My Dog Smells

Find out how to clean up your dogs' odor.

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Q. We have a 14-year-old Cocker Spaniel that has recently come down with an unbearable odor. We have taken her to our vet and he can't explain what is causing it. Have you ever dealt with this before?

Dr. Jon GellerA. I welcome the challenge of helping track down a mystery odor from your dog. I am also sympathetic to the sensory unpleasantness you may be experiencing. There are a few times when I prefer to solve medical problems in patients via cyberspace, and this is one of them.

Let's consider the possible sources and their implications. Is the odor coming from the front end, back end or all over?

1. Front End
Mouth: Halitosis could indicate dental infection, gum disease or a sore on your dog's tongue or in her mouth. Additionally, a strong smell similar to that of Juicy Fruit gum can indicate ketosis, a sign of diabetes. Finally, a sour smell can suggest kidney failure.

Ears: Ear infections with yeast and bacteria will impart a very strong smell to one or both ears. The presence of brown, waxy debris can help confirm an ear infection, known as otitis externa.

2. Back End
Rectum: As in people, dogs can develop persistent gas as a result of a dietary change or a change in the population of bacteria within the intestines.

Anal glands: Just below the anus are two glands that contain a foul-smelling fluid that is used to mark feces with your dog's unique scent. These glands can become impacted (blocked) or infected, and will require veterinary care to unblock and to treat any infection.

Genitourinary tract: If your dog is an unspayed female, she could have a uterine infection and a discharge of pus from her vulva.

3. Generalized Odor
Skin: It is not unusual for dogs to develop generalized skin conditions that can create a strong odor. Overactive hair follicles may be secreting an oily chemical, or your dog could have a generalized skin infection.

A thorough physical exam, possibly including sedation, ear swabs, a rectal exam and a general blood test to evaluate organ function are the next steps.

Best,
Jon Geller, DVM

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