Your female dog might not use body spray or Chanel Number 5, but normally dogs should not have a strong odor, therefore an odor in female dogs can be indicative of some underlying medical problem, especially if the odor is something new or unusual. There are several causes of odor in female dogs and they may stem from infections, "female issues" or even from certain activities your dog engages in. It's therefore time to put on your investigative hat, and with the help of your vet, figure out what may be going on.
Finding the Source
In most cases, the odor from your female dog is coming from a specific source. You can break down potential causes of odor by trying to localize the source. Is it mostly coming from the front end of the dog (face, mouth, ears?) or the rear end of the dog? Is it coming from the coat?
Sometimes, the odor is not coming directly from the dog, but from something your dog stepped on or rolled in. Dogs are known for rolling into the stinkiest things on the planet, things like cow manure, rotten carcasses and spoiled fish.
If your dog's coat seems to have an unpleasant odor, you can try to give your dog a bath and see if it goes away. Careful though with dog shampoos that are rich in fragrances as they can cause potential allergies and skin irritations. Make sure you also rinse all traces of shampoo out of the coat.
If the odor is still there, even after a bath, this warrants veterinary investigation to determine where it's coming from and what can be done about it. Following are several causes of odor in female dogs.
Odor From the Mouth
If the unpleasant odor is coming from the mouth, consider periodontal disease. Most dogs over the age of five have some level of periodontal disease and it tends to progress quite a lot as dogs age.
Periodontal disease starts when plaque turns into tartar and starts accumulating on the dog's teeth and under the gums causing them to become inflamed which leads to gingivitis.
Bad breath, red, swollen gums and tartar accumulating on the teeth are all signs of periodontal disease which requires treatment. Dogs, just like people, require having their teeth brushed and routine dental cleanings to remove the tartar that accumulates under the gums and on the surface of the teeth.
A strong odor from the mouth can also be a sign of an infection, perhaps a tooth root abscess, lip fold dermatitis or even a tumor in the mouth. If your dog has bad breath, it's best to have your dog seen by your vet to get that mouth checked out. It's a common misconceptions that dog's should have doggy breath, bad breath is often a sign of something requiring attention.
Odor from the Ears
If the odor comes from your dog's face area, you may want to give those doggy ears a quick sniff. Does your female dog's ears smell bad? If so, they may require veterinary attention. One common culprit of bad odor of dog ears consists of ear infections.
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A musky, yeasty odor coming from the ears may be indicative of an ear yeast infection which often requires medications from your vet in order to heal.
On top of the odor, dogs with ear infections will often scratch their ears, shake their heads side to side and keep the head tilted.
Odor From the Coat
A dog's coat is often noted for having a typical doggy odor, and this is quite normal when dogs haven't had a bath for a while. When a dog's coat is wet, it is also known for having a characteristic "wet dog smell," but if the odor is intense, almost sweet in a sickly way, it can be a sign of a skin infection. Dogs can get skin yeast infections at times and these require treatment from a vet.
Did you know? A typical odor resembling popcorn or corn chips (Frito Feet!) coming from your dog's feet can be indicative of a yeast infection affecting the dog's paws.
Odor From the Rear End
If your female dog's odor is coming from the rear, it could be you are dealing with a urinary tract infection. Suspect this if your dog is peeing around the house, leaking urine, asking to go out frequently or straining to urinate. Blood can sometimes be seen in a dog's urine.
Another issue from back there are anal gland problems. In case you are wondering, dogs have anal glands that are found around the dog's rectum and these anal glands normally express some fluid when they poop. However, sometimes if the dog produces soft feces, they may fail to express as they normally should.
When the glands don't express themselves, they tend to get swollen and full and the dog may bite them or start scooting, dragging the bottom against the floor. If your dog is able to successful excrete some anal gland fluid, you will likely know: anal gland secretions are notorious for having a strong, bad odor that has been compared to spoiled fish. So if your dog smells fishy, suspect an anal gland problem and see your vet.
"The anal glands are a normal part of the dog's anatomy and if they are creating a smell frequently this most likely means they are impacted and full. Have your vet empty the anal glands for you, this is a very minor and quick procedure...~Dr. Scott Nimmo, veterinarian
Odors in Intact Female Dogs
Other odors from the rear end may stem from other causes and some are unique to intact female dogs (non-spayed). If your female dog is intact, consider that intact female dogs in general go into heat every 6 to 8 months or so. When the heat cycle starts, female dogs tend to have discharge that starts out bloody and then becomes pinkish or straw-colored as they reach their fertile stage.
If your dog is in heat or nearing heat, you may therefore attribute the odor to the presence of this discharge, especially if the odor is clearly coming from the rear-end.
A more worrisome cause of odor in intact female dogs may stem from a medical condition known as canine pyometra. Pyometra is a potentially life-threatening infection of the uterus and it seen mostly in middle-aged to senior dogs. Pyometra typically strikes female dogs anywhere from four to six weeks after going into heat and causes lack of appetite, vomiting, weakness, vaginal discharge with foul smell (not always though, as in the case of closed pyometra) increased drinking, increased urination and a swollen abdomen. See your vet immediately if you notice any of these symptoms in an intact female dog.
Finally, other potential causes of odors in intact female dogs who have recently whelped (had puppies) are infections. If there's a foul vaginal discharge around a week after whelping puppies, and your dog appears feverish, lethargic and not interested in eating, suspect metritis, an inflammation of the dog's uterus lining, which is often caused by retained placentas or retained fetuses. Again, see your vet promptly if you notice any of these signs.