pet odors

Fido not smelling like a field of flowers at the moment? Unless he’s due for a bath or he just had an encounter with a skunk (or some other foul-smelling creature), the odor could be a sign of trouble.

Why is that? Because occasionally pet odors can indicate a health problem, which can be serious and require urgent medical care.

Here are 5 causes of pet odors and what you can do about them:

Reason #1: Smelly Skin

A large percentage of odor problems in pets is connected to skin issues. That’s because there are a number of conditions that can cause an unpleasant or abnormal smell. For example, bacterial or yeast infections smell musty (like moldy bread or sometimes similar to corn chips). Pets with itches and allergies can also have a musty smell, as can pets with deep skin folds (think Mastiffs or English bulldogs) because bacteria can accumulate there easily. The solution? Well, it depends. Medicated baths can sometimes be helpful, but if your pet has an infection, he might need prescription medications as well.   

Reason #2: Smelly Ears

A stinky dog with ear smells are often caused by yeast infections. In fact, pets with yeast problems often have yellow, sticky ears that are very itchy and smell musty. Ear smells can also be connected to infections. In those cases, pet odors are much stronger, almost like rotten garbage. Ear infections (otitis) can be serious and very painful and require a visit to the vet. (If your pet is shaking her head more than normal, this can also be a sign of an ear infection, and you should make an appointment with your vet to have them checked.)

Reason #3: Bad Breath

Doggie in need of a mint more often than not? Bad breath can be a sign of an infected tooth, advanced plaque or even an abscess. By the time the smell is noticeable, the dental problem is usually in the advanced stages, so head to the vet as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, mouth odors can be a sign of internal problems, including serious kidney or liver problems, as well as respiratory or gastrointestinal issues. A blood test can help determine the source of the problem so it can be treated properly.

Reason #4: Flatulence

Gas is not as common in dogs and cats as it is in humans. Even when pets do fart, it’s usually odorless — which means odors connected to gas should not be ignored. The most common cause for pet flatulence? Dietary problems. If you’re feeding your pet table scraps (especially fatty foods or dairy products, as many animals are lactose intolerant), stop. Human food is not appropriate for pets anyway and can lead to obesity, a smelly dog, and other problems. Some internal parasites, including worms and giardia, can also cause foul-smelling gas, as well as diarrhea or irregular stools.

Reason #5: Other Suspect Pet Odors

Can’t pinpoint the exact location of the offending smell? It’s possible your pet is eating a type of food or taking a medication that is causing a change in the way he smells. For example, antibiotics sometimes have this effect on the way the skin or your pet’s urine smell. If you recently changed the brand of food you feed your pet, it could also be that the new food contains added fish oil or a number of preservatives or additives that are causing the problem. To rule that out, smell your pet’s food – you don’t have to love the aroma, but it shouldn’t be so strong that it feels offensive either.

In the end, strange pet odors that have no explanation should never be ignored. This is especially true if they come together with other symptoms, such as itchiness, changes in appetite, vomiting or diarrhea. When in doubt, always talk to your vet to figure out what’s going on.