Why Does My Dog Stink Even After a Bath? + How to Fix It

why does my dog stink even after a bath

Whether we like it or not, all dogs will stink. At times even the most passionate of dog lovers will turn their noses up. But there’s one time your dog stinks where it doesn’t seem to make sense, and that’s after a bath. You would expect a dog to smell better, not worse after a wash like this, surely?

In this guide I will often some explanation to why your dog smells so bad after a bath, and what you can do to reduce the post-bath time stink. But here’s a very quick answer first…

Why does my dog stink even after a bath? Dogs tend to smell bad after a bath if they haven’t been dried properly. Bathing can also make them stink too, as the natural oils are stripped from their skin by shampoos, leading to a musty smell.

There are other reasons too, listed further down the page, including tips on how you can make your dog smell better after a bath.

12 reasons why your dog stinks even after a bath

In order to discover the exact cause of the assault on your olfactory senses, you need to get up close and personal with your dog. Below are just some of the possible causes for your smell so bad after a bath.

  1. Bathing the dog too often.
  2. Not drying your dog thoroughly after bathing or swimming.
  3. Your dog needs a haircut.
  4. Skin problems.
  5. Allergies which cause skin problems.
  6. Folds in your dog’s skin are harbouring bacteria.
  7. Infections in the dog’s ears.
  8. Oral hygiene.
  9. Smelly feet.
  10. Compacted anal glands.
  11. The wrong diet.
  12. Systemic problems.

Your approach to dog grooming can make your dog smell bad after baths

1. Bathing your dog too often

Dogs excrete natural oils onto their skin and hair follicles in order to prevent their skin from becoming dry. This substance is called sebum and is made up of fatty acids. If your dog’s fur remains wet for a length of time, this substance develops a musty odour.

Often in an attempt to get rid of one problem we cause another. Bathing strips the skin and hair of the oils and stimulates the excretion of yet more fatty deposits to replace that which was lost.

Much like humans with so called, ‘greasy hair’, frequent bathing could overstimulate the glands and exacerbate the problem. Try using a milder pet shampoo such as the one shown below and available on Amazon.

2. Not drying your dog properly after a bath can make them stink bad

If your dog’s fur remains moist for too long, bacteria will take advantage of the conditions and start feeding off your dog’s dead skin cells, oils and any remaining detritus it can find in between the hairs.

This will result in that musty wet dog smell and bad stink after a bath.

how can I make my dog smell better after a bath
You can make your dog smell better after a bath by drying them very well, even if they don’t like it.

If towelling down your dog will not completely dry them, use a hair dryer or let the dog lie out in the sun or next to a heater until it is completely dry.

3. Long and matted hair can smell bad after a bath

When I was a young child, a ‘friend’ of mine scared me witless by chasing after me with what looked like a spaniel’s ear. It was in fact matted hair that had grown into the shape of an ear.

Some breeds of dog need regularly haircuts or trims to ensure that their hair does not become a breeding ground for parasites, such as fleas, ticks, fungi and bacterial infection. The latter will produce odours that will not disappear by washing the dog.

Some dogs, like sheep, need their nether regions trimmed so that they don’t collect substances on their fur every time they pee or poop.

4. Skin Problems

Dry skin is characterised by redness of the area affected, and an increase in the number of visible dead skin cells. As creepy as it sounds, these dead cells decay and attract fungi and bacteria, and usually a bad smell after a bath.

The dry skin could have one or more cause. It may be due to insufficient natural oils resulting from frequent bathing, or a seasonal change in the moisture in the atmosphere.

5. Allergies

Some breeds of dogs are prone to skin allergies due to a hyperactive immune system. For example, Jack Russell Terriers are often allergic to grass and develop atopic dermatitis. The itchiness causes the dog discomfort and will lead to scratching and biting.

The resultant dead cells have the same odorous consequences as dry skin. Ask your vet for treatment for the inflammation.

Often a skin allergy develops in response to a change in diet. A high carbohydrate diet could stimulate yeast production in the gut and skin and will generate a smell that you will recognise. Think about changing to a high protein or vegetable-based diet to alleviate the problem.

If you have a breed of dog with designer wrinkles, they may have a special charm, but they also have the potential to develop skin problems and attract lurgi in the folds. These need to be cleaned regularly with a gentle pet shampoo and dried thoroughly afterwards.

why does my dog smell so bad after a bath
Your dog will smell bad after a bath for a range of reasons, but it’s usually due to not being dried thoroughly.

6. Ear infections

If your dog frequently shakes its head or scratches its ears, this could be a sign of an ear infection. There are several causes of ear infections, such as ear mites, allergies or moisture in the ear. There may also be a build-up of ear wax.

All of these conditions will produce a bad stink that you might notice more after a bath.

When you bath your dog, it is best not to submerge its face or head, in order to avoid getting water into the ear canal. The same holds true if your dog swims frequently. The water that remains in the ear will create a moist environment in which yeast multiplies.

There are drying formulae, cleaning solutions and ointments specifically designed for problems in the ear. These are available from your vet and should be applied until the problem is solved.

Hopefully your dog, unlike mine, will cooperate when you try to insert a lengthy probe down its ear to administer the treatment. Once you have inserted a few drops, massage the ear from the outside. This the dog will probably enjoy.

8. Oral hygiene and halitosis

Dogs, like humans, are subject to tooth decay and the build of plaque and tartar on their teeth and gums. This could lead to gum disease, periodontal infections and invariably, bad breath.

Tooth decay should be minimised if your pet is kept away from sweet treats. The build-up of gunk on the gums can be prevented by allowing the dog to chew on large, raw bones. Small bones could cause the dog to choke, and cooked bones may splinter. There are commercially available chew toys and treats that also address the problem.

An alternative solution has been borrowed from the human lifestyle, i.e., brushing your dog’s teeth regularly. Common sense suggests that you start this practice when the dog is young and compliant. A 90-pound Rottweiler with toothache is likely to regard your efforts with more belligerent suspicion.

Other causes of bad breath could be systemic. Your dog may be suffering from diabetes in which case its breath will smell ‘sweet’.

Bladder or kidney problems will result in an acrid smell, not unlike that of urine. This should cause alarm bells to ring and will necessitate a visit to the vet.

9. Smelly feet

Dogs perspire through their paws. They also lick them from time to time. The combination of sweat, saliva and whatever other debris accumulates between their paws as they walk around, results in what is known as Fritos Feet.

Yeast and bacteria consider this recipe to be a delicacy and add their own odours. Your dog’s paws end up smelling like corn chips or biscuits.

Some consider this natural and not too offensive. I do not know how big the dog’s feet need to be to start causing a problem, but I have not experienced it.

However, as much as I enjoy corn chips, I would not want my house smelling of them permanently, should this become an issue.

And the thing is, your dog will still stink after a bath if you haven’t addressed the smelly issue.

Trim any hair around the dog’s paws and wash between the pads with vinegar and baking soda, diluted with water. Dry the foot thoroughly. This should deter any fungi from colonising.

10. Compacted anal glands

Finally, we have the distinctive fishy smell of compacted anal glands. These sacs secrete smells distinctive to your dog, otherwise known as scent markers. They are situated at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock, relative to Rover’s rectum.

Your dog will alert you to a possible problem in this area long before you smell it, by what is known as scooting. To put it another way, your dog will repeatedly drag its butt across your carpet.

It is feasible for you to drain them yourself at home, but I consider the groomer or vet to be experts in this matter and defer to them.

Conclusion

With a house full of dogs, I often wonder what the place smells like to outsiders. To date, so far so good, no one has refused to enter our home because their nostrils have been offended.

It may account, however, for the lack of return visits.

The best advice I can give is to delay any visits to your home at least until 24 hours after your dog has had a bath! Or… try to make your dog smell better after a bath with some of the tips shown above.

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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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