Dr. David Quach
Senior Veterinarian in Creature Comforts Housecall
Summer is a great time for dogs and their paw parents. Lots of opportunities to go for swims, hikes, or simply sit at an outdoor cafe and watch the world go by. But some paw parents may find that their dogs are smellier than usual, during or after these activities. There are a number of reasons why this may be the case, and we will be discussing some of these causes.
The first thing to remember is – quite often the reason for the smell is that your dog is suffering from a skin disease or an ear infection. This is very common for dogs in Hong Kong and even more so in the summer. When it gets hot and humid, so many types of skin diseases can occur, especially if your dog has sensitive skin, has floppy or hairy ears that are prone to infections, or if you've recently wet/washed your dog and did not dry them thoroughly.
This can happen when you've washed your dog or after they went for a swim. If you did not dry the fur well(common in thick coated dogs), the moisture remains and can irritate the skin. Combined with the heat and humidity of the Hong Kong summer, that can be quite uncomfortable for your dog and they might start to scratch or lick the area. This all leads to a single large patch of raw and itchy/painful skin called a hot spot. And is really smelly!
How to Prevent it: Dry the fur thoroughly. This can be very tedious with large dogs with thick coats (think Huskies) so you may need professional help. I've had Husky owners tell me they spend several hours just drying their dogs to make sure this doesn't happen.
If your dog has floppy or hairy ears, goes for a swim and you've forgotten to rinse out all that salty sea water or chlorinated water, then there's a good chance the stink you're smelling is coming from the ears. Its a very pungent, yeasty smell. Like a damp towel, but worse. You'll also notice your dog scratching their ears or shaking their head a lot more when this happens.
How to Prevent it: Dogs with ear infections will need a vet visit and medicated ear drops. We can try to avoid an infection by giving the ears a good clean after each swim. If your dog has hairy or floppy ears – it might be a good idea to clean their ears regularly, depending on how hairy and whether your dog has any underlying allergies. I usually recommend somewhere between once a week to every 2-3 weeks. But definitely after swims.
If your dog is prone to allergies, the hot and humid weather will make it worse. Allergies can also flare up from going to the park, where there's a good chance they're getting bitten by insects. For dogs that are not particularly sensitive, an insect bite might make them just a bit itchy. But for dogs that are very allergy-prone, their body has a more exaggerated response and can lead to allergic reactions. Red spots appear, which lead to scratching and an overall very uncomfortable dog. This inflammation in the skin is where the smell comes from.
How to Prevent it: If you’ve noticed that your dog is smellier or scratching more than usual every time you’re at the park or at a particular spot,then there's a good chance that your dog is allergic to something in that environment. Make a note of these places and it might be best to avoid them. Otherwise, you can still go to these places but let your vet know. Your dog can pre-emptively take some allergy pills before and after to help minimise the allergic response.
It’s normal for dogs to have bacteria on their skin. This is healthy flora that keeps the balance of their skin and even plays a role in protecting them. Like all living organisms, they too release waste, and this excrement/waste product usually just sits on the skin/fur of your dog without you or them ever noticing. Its harmless. But what happens when your pooch gets wet, whether from walking in the rain, having a dip or simply during a very humid day? The moisture dislodges these chemicals so that they become airborne and float to your noise – that’s the musty stink you might smell, also known as wet dog smell.
How to Prevent it: There's no real preventative as you cannot eliminate the bacteria. What you can do to reduce any stink is simply to dry your dog soon after getting wet. Towel dry or a hair dryer the best way to do this.