How to Rid Dogs of a Musty Dog Smell

by Jon Mohrman
A bath may get rid of your dog's musty odor.

A bath may get rid of your dog's musty odor.

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

Dogs develop all sorts of odors for all sorts of reasons. Some smells occur as natural byproducts of canine physiology, while others stem from hygienic or health problems. A musty odor may be a sign of inadequate grooming or of some sort of skin condition. It's important to have your dog checked out by your veterinarian if there's a change in her smell to determine if the musty odor is a signal of something more serious. Your vet can advise you on the proper steps and products for getting rid of the odor.

Step 1

Brush or comb your dog's coat daily. This removes dirt, debris and other foreign sources of odor. It also smooths tangles and matting that trap stuff that can give off a musty odor. This is particularly important with long-haired pets.

Step 2

Bathe your dog more often using a shampoo that deodorizes and imparts a fresh scent. Lather well and follow all the package instructions for effective use. Ask your veterinarian or your groomer for a product recommendation. Your vet may suggest a medicated shampoo if your dog has seborrhea or another skin condition contributing to her bad smell.

Step 3

Switch to a higher-grade dog food. Nutrition is essential to healthy skin and coat and to minimizing natural odors. Check the food label to ensure the product you feed your dog meets the AAFCO nutritional standards for your dog's life stage.

Step 4

Give your dog an omega-3 fatty acid supplement if your veterinarian gives you the OK for it. These supplements improve skin and coat health and can help get rid of a natural musty smell.

Step 5

Smell your dog's ears to see if the musty odor is emanating from them. Your dog's ears are naturally a little smelly, but the odor gets significantly worse with the presence of a bacterial or yeast ear infection. See your veterinarian. If your dog's ears are particularly smelly but they aren't infected, he'll suggest an otic flush to remove the wax that causes odors; if there is an infection, he'll prescribe an antibiotic, possibly in conjunction with an otic flush.

Step 6

Sniff your dog's breath to see if it's the source of the musty smell you've been noticing. Dogs aren't known for having the freshest breath, but if the odor is getting worse, it can point to plaque buildup, periodontal disease or other health problems. Take your dog to the veterinarian's office for a checkup and teeth cleaning. Ask for a demonstration of proper teeth-cleaning procedures and for a toothpaste recommendation. Also, inquire about providing dental chews that remove food and plaque accumulation and help freshen breath.

Step 7

Rub some unscented baby powder or diatomaceous earth into your dog's coat. (Do this outside to avoid a mess in the house.) Check with your veterinarian about how much to use and how often, as the specifics vary depending on your dog's age, size and breed.

Step 8

Review the side effects associated with any medications and supplements your dog takes. Some cause unpleasant odors. If you suspect a product, ask your veterinarian about changing the dose or medication. There may be an alternative.

Items You Will Need

  • Dog brush or comb
  • Deodorizing shampoo
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplement
  • Otic flush
  • Dog toothpaste and dental chews
  • Plain baby powder or diatomaceous earth

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

About the Author

Jon Mohrman has been a writer and editor for more than seven years. He specializes in food, travel and health topics. He attended the University of Pittsburgh for English literature and San Francisco State University for creative writing.

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