Why Does My Old Dog Smell Bad?

By Jane Meggitt

If your old dog smells bad, take him to the vet for an examination. Stinking isn't a natural part of canine aging, but might be related to ailments common in geriatric dogs, including kidney or dental disease. If he reeks due to flatulence, he might have gastrointestinal problems or require dietary changes. Bad odors can signify canine cancer, especially in the mouth. Your vet can get to the bottom of your dog's foul scent and treat him accordingly.

Dental Disease

If your dog's breath smells terrible, he needs more than just a good canine mouthwash. Dental and periodontal problems are common in senior dogs. Your vet examines your dog's mouth as part of his semiannual wellness visit. Elderly dogs should visit the vet every six months, so incipient problems might be nipped in the bud. Depending on the condition of your dog's mouth, he might require tooth extraction, gum surgery or a thorough cleaning, all done under anesthesia.

Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence, or lack of bladder control, often occurs in older dogs. While any canine might suffer from urinary incontinence, the condition most often occurs in senior spayed females. Certain breeds are predisposed to urinary incontinence, including the springer and cocker spaniel, Old English sheepdog and Doberman pinscher. Your dog will reek of urine as it dribbles out of her and onto her lower legs and body. Urinary incontinence can signal a bladder infection. Your vet will conduct blood tests and a urinalysis. Treatment depends on the cause. For simple incontinence, your vet can prescribe medication to strengthen your dog's sphincter muscle for better urine control, or offer hormonal therapy. Incontinence is also a sign of kidney disease.

Kidney Disease

Bad breath doesn't just signal mouth issues. It's also a sign of kidney disease, a frequent occurrence in older pets. Dogs with kidney disease might give off an odor in general. Other symptoms include excess water consumption and increased urination, dull coat, appetite loss and mouth soreness. While there's no cure for chronic kidney disease -- with the extremely expensive exception of a kidney transplant -- your vet can prescribe a special kidney diet for your dog that helps manage this progressive condition.

Skin Disease

Old dogs with skin infections can smell pretty funky. Secondary bacterial infections from constant scratching can give off a putrid odor, as can yeast infections in your dog's ears, paws or elsewhere. It can indicate that your dog suffers from hypothyroidism, or insufficient thyroid hormone, another frequent problem in senior canines. Your vet will conduct various tests to determine the cause of your dog's skin issues. If there's an infection, she'll likely prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medications. If your dog is diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a daily thyroid pill, necessary for the rest of his life, can reverse many symptoms.