Dear Dr. Zeus, In this warm weather I have become increasingly stinky. So much so that I don’t get to sleep on the bed because the smell permeates EVERYTHING! Why am I so stinky? I haven’t rolled in anything deliciously dead and I get bathed all the time. Help! – Maximo the Golden
Dear Maximo, I have a (stinky) friend that is in a similar situation so think I know just the solution for you. In the summer months, and this is especially true for dogs with double coats, there are three main causes for canine body odor. If your dog is eliciting a stink that cannot be pinpointed, it can usually be traced back to the bacteria or yeast present in the skin. Oily skin may also be a factor as well as there is always the obvious alternative that you did in fact roll in something dead! But let’s assume you didn’t. In the summer months when it gets warmer the heat prompts the bacteria or yeasts growth that lives on your dogs skin, which in some cases creates an unidentifiable stench. It always fascinates me to think of skin in this way, but it is the largest organ in a dog’s body and it is an eliminating organ. This means that everything that flows through the immune system is forced through or filtered out through the skin. The immune system forces the metabolic debris to the skin where the dogs own bacteria eats it. This is all perfectly natural and is also a fascinating example of symbiosis on a microscopic level! Another interesting aspect of a dog’s skin is that a dog’s coat is naturally self-cleaning, via the bacteria, but also by the actual design of their hair, which have upward facing scales that move debris and dirt away from the skin. Where the odor comes into play is when this symbiotic system is overwhelmed and the output is greater than the bacteria on the dogs skin can consume. The smell is debris on the skin decomposing.
Just like people, some dogs have oilier skin than others. If this is the case, the smell comes from the excess of oil building up on the skin and the bacteria not being able to consume it fast enough. This is a condition that is called primary seborrhea, and can usually be identified by yellow or brown scales that can typically be found on the elbows, hocks, and around the dogs ears. This condition results in either dry or oily skin that emits a foul odor. This is often subdued with special shampoo.
Both options discussed above do put the dog’s skin at risk, especially with outside bacteria and yeast, which can potentially cause more damage to the skin. There are preventative measures one can take though to make sure their dog’s skin is healthy. One of which is paying attention to what is actually in the shampoo that you are washing your dog with. Surprisingly, Head and Shoulders is a great option for a dog with smelly skin due to bacteria or excess debris because it contains zinc! Anti-fungal and anti-bacterial shampoos are also a great solution as they keep the skin clean and act as deodorizers. Sometimes making a dietary change can be a great help too, as some foods promote a higher level of oil production in dogs as opposed to others.
I hope that this helps you out, Maximo! In the meantime, stay out of the heat.
Regards, Dr. Zeus
Category : Ask Dr. Zeus