Dogs and cats are wonderful snuggle-buddies on a cold evening but when they suddenly have a bad odor this snuggling can be a lot less pleasant. Some pet odors are normal but many are not and can actually indicate a medical problem. If your pet’s odor is different or stronger than usual it can be helpful to narrow down where the smell is coming from. Each body part can have it’s own normal smells as well as abnormal smells that can indicate a problem.
Bad Breath: The aroma of pet foods are often not appetizing to humans. This odor can be easily removed with daily tooth brushing. You can learn how to brush teeth by reading our blog. Food that is not brushed off the teeth can lead to plaque and tartar accumulation and gingivitis. If untreated this eventually leads to periodontal disease, which is an infection of the mouth, and progresses to worse complications such as tooth loosening and loss and tooth abscesses. Periodontal disease bad breath can range from mildly offensive to downright putrid. Often the worst cases of bad breath indicate a tooth abscess and this needs medical attention ASAP. Learn more about dental disease by reading our blog.
Smelly Feet: Our pets walk on the ground barefoot, may dig in the litter box, walk through mud and pick up some bad smells in a variety of ways. These smells are easily bathed away. Our pets also have sweat glands in their feet and the skin is populated by a delicately balanced flora of yeast and bacteria, sometimes giving paws a slight “corn chip” or “Frito” odor. If this odor is more than minimal or suddenly different, especially if it is associated with excessive paw-licking, redness, moisture or hair loss it usually indicates a skin infection of the paws called pododermatitis. A variety of triggers, such as allergies, can lead to a flora imbalance and infection of the paws. Paw infections require medical treatment.
Smelly Ears: Cat and dog ears produce wax (cerumen) and are home to a balanced flora of yeast and bacteria which has a very minimal odor. If ears are noticeably smelly or wax production is increased it is usually due to an ear infection. Flora of the ear can become imbalanced for a variety of reasons including allergies and ears staying wet after swimming. The flora imbalance leads to overgrowth of yeast or bacteria which is now an ear infection. Ear infections require correct diagnosis of the type of infection by a veterinarian and medical treatment.
Smelly Skin: Dogs and cats have oil glands in their skin that help keep the haircoat shiney and skin protected. In addition there is a delicate flora of yeast and bacteria living on the skin. The odor of a normal dog or cat haircoat is very mild and most people do not find it to be unpleasant. Sometimes dogs will find something very smelly, like a rotten squirrel carcass or bunny poop to roll in, and they love to come home smelly so you can smell all the yucky stuff they found. This type of bad odor is readily resolved with a good bath. When the odor is not from rolling in something gross and it is accompanied by scratching, skin reddening or color change, rash or hair loss it probably is caused by a skin infection. Similar to ears and feet, skin also has its own flora and can become imbalanced because of many factors. Once a skin infection is present, correct medical diagnosis and treatment are required to resolve the infection and therefore the odor.
Smelly Hind End: Dogs and cats have anal glands that produce a fishy smelling substance that is normally secreted during bowel movements to let other animals know who’s poop it is. They may also release this smelly substance when they are excited or scared. An occasional hind end fishy smell that can be wiped away with a baby wipe is not concerning. However, if this smell is noted frequently, or accompanied by frequent scooting, licking or redness it likely means a problem with the anal glands or surrounding areas. Anal glands can become infected, impacted, abscessed and are susceptible to a variety of other conditions. Anal gland issues require veterinary diagnosis and treatment. The other hind end smell that can be normal or excessive is flatulence. Dogs and cats, just like humans, fart sometimes. Occasional gas, especially after meals, is perfectly normal. Pets that are constantly gassy and continually clearing the room may benefit from a consultation with their veterinarian about other symptoms and diet. Often excessive flatulence can be reduced to a manageable level, by addressing dietary and any underlying digestive issues, which can be a breath of fresh air for everyone.