Skip to Content

Help! My Senior Dog Smells Bad

2 old shaggy dogs walking down a gravel trail

Canines do have a characteristic smell to them, but it’s not unpleasant. However, they can develop a nasty odor as they grow old. In most cases, this funky smell is attributed to bad hygiene habits but that’s not true. Several medical reasons can also be responsible if your senior dog smells bad. Keep reading to know about all these causes and their possible remedies.

Why is My Senior Dog Smelling Bad?

The causes of a smelly dog can be divided into two categories (medical and behavioral).

Medical Reasons

Some of the diseases that make your pup smell bad are discussed below.

Dental Problems

Close up of a dogs teeth

Bad breath is one of the major culprits of your dog’s funky smell. It is caused by the accumulation of plaque and tartar on teeth and can result in infections and tooth loss. Similarly, periodontal disease is quite common among senior dogs. 


It is common for canines with diabetes to have a smelly mouth. This smell can become very nasty if your pup starts ketosis. In this condition, the body of your pooch is using fats for energy due to the shortage of carbohydrates.

Kidney Disease

Portrait of a Jack Russell Terrier outdoors

This medical problem is also quite common among older dogs. The kidneys of an affected pup do not work properly and toxins start building up in the body. This produces a bad odor that can be smelled from your dog’s body, especially his/her mouth.


Some senior dogs tend to have more and more accidents as they grow old. This is because the muscles of their urinary tracts weaken and their ability to “hold” is affected. Hence, your pup becomes more vulnerable to foul smells.

Skin Allergies

Shaggy, long eared, black and tan dog scratching behind it's ear

Several skin problems, including allergies, can lead to dermatitis in dogs. It is caused by the moisture caught between the folds of your canine’s skin. The affected canine will indulge in excessive licking and scratching that will intensify the nasty odor even more. Such rigorous grooming will also cause dryness, hot spots, and even infections.

Ear Infections

This problem is quite common among dogs with hairy or floppy hair. This is because they have excess hair around the ears, which are ideal for mites and bacterial growth. Likewise, they might groom themselves too much that will provide the necessary moisture for infections.

Impacted Anal Glands

Tan dog with a curled tail havein it's anal glands expressed

These pea-sized sacs are located on either side of the rectum. They secrete unique-smelling oil that is responsible for marking the scent of a dog. Any trauma, injury, or infection to these glands can make this oil stinky. Hence, your pooch will start smelling bad. 


Flatulence is a natural phenomenon for dogs and owners have to live with it. Fortunately, most of the gas that passes through your pup’s digestive tract is odorless. However, senior dogs tend to smell bad because they are more sensitive and can develop food intolerance and other diseases. 

Behavioral Reasons

Close up of a shaggy grey and black dog

The following behavioral changes can also be responsible for the funky odor of your canine friend.

Lack of Grooming – Older pups find it difficult to groom themselves as they develop arthritis and other diseases. As a result, more and more oil and dander start accumulating on the skin and fur of your pooch. This will result in a foul-smelling dog that will require frequent baths and cleaning. Matting is also a common problem with such canines. 

Cognitive Decline – Old age can be a very difficult phase for dogs because they start forgetting their training. Consequently, they become confused and may lie down (and sleep) in unsanitary places. This will make your dog much more vulnerable to dirty and smelly coat. 

What to Do if My Senior Dog Smells Bad?

Human hands scrubbing a black and white dog in a bathtub with a bright pink mat in the bottom

The very first thing is to identify the underlying cause for the nasty odor of your dog. Start by visiting the vet for a detailed examination to rule out the medical reasons. The veterinarian will check for all the physical causes to ensure that your pooch is medically fit. If a problem is detected, the vet will prescribe a suitable plan of action to cure the underlying problem.

If nothing is diagnosed, you will have to observe your pup’s habits to determine what’s wrong. The following tips can prevent your older dog from smelling bad if he/she is healthy.

  • Ensure regular brushing of teeth to minimize the accumulation of plaque and tartar.
  • Groom your dog often to keep the coat free from dander, dirt, and oil.
  • Clean the dog bed and wash the food bowls regularly.
  • Give your pooch a healthy diet to limit the possibilities of different ailments, like diabetes and GI issues.
  • Always keep the skin around the ears clean and dry.
  • Clean your pup with dog wipes, especially after an outdoor playing session, to keep the coat fresh.  

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.