Why Do Old Dogs Smell?

by | May 19 2022

We love our dogs, and watching them grow old can be tough.

We start to notice the subtle signs of ageing, like taking an extra few minutes to get moving in the morning or lagging behind us on our daily walks. Over time, they might stop responding when we call their name, and their eyes start to get cloudy. As heartbreaking as it is for us, it’s a natural part of the ageing process.

There’s also a certain odour that often accompanies older dogs, which can be rather unpleasant. But what exactly causes this odour? Why do old dogs smell and is there anything you can do to avoid it?

In today’s article, we’ll explore the reasons your dog might be a bit smellier than it used to be. We’ll also outline some tactics you can use to keep your canine companion smelling good throughout their twilight years.


Common reasons for that ‘old dog’ smell


Dogs can be smelly at any age. Some love to roll in fox poo, while others stink to high heaven when they get wet. However, as they age, their coat can start to smell pretty bad and their breath would nearly knock you out!

A bit of a musky scent is natural and nothing to worry about, but a particularly foul odour (either from their skin, coat, or breath) can often indicate an underlying health condition that needs to be checked out as soon as possible.

Here are some of the most common reasons for this distinctive “Eau d’OAP”:



Older pets tend to have more sensitive digestive tracts, leading to more frequent bouts of flatulence.



Just like humans, senior pets can often experience incontinence as they lose their ability to control their bladder. Infections, tumours, and kidney disease are all common culprits that can cause urine leakages.



Diabetes affects the body’s ability to produce insulin, which leads to dangerously high levels of sugar in the bloodstream. It is fairly common in older dogs and can cause their breath to smell oddly sweet (or foul in some cases).


Dental disease

Dental disease is very common, affecting up to two-thirds of dogs over the age of three. If the teeth are not taken care of properly, plaque and tartar will build up over time. This can lead to periodontal disease, tooth decay, and halitosis.


Kidney disease

Kidney disease also affects your dog’s breath. If the kidneys are not functioning correctly, toxins can build up in your dog’s system and cause issues in other areas of the body.

Left untreated, this can lead to kidney disease and even kidney failure. If your old dog has smellier breath than usual, make sure you take them to the vet for a checkup.



Many dogs have skin allergies and issues that can lead to dermatitis. Scratching and biting at the itchy patches for relief can cause unpleasant smells due to fur loss, dryness, scabs, and infections.


Lack of grooming

Dogs love to groom themselves and keep their coats clean, but this can become difficult as they age and start to experience arthritis or other mobility issues. When they are unable to groom themselves properly, excess dander and oils start to build up in the skin. Over time, this can lead to foul smells.



Many pets with allergies or other skin disorders can acquire infections and scabs on the skin. Ear infections and urinary tract infections are also common in dogs, so make sure you regularly inspect your dog’s skin, coat, and ears for signs of infection.


What can you do to improve the smell?


Most dogs have a naturally musky scent due to the oils in their skin and coat. Some people love it, some people hate it, but hey — it comes with the territory! As they get older, however, there are steps you can take to keep the smells as inoffensive as possible. These include:


Health checks

As we have seen, most foul smells are due to an underlying health condition. Taking your dog to the vet for regular checkups is the best way to ensure problems are diagnosed and treated before they become more serious.


Dental hygiene

We all know how important dental hygiene is for ourselves, but we should also take care of our dog’s teeth and gum health. Poor dental care in their early years can lead to dental disease later in life, resulting in foul-smelling breath, tooth decay, and tooth loss.



Baths can be an enjoyable part of your routine, and they will help to keep your dog smelling fresh and clean. Always use hypoallergenic products that are designed to suit their skin and coat.


Why Do Old Dogs Smell - Mark + Chappell (3)


Treat your dog to regular visits to a dog groomer. To make sure it’s a positive experience for them, look for an experienced groomer who has a natural affinity for dogs. Your dog will love all the pampering and come out smelling lovely!



Watch their diet to see how your dog reacts to certain foods. Allergies or intolerances often get more pronounced as your dog gets older, so you may need to adapt their diet to keep them in tip-top health. Keeping bad smells at bay can sometimes be as simple as swapping to a different brand or including/excluding particular ingredients from their diet.




Here at Mark + Chappell, we’re all about the welfare of your pets.

That’s why we offer a range of products to help your older dog look, feel, and smell better:

  • Our Dental Care range has everything you need to keep your dog’s mouth clean and healthy.
  • Our Hygiene and Grooming range is designed to keep your dog’s skin, coat, ears and eyes in top shape as they age.
  • VetIQ® Arthriti-UM Advanced Hip & Joint Care provides targeted support for ageing joints, helping your dog to move comfortably and stay active for longer.
  • VetIQ® Senior Care helps to meet their nutritional needs as they age, including all the essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

Visit us today and make sure your older dog has everything they need to stay healthy for many years to come!


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