If your dog smells sweet, there’s a good chance they just rolled in something that smells sweet. However, if you notice a sweet smell coming from the ears or breath, take your dog to the vet. The sweet scent could be a sign of an ear infection, diabetes, or even ketoacidosis.
Dogs can produce an incredible amount of smells, ranging from pleasant to horrifying. Dog owners do their best to keep the smells outside and keep their dogs fresh and clean, but sometimes a disturbing smell creeps through.
It’s pretty easy to tell if your dog stinks from a roll in something nasty outside. If, however, your dog smells sweet and there’s no sign they rolled in something, it’s time for a health check.
The key is to use your nose and determine what part of your dog is producing the smell. The most common sources for a sweet smell are the dog’s coat and skin, ears, urine, and breath.
Examine your dog at different times of day, sniffing different parts of his body, including trying to catch a whiff of his urine when outside. The answer will probably become clear fairly quickly.
Each potential source of smell indicates an entirely different issue that should be addressed for the safety, comfort, and sanity of both dog and human.
Sweet Smelling Fur
If pressing your nose to your dog’s back floods you with a musty odor, your dog might just need a bath.
While everyone knows what a dog that has rolled in feces or skunk smells like, fewer people know that every dog produces a unique scent from the oils in their skin and coat. These build up over time. While not actively harmful, your dog cannot clean himself sufficiently to clear away that buildup.
If you can smell your dog when he walks by, it’s time to brace yourself and break out the bathtub or garden hose.
You can use a dog formulated shampoo or even a gentle human shampoo. If your dog has dandruff buildup, consider a shampoo formulated to address the issue.
Take it easy and try not to hurt or scare your dog while bathing him. Peanut butter is a popular bath time treat because you can spread it on the wall to distract your dog.
If your dog smells funny after a recent bath, it might be the unique combination of his natural musk and the shampoo you used; this should fade in time to a more normal smell.
If your dog’s skin gets greasy and musty quickly, this can be a sign of inflammation due to allergies. Feeding your dog a diet high in carbs and common allergens like grains, milk, and soy can cause yeast infections and oil secretion.
Talk to your vet about allergy-friendly dog foods and allergy medication options for your dog to keep his skin and hair healthy and fresh.
Sweet Smelling Ears
If your dog’s ears are giving off a sweet smell, chances are you have also seen him scratching his ears, rubbing his face on the ground, or shaking his head frequently. Infections are even more common in dogs with floppy ears and dogs who swim frequently.
Consider cleaning your dog’s ears regularly if he is at risk of infection and examine them periodically for warning signs.
Ear infections can repeatedly return in certain dogs, becoming a frustrating problem, so try to make an action plan with your vet.
The sweet, yeasty smell comes from a fungal infection where skin and gut bacteria are overgrown.
These infections are very uncomfortable for your dog. He may harm himself or damage his ear trying to clear away the pain.
If your dog’s ears are red, swollen, or full of discharge in addition to the smell, take him to the vet promptly.
Yeast infections are tied to the gut, so allergies or diets high in carbs and sugar can exacerbate them and make them chronic.
A simple blood test can help clarify which common allergens might be troubling your dog. Consider switching your infection-prone dog to higher quality food with fewer fillers or food that is formulated for dogs with common allergies. Your vet might even recommend probiotics to control and support gut bacteria long term.
For many dogs, especially those with floppy ears, regular ear cleaning can help prevent infections and discomfort.
Talk to your vet about how often to clean your dog’s ears. Your dog might be stressed out by the new experience, so practice handling his ears frequently to get him used to it. Use damp cotton pads, not buds, and wipe the inside of the ear. You can then use a dog-specific cleaning formula in the ear, massaging it at the base to help the cleaning fluid penetrate. If your dog has ear medication, be sure to clean his ear before applying the medicine, not after.
Sweet Smelling Breath
If a sickly sweet smell comes from your dog’s mouth, this can indicate diabetes or other serious issues. Just like dogs can sometimes smell diabetes in a human’s breath, you can smell the signs of the disease in your dog.
Dogs with untreated diabetes break down fat instead of sugars, which create molecules known as ketone bodies. The fruity smell on a dog’s breath can signal ketone bodies being eliminated.
Vets can quickly test your dog for diabetes, which is a lifelong condition that requires careful management.
With treatments like insulin shots, exercise, and special food, dogs with diabetes can enjoy a long, full life. Untreated diabetes can weaken and even kill your dog, so take a dog with fruity breath to the vet.
There are a few other unusual breath smells to watch out for. If your dog’s breath smells more like ammonia, he might be fighting kidney disease. If the smell is truly rotten, it can be a sign of oral tumors or severe periodontal disease, both of which can threaten your dog’s health. If the smell of your dog’s breath changes significantly, the safest bet is to take him to the vet for a checkup.
Sweet Smelling Urine
Sometimes, a dog’s sweet smell can be traced to his urine. Pet urine can be quite potent, but most humans can detect an unusual change in the typical urine smell.
If your pet is on medication, ask your vet if the prescription is known to cause a change in the smell of urine.
A urinary tract infection is a common issue. Some dogs can experience chronic, repeated infections, signaling a deeper cause.
Watch your dog carefully for changes in his urine stream, straining while peeing, weight loss, fever, lethargy, blood in the urine, or excessive genital licking.
Your dog might also demonstrate a large change in his bathroom habits or exhibit pain while urinating.
Besides being very uncomfortable, UTIs can spread if left untreated and become dangerous. Vets can not only treat the infection but check for underlying causes like diabetes.
Diabetes can cause excess glucose in the dog’s urine, creating that sweet smell. Besides causing repeated UTIs, diabetes can be deadly if not treated. Pet owners with diabetic dogs need to look out for seizures, kidney problems, and a condition called ketoacidosis, which can be tested with ketone testing sticks.
If your diabetic dog is breathing quickly, lethargic, and vomiting, test them for ketoacidosis and take them to an emergency vet.
Diabetic dogs can eat special food that slows their glucose absorption. Like humans with diabetes, dogs need insulin shots and glucose monitoring. This can seem overwhelming at first, but dogs respond very well to consistent, positive training. If you can stay calm and upbeat and offer plenty of treats, dogs will tolerate insulin shots well.
While we often enjoy sweet smells, that odor usually signals a health problem for a dog. Try to narrow down the source of the scent to get a clue what the problem might be.
For any of the problems discussed above, a vet is a great first step. They can test for underlying conditions and offer suggestions for an ongoing treatment plan. Vets can also assist with dental cleaning, ear cleaning, and shots if your dog does not tolerate them well. You are not alone when dealing with unexpected medical issues for your dog.
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