Why Do Old Dogs Smell? Worries And Solutions

There’s nothing quite like having a furry companion (or two!) by your side. For me, that means my lovable goofballs Duke and Bella.

These two pups bring so much joy into my life with their playful personalities and unconditional love. Of course, it’s fun to go on hikes with them but they even make hanging out around the house more enjoyable.

Dogs like Duke and Bella add an element of fun and excitement to even the crumbiest of days.

It’s important to remember that as our pets age, their needs change too. Good dog owners need to pay attention to their furry friends and adjust their care accordingly.

Sometimes our old dogs can start to smell, and it can be hard to figure out why. If your pooch is in that boat, don’t worry, I have you covered.

So, why do old dogs smell? The answer for why your older dog is starting to smell is likely because of one or more of these reasons:

  • Your dog is dirty
  • Your dog has poor oral health
  • Your dog has issues with her anal glands
  • Your dog suffers from incontinence
  • Your dog has skin problems
  • Your dog has kidney problems
  • Your dog has digestive issues
  • Your dog has other infections

While some of these might seem obvious at first glance. There are reasons they come up more in older dogs. Let’s look at each reason and then go over solutions to help you keep your old dog smelling better.

Your Dog Is Dirty

Our furry friends keep themselves fairly clean. Okay…we all know…that’s not always the case. Even the most well-behaved pooch is apt to get themselves really dirty once in a while!

But aside from these rare occasions when it’s obvious that you need to intervene with a bath, dogs, with the help of their buddies, can usually get themselves cleaned up pretty well.

However, certain factors that come with aging like some health conditions, can significantly impact their ability to groom themselves effectively.

Older dogs, for instance, may develop arthritis that limits their ability to reach some areas for cleaning. This means that your older pooch is dirtier (and smellier) than she used to be.

Poor Oral Health

We often don’t think of our dogs’ oral hygiene in the same way we think of ours. But dogs can and do suffer from the same issues we do.

Years of unbrushed teeth can lead to bacterial buildup and medical issues such as infections in the mouth can cause senior dogs to stink.

Issues With Anal Glands

These glands produce a fluid that doesn’t smell very pleasant. Normally, the glands are expressed when your dog goes poo, however, that doesn’t happen in all dogs.

Some dogs will need their anal glands expressed for them because it doesn’t happen naturally.

If that’s the case with your dog, and you haven’t expressed the anal glands, expect your good girl to be stinky.


Just like humans, as dogs age, some of them start to lose control of ‘holding it’.

Obviously, if your dog urinates all over herself you’ll probably notice right away. And without a quick clean-up, she’ll start to smell.

What isn’t so obvious to dog owners is when their good girls have little leaks here and there. These can add up to a big problem. 

Because you likely won’t notice any single, small leak they will build up in your good girl’s fur and smell.

Skin Problems

As dogs age, they may suffer from more issues that affect their skin.  Some of these skin problems can smell in their own right.

Then, on top of that, most dogs will attempt to get relief by biting and licking their skin and fur.

This wet fur is an excellent breeding ground for even more smelly bacteria.

Kidney Problems

The kidneys are essential organs that act as filters for the body, removing toxins and other substances it wants to flush out. Without proper kidney function, these substances can accumulate and cause bad breath, body odor, and other problems.

Digestive Issues

As dogs age, sometimes their digestive system doesn’t work as efficiently as it once did. Not that dog toots are ever pleasant, but dogs with digestive issues can have even more unpleasant smelling flatulence.

Other Infections

The overall theme I’m sure you’ve noticed is: that as we age our bodies become less able to stave off infections and other problems.

This can lead to unpleasant odors associated with these issues which can range from mild to very foul smelling. As the immune system becomes weaker, the risk of coming into contact with potentially hazardous bacteria increases, making it more important than ever to keep up a good hygiene routine.

Is It Okay That My Old Dog Smells?

If you have an older dog, you may have noticed that her scent is becoming stronger or more pungent. While it’s not uncommon for dogs to have a distinct odor, an unusually strong or unpleasant smell from your aging buddy could be a sign of an underlying issue.

It’s important to investigate the root cause of the smell and not simply ignore it. It may be nothing serious and simply a minor issue, but it’s always best to address it. I’m sure you want your dog to have the highest quality of life possible.

Take the time to identify the cause of the odor, and address the issue accordingly. This way you can help ensure that your dog lives a happy and comfortable life.

How Do I Stop My Old Dog From Smelling?

Great! You’ve decided to figure out what’s going on with your dog, improve her quality of life and give your nose some relief.

Give Your Dog A Bath

As I mentioned above when dogs age, their grooming habits may begin to decline and they may develop odors as a result.

Regular bathing and grooming can help your furry companion stay fresh and clean scent. Bathing your dog can help remove excess oils, dirt, and debris from their coat while also reducing any skin irritations that may contribute to their odor.

If you’re unable to handle the grooming yourself, consider taking your dog to a professional groomer who can ensure that your dog receives a thorough cleaning from top to bottom.

Keep Up On Dental Health

Poor dental hygiene can contribute to bad breath and other health problems, especially as your dog ages. So, as your dog grows older, it’s essential to remember her dental health. During your routine checkups with your veterinarian be sure to ask about any dental issues your dog might be facing and learn how to address them promptly. Regular cleaning and maintenance can help prevent these issues from developing and lead to a healthier, fresher-smelling mouth.

Express The Anal Glands As Necessary

When anal glands don’t regularly express themselves, you’ll need to assist your lovable canine pal. Ask your vet if you need to and how to express your dog’s anal glands so you know how to help solve your good girl’s stinky problem.

Regular Vet Visits

Regular veterinary checkups are crucial in identifying and managing any health concerns that could contribute to your dog’s odor. During these visits, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough wellness check. Allowing any underlying issues to be addressed timely.

Discuss any concerns you may have with your veterinarian and feel free to ask questions. Establishing a good relationship with your vet can ensure that you receive the best care possible and that any issues contributing to your dog’s odor are resolved promptly.

Wrapping It Up: Why Does My Old Dog Smell Bad?

Old dogs can smell for a handful of reasons, including not being able to self-groom as well, poor oral hygiene, skin problems, incontinence, issues with their anal glands, and kidney or digestive issues.

Poor oral hygiene, caused by years of unbrushed teeth and the build-up of bacteria due to medical infections in the mouth, can lead to foul odors.

Skin problems can also cause bad smells as dogs attempt to soothe themselves by licking or biting their fur which can create a breeding ground for bacteria.

Incontinence may also be a problem for older dogs leading to a urine smell that occurs when they are unable to control where they urinate. Issues with anal glands may also occur if they are not expressed naturally.

Kidney problems and digestive issues can also contribute to bad smells as toxins accumulate in the body and cause foul breath and body odors.

Pet owners need to keep up a good hygiene routine with old dogs to minimize any problems that could lead to smells. Unfortunately, these occur more often as their bodies age and become less able to fight off infections.

Regular vet visits and grooming can help identify any potential issues as well as address them accordingly. These steps will ensure that your beloved old dog lives a happy and comfortable life.

Please note: If you are concerned about your dog’s health, please consult with your veterinarian. They will be able to provide the best advice for the care of your pet.

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