Why Does My Dog Smell Like Pee? (5 Most Common Reasons)

I can’t think of too many things worse than moving in for a cuddle with your dog, only to recoil in horror at nasty urine smell. Whilst it can be shocking, a strong urine odor in dogs isn’t at all unusual, and there are typically common reasons why your dog smells like pee.

In this guide, I am going to list all of the possible reasons for what causes a strong urine odor in dogs, followed by some tips on how to get the smell out. But first, here’s a short answer with the most likely reason why your dog smells like urine.

Why does my dog smell like pee? Dogs can smell like urine for a number of reasons. These include from rolling in pee, peeing on themselves, to changes in their diet, or in more serious cases it can be the sign of an infection or disease.

You might find that your dog smells like urine after a bath, or perhaps they even (and rather inexplicably) stink like cat’s pee. To get more information on what it could mean and how you might be able to stop it, read on for more detailed reasons for a strong urine odor.

Reasons why your dog smells like urine all the time

1. Your dog has incontinence or random dribbling

My dog is perfectly healthy, but even he gets a little bit of dribble occasionally. I notice is as he walks across our white tiled kitchen floor after he’s been outside to pee, so I end up chasing him with a piece of tissue to give him a wipe underneath.

Why does my dog smell like urine
I will sometimes use a dog-friendly wet wipe if my dogs has a little urine dribble.

However, the majority of dogs that smell of pee will do so due to an incontinence issues, and they can range from mild to serious. It can be caused by their age, weak bladder muscles, an infection, an injury like nerve damage, or even a genetic abnormality.

And what this means, is that pee will leak onto them, making them smell like urine.

There’s even a condition in spayed female dogs called “spay incontinence”. It’s not unusual in older female dogs, and according to the Pet Health Pharmacy website happens when:

“One common cause is hormone imbalance following spay surgery. The proper function of urinary tract tissue is dependent upon adequate exposure to estrogen and after a pet’s ovaries are removed, her estrogen levels are low. Lack of estrogen may cause the urethral sphincter to relax and release urine involuntarily. Incontinence is most common during rest as muscles are relaxed and urine tends to seep out.” (view source)

If you have a younger dog, it could simply be a housetraining issue where they are letting out small leaks of urine onto their fur. Young puppies also can’t hold their urine in for as long as older dogs or can pee themselves when excited, so leaks are almost inevitable.

Urine leaks can happen whilst your dog is awake, or even when they are sleeping. This means they are sleeping in a urine-soaked bed, and you might not even realize it.

Make sure you check that your dog’s blanket is clean. If it smells like pee, it points to an issue that will need to be assessed by a vet.

The bottom line is, your dog probably smells like pee because they’ve peed on themselves. Dog fur will absorb urine very quickly, soaking it up like a sponge.

2. Your dog has urine splashes in the fur from peeing

Next time your dog goes outdoors for a pee, keep a close eye on how they do it. Many dogs will smell like pee all the time because they have splash-back and pee landing on them when they go to the bathroom.

It might be that they are peeing on their own foot, or the hair under their body is too long and is getting urine on it.

This might be easily solved with more attention to grooming, by cutting back the longer hairs that are soaking up pee, giving a shorter hair cut underneath. You could trim the hair yourself or book your dog into regular grooming sessions.

Why does my dog smell like cat pee
Dogs will often splash urine on themselves when doing their business, creating a stinky pong!

3. Your dog has been rolling in pee

It’s not unusual for dogs to roll in the urine and poop of other animals. You will clearly see this happening if it’s poop, but with urine you won’t even know they have done it because you can’t see it on the grass.

Handy Hint: If you have a dog that likes to roll in fox poo, then here’s how you can get that terrible stink outof the fur…. plus reasons why they roll in fox poo in the first place!

4. Your dog has a urinary tract infection

The more serious reasons for the strong urine odor in dogs are for medical reasons. One of the more likely health issues making your dog smell like pee could be a urinary tract infection (UTI).

As well as their pee having a foul smell due to the bacteria in it, a UTI will make your dog want to pee more, which has the knock-on effect of increasing their chances of smelling like urine.

Handy Hint: Dog owners often report their pets smelling like rotting fish. This fishy stink is probably due to an anal gland problem as I discuss in this blog on dogs smelling like fish.

5. Your dog has a kidney problem

Dogs can smell like urine when they have failing kidneys. It’s said to make their fur, skin, and even their breath smell like pee. Some dogs will have pee or breath that smells like metal too as part of this diagnosis.

I will explain more a little later down the page, but it goes without saying that this is even more reason to book a vet’s appointment if you’ve ruled the earlier first three reasons out.

Those are the 5 most common reasons why your dog smells like pee, but then there are very specific places where the urine smell comes from which I am going to explain below.

Why does my dog smell like cat pee?

Dogs can smell like cat pee for a number of reasons. The first possibility is if you own a cat and it’s marking territory in the home. This exact problem happened to us when we first brought our puppy home to our house.

Your cat is peeing in your dog’s bed

We discovered that out cat was peeing on the dog’s bed as a form of exerting dominance or through anxiety. Our dog was then sleeping on his bed, and the cat’s urine was soaking and drying into his fur, meaning a dog that absolutely stank of cat urine. It was horrible.

The second possibility for a dog smelling like cat pee is dietary. I’ve read as I will explain below.

Your dog smells like cat pee due to Natural Balance food

I’ve read multiple reports online from dog owners who said they found their dog smelling like cat pee after changing their dog’s diet to the Natural Balance brand. Here’s an example comment I read in a Facebook group:

“Your dog could be smelling like cat pee because of their food. I experienced this when I changed my dog onto Natural Balance dog food. Urine smell, kind of like cat’s pee then seemed to follow my dog around the house. I was bathing my dog regularly, but no matter what, the cat pee smell would keep coming back. After Googling it, I discovered other owners were saying they experienced the same with this brand. I stopped feeing my dog Natural Balance and he didn’t smell like cat pee anymore.” 

Based on this social media comment, the brand of food could be the reason why your dog smells like pee, even after a bath and good clean. It’s also possibly why your dog’s head smell like urine, if the food is making this weird odor seep into the skin. 

To conclude, it’s worth changing your dog’s food to see if that makes a difference to the strong urine odor you’re smelling.

Why does my dog’s breath smell like pee?

The next issue to address is where your dog’s breath smells like urine. This one relates back to the earlier possibility of kidney disease, as dog breath with a urine odor can warn of health problems.

The American Kennel Club have covered this on their website in detail, with the following statement:

“A urine odor to your dog’s breath is a warning sign of kidney disease and warrants a visit to your veterinarian. Kidney disease is serious and could be a symptom of a larger medical problem.” (view source)

How do you get the urine smell out of a dog?

And finally, ways of getting rid of the urine smell from your dog. I’ve touched on many of them already, so will keep this brief. Regardless though, it’s something you should get on top of as quick as you can, because urine can burn your dog’s skin so needs cleaning off.

  1. Use wet wipes on them after peeing to clean up any dribble: You can also use dog friendly wet wipes to clean their paws if the pee is splashing onto their fur. I’ve created a guide to which wet wipes are dog friendly elsewhere on Doggysaurus.
  2. Give their fur a trim if they suffer with pee splashing: Don’t waste money on an expensive dog groomer. Instead just cut their hair back with scissors regularly where it’s starting to splash.
  3. Regularly wash your dog’s bedding: If your dog smells of pee, so will his bed and blankets so give them a good wash before addressing any possible bigger issues with your vet.
  4. Shower them with a specialist shampoo: You can buy shampoo that is designed to battle strong urine odor. Here’s one on Amazon with great reviews.
  5. Carry a dog odor eliminator spray: The same company that do the shampoo also sell an odor spray. It’s a pet friendly deodorant, and can also be purchased on Amazon in a spray bottle.

Conclusion

If you can identify that your dog’s urine smell is related to them having pee on their fur, then in many cases it can easily solved.

However, if that is down to either incontinence or a something you cannot ascertain you should take your dog to see the vet. There’s a small possibility that the pee smells are down to a health issue that only your vet can uncover.

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Dogs can be very smelly. It’s part of the territory of owning one, which is why I’ve created so many guides on similar topics which you can access below.

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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