My dogs have lately had an awful, musky odor. I washed them only two days ago and the odor was back again. Could it be the smell of sweat?
Doggy odors can come from many sources. Some of these odors may be unpleasant to us, but are completely natural and normal. However, there are other times that a foul odor can indicate disease.
Dogs do not have the human-type sweat glands that produce perspiration used in cooling and body temperature regulation. They do have several other types of sweat glands in the skin, nose and paw pads.
The skin glands, called apocrine glands, produce chemical signals that are used to communicate with other dogs. These glands also make anti-microbial substances to help keep the skin and coat healthy. Some, dogs especially those with seasonal allergies, can produce excessive amounts of apocrine gland secretions which can make the coat feel wet.
Another type of sweat gland, the eccrine gland, is found on a dog’s nose and on the pads of the feet. Their function is to keep these areas moist and working properly. Natural micro-organisms such as bacteria live on the surface of the foot pads and are responsible for some of the odor there. When the paw pads are wet or moist, their odor becomes much more pronounced.
More odor-producing glands called anal glands are found around the dog’s rectum. These sacs secrete a particularly foul smelling natural substance that is another way dogs signal to each other. This material coats the stool as it passes and allows a personal “calling card” to be left. If a dog is stressed or frightened, a large amount the the anal gland secretions can be expressed all at once, leaving a very strong fishy or musky odor behind. Whenever a dog sniffs another dog’s rear end, it is this smell they are investigation.
Stinky dogs can also indicate that there is an underlying medical problem. Bacterial or yeast skin infections or overgrowth are often quite foul smelling and can be particularly severe in a dog with a thick undercoat. The summertime often makes this condition worse, especially if the dog likes to swim. Medicated shampoos and thorought drying, even with a dair dryer, can be helpful for our water hounds.
Ear infections are another common source of unnatural doggie odor. Since a dog’s ear canal is deep and crooked, it can be easy to miss an ear problem. Pay attention if you notice a yeasty or sewage-type smell coming for the ears.
Imagine how bad your breath would be if you never brushed your teeth! Now think of how often you brush your pet’s teeth. It should come as no surprise that dental disease is another top cause for doggy odor. Remember to “flip the lip” to check for red gums or tartar build-up.
Even what your dog ingests can result in an unpleasant odor. Fatty acid supplements containing fish oils and some salmon or other fish-based dog foods can result in fishy-smelling dogs. And dogs can get flatulence, which can be worse with certain diets or with gastrointestinal disease.
So, a “stinky dog” can be completely natural or may be due to certain diseases. A visit to your veterinarian can help sort out the source of the odor and put you on the path to sweeter smells.