and ever since they shaved her, her skin is letting off a bad odour. Whenyou look at her skin closer youncan see like nits but it’s more of dry skin flacking. What can I do to help her

  18. Hi Erica and thank you for your question. For any medical concerns, we always recommend you consult your veterinarian. However, for non-emergency questions, you can contact Dr. Dym directly using our Ask the Vet form. We hope your dog’s skin is better soon!
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

  19. My 12 year old border collie has suddenly began to stink, like awful corn chip yeasty smell. We recently moved back to Texas after living in the mountains of NM and there, she had no itching or allergies at all. When we returned, we took her to the vet and they gave her an allergy shot and some steroids. But her skin stinks! We have taken her to the groomer and washes with hypoallergenic and within 24 hours, she smells yeasty and corn chippy. She stinks. She’s indoor 99% except to potty and walk. Her bedding is cleaned weekly. What can I do to help neutralize her smell?

  20. Hi Nikki and thanks for your inquiry. Please use our Ask the Vet form to pose your question directly to Dr. Dym. Thank you!
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

  21. I have a 13 year old dachshund rescue named Lulu. She has been my baby for four years now. She is the sweetest thing. At one point in her young life she was loved and well cared for. You can tell because she is well trained and very respectful to humans. During the time I have been blessed with her company, I have had to unfortunately remove all but three teeth due to previous owners lack of care of her dental hyenine. However, she still holds her own with our Golden Retriever and the cats of our family. Especially at meal time…lol Sadly, of late… age is starting to catch up with her. She is sleeping most of the time in her little bed. In addition, she has a skin rash that is dominating her life. It started when I adopted her. It was on her hind legs, but was not a large issue. Over the next two years, it crept up her hind legs, under her belly and across her abdomen. Over time our vet had us shampoo her three times a week with Dechra Miconahex Triz. This stopped it for a while. Today, we have progressed to monthly injections, vet specialized food, every other day medicated baths, and still her body is covered with this rash and the smell is horrible. We are desperate for HELP in Texas. My baby needs some assistance and peace in her final days or years. Please help us anyway you can.

  22. Hi Robin! I’m so sorry to hear about Lulu’s worsening rash. We always recommend consulting your veterinarian for the best course of treatment, which is sounds like you have done. You can also feel free to submit this to our Ask The Vet form: https://www.1800petmeds.com/education/ask-the-vet-form.html We hope she is able to get some relief soon!

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  24. I have a very spoiled Bichon male dog. He only will eat people food. I have tried all kinds of dog food and he will not eat it. He eats boiled chicken, hamburger,any kind of beef and can vegetables. He has developed a very bad odor on his underside where his groomer shaves him very short. What would cause this? Is it the diet I am giving him?

  25. If you just trad most of the comments and use critical thinking you can come up with your own answer. If that doesnt work then your best bet is to take him or her to the vet and if that still doesnt seem to be a panacea to your troubles. Please adopt out.. soon very soon.

    Thank you: Pat Sajak

    This comment does not reflect thoughts or philosophy of those of ask.com pet meds or anyone involved or affiliated with this website any offense taken to this comment or from this comment would be advised to adhere to the statement or seek mental evaluation.

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