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Ask the Vet: My Dog Has a Musty Smell

Help, My Dog Has a Musty Smell

If your dog has a musty smell, most likely you are wondering what is causing it. Sure, dogs don't smell like flowers and they don't go around wearing Chanel number 5, but they shouldn't be having a pungent, musty smell either. If you notice that your dog has started developing a musty smell even after a bath and can't find a good reason for it, you may want to see you vet. A musty smell in dogs may be due to various causes, and several of them require veterinary attention. Here are some possible causes that can make a dog smell musty.

dog musty smell

My Dog Has a Musty Smell, What Can Cause This?

Answered By Dr.Jennifer Coates 

It’s hard to say why your dog has a musty odor without having the chance to smell it firsthand. Dogs naturally have odors associated with various parts of their bodies. For example, the glands in their skin, on their paw pads, and in their ears produce a distinct but normal “doggy” odor.

Dogs also have anal glands on either side of the anus that make a liquid with a very strong, musty smell. Usually this material is deposited on the feces after a dog has defecated but it can collect in the fur around the anus, particularly if the dog becomes frightened and releases his glands due to fright.

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Given the chance, dogs will also roll in foul-smelling things they find in their environment, perhaps to mask their natural odors in a holdover from the times when they had to hunt to survive. When a dog’s musty odor is being caused by any of these natural processes, increasing the frequency of bathing and brushing and sometimes a change in diet should improve the situation.

Medical Causes 

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While some musty dog smells are normal, others can be associated with health problems. Skin and ear infections caused by bacteria or yeast can make dogs smell especially bad. Oftentimes an underlying problem such as allergies, seborrhea, or deep skin folds can predispose dogs to developing skin and ear infections.

The bacteria associated with dental disease is another common cause of bad odors. A dog’s anal glands can also become impacted and/or infected, which can cause them to rupture and release their foul-smelling material.

If you are concerned that your dog’s odor could be associated with a health problem, make an appointment with your veterinarian for an evaluation.

About the Author

Dr. Jennifer Coates attended McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada for her undergraduate training in biology. She then worked for several years in the fields of conservation and animal welfare before returning to her first love, veterinary medicine. She was valedictorian of her graduating class at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and has worked as an Associate Veterinarian and Chief of Staff in several practices in Virginia, Wyoming and Colorado.

dr coates

Dr. Coates is also a veterinary advisor for several companies and the author of numerous articles, short stories and books, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, children and pets.

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