Q & A: What’s that smell?

Q: Should I be concerned about my dog’s bad odour?

A: There is a skin condition in dogs that can cause them to smell bad. This skin condition is called seborrhoea. There are two forms of this disease: the oily form and the dry form. Most dogs get a combination of the two forms. The disease causes the skin to be flaky and exude a greasy substance that causes the hair to clump, especially in areas of friction like in the armpits and under the belly. Dogs may start scratching these areas, causing them to bleed. The damaged skin can also cause secondary infections.

Seborrhoea usually affects dogs before the age of two years, and tends to progressively get worse as the patient gets older. Sometimes seborrhoea can be secondary to an underlying disease process, which can include allergies, parasites, auto-immune disorders, dietary deficiencies and hormonal disorders. Your veterinarian will do tests to distinguish whether your dog has a primary or secondary skin disorder. These tests include a physical examination of your dog, skin scrapings to rule out skin parasites, skin-tissue sampling for the culture of possible fungal or bacterial organisms, a faecal exam and blood tests.

Always remember to visit your vet for a regular examination of your dog’s mouth, as well as his anal glands. These areas can also often be the root cause of a very, very bad smell!

Dr Letitia Swartz, veterinarian