Why Does My Female Dog Smell Bad?

By Adrienne Farricelli

While your female dog may not smell as good as freshly showered humans, consider that any unusual smells may be indicative of an underlying health problem. Among the various issues that could trigger unpleasant odors in female dogs are included some "female issues" along with several standard odor-causing conditions that can affect dogs in general regardless of gender. With the help of your vet, you can get to the source of these unpleasant smells and hopefully reduce them once and for all.

Female in Heat

If your female dog is intact, she likely will come into heat twice a year . Depending on what point she is in the heat cycle, she will have a vaginal discharge that may range from straw colored to bloody. If your dog is showing signs of being in heat and you notice an odor, it could be coming from her discharge. During the heat cycle, female dogs may give off an offensive odor, explains Wendy C. Brooks, veterinarian and owner of Mar Vista Animal Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.

A Life-Threatening Pyometra

Another potential cause of odor in intact female dogs is pyometra, a potentially fatal infection of the uterus mostly affecting middle-aged and older dogs. Suspect a case of pyometra any time a nonspayed dog develops any of the following symptoms about four to six weeks after going into heat.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Increased drinking
  • Increased urination
  • White or green vulvar discharge
  • Foul smell from vulva
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Shock

See your vet immediately if you notice symptoms of pyometra. Let untreated, this condition progresses rapidly and can lead to death from the accumulation of toxins leaking into the abdomen.

Post-Whelping Complication

If your female dog whelped a litter of puppies, and now, about a week later, you notice a discharge from the vulva that smells bad, suspect a case of metritis, the inflammation of the lining of the dog's uterus. This condition is often associated with retained placentas or retained fetuses and can occasionally develop after an abortion or after mating. Accompanying symptoms may include:

  • A swollen, abdomen
  • Fever
  • Fast heart rate
  • Dehydration
  • Red gums
  • Decreased milk production
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Loss of interest in puppies

Like pyometra, metritis requires prompt treatment. Left untreated, this condition may lead to sterility and may progress to septic shock.

Other Troublesome Smells

Anytime you smell a foul odor, it's a good idea to inspect your dog for signs of problems. Sniff your dog carefully. Bad odor from your dog's mouth can be caused by dental disease. A musky, yeasty odor coming from the ears, may be indicative of an ear infection, while a musty and pungent smell coming from your dog's rear, may be suggestive of infected anal glands. If you notice an odor resembling popcorn or corn chips emanating from your dog's feet it may be a sign of a yeast infection affecting the dog's paws, explains Karen Becker, author and veterinarian at Natural Pet Animal Hospital in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

If you notice a persistent foul odor coming from your female dog, see your vet whether you find the source of the problem or not. Your vet may need to conduct diagnostic tests to rule out underlying health conditions.