Dogs possess an incredible sense of smell that is far superior to our own. Their olfactory abilities are truly remarkable, allowing them to detect a numberless of scents that escape our human senses. Hence, they and we have different perceptions of what do dogs smell like?

We expect from them, especially if we live under the same roof, a fresh, pleasant and pleasant smell. What may be unpleasant for us, as we sometimes describe with phrases such as the smell of a wet dog, does not have to be the same for them, and sometimes it even turns out to be quite the opposite. That is not why we should judge them badly, but we should understand that although we are both animals, it is not the same smells that awaken emotions and instincts in us, such as hunger, fear, interest in a partner, memories, etc.

Smell: a form of communication for dogs:

Dogs have a unique way of communicating with each other and with us humans. They use scent marking as a means of communication and identification. Male dogs, in particular, have a stronger odor due to the presence of pheromones in their urine. The scent marking behavior is more prominent in unattended males, as they use their unique scent to communicate their presence and reproductive status.

Dogs produce natural odors that are most prominent near their ears and paw pads. These odors are produced by secretions that allow for individual animal recognition by dogs and other species in the territory marked by its odor.

They only produce sweat on areas not covered with fur, such as the nose and paw pads. However, they do have sweat glands associated with every hair follicle on the body called apocrine glands. These glands produce pheromones and other chemical signals, unique to each dog, which allows them to communicate with other dogs.

They also have sweat glands on their noses called eccrine glands. When these glands are active, they leave the nose and paw pads slightly moist and help these specialized skin features maintain their functional properties.

Dogs also have numerous apocrine glands in their external ear canals. In this location, they are referred to as ceruminous glands. The ear canals also have numerous sebaceous glands. Together, these two sets of glands produce natural ear wax, or cerumen. Micro-organisms live naturally in this material and give the ears a characteristic slightly yeasty odor, even when healthy.

Dogs possess two anal scent glands, which communicate with the surface of the skin by ducts that open on the anus. These sacs are lined with apocrine and sebaceous glands and produce a natural secretion with a very strong musky odor. For this reason it is very common to see dogs sniffing each other’s butts when they meet.

A small amount of this material is deposited when dogs defecate. A large amount may be extruded when a dog is frightened. It is thought that this secretion leaves a signal to other dogs allowing them to recognize the source of the individual fecal deposit.

Smells that humans recognize in dogs

  • Natural Dog Odor: Each dog possesses its own distinct natural scent. This aroma can vary depending on the breed, diet, and overall health of the dog. While some may describe it as musky or earthy, others may find it rather pleasant and comforting. This natural scent is a result of the oils produced by a dog’s skin and the bacteria present on their coat.
  • Wet Dog Smell: One of the most recognizable scents associated with dogs is the infamous “wet dog smell.” When dogs get wet, their fur absorbs water, resulting in a distinct odor caused by the release of volatile compounds. This smell can be intensified if your furry friend enjoys rolling in the grass or dirt, as these substances can mix with the wet fur.
  • Dog Breath: Another scent that dog owners are familiar with is their pet’s breath. While not always pleasant, it is a normal part of a dog’s natural scent. The smell of a dog’s breath can vary depending on their oral hygiene, diet, and overall health. Regular brushing and dental care can help minimize any unpleasant odors.
  • Environmental Factors: Apart from their natural scent, dogs can also absorb and carry various environmental smells. Whether it’s the aroma of the outdoors, the scent of other animals, or the lingering fragrance of their surroundings, dogs act as walking scent detectors. This ability makes them invaluable in tasks such as search and rescue, drug detection, and tracking.
  • Grooming and Hygiene: A dog’s scent can be influenced by their grooming routine and overall hygiene. Regular bathing, brushing, and proper care of their coat can help minimize any strong odors. Additionally, maintaining a clean environment, washing bedding regularly, and cleaning their living space can contribute to a fresher-smelling dog.

Unhealthy odors in dogs

As we have seen so far, dogs produce their own natural aroma through various mechanisms. Although some aromas in our adorable pets are not pleasant for us, they are not necessarily an indication that something is wrong, quite the opposite. However, there are odors that we must be aware of because they can be an indication of some illness in our pet.

  • Skin diseases in dogs: Dogs can sometimes have an increased or abnormal odor due to skin diseases. Allergies can cause increased production of apocrine sweat, which imparts a stuffy odor. This condition, can encourage yeast infection or bacterial skin infection which produces an unpleasant odor. Dogs with seborrhea or keratinization defect, and dogs with deep skin folds, are very susceptible to the proliferation of bacteria or yeast on the skin surface, which, as we have already seen, causes an odor. disgusting.
  • Ear diseases in dogs: Ear diseases can cause earwax or pus in the ear canal, in turn causing an unpleasant odor to emanate from inside the dog’s ear. Anal sac disease or excessive anal sac production can cause a very strong and unpleasant odor.
  • Dental diseases in dogs: Dental problems are usually another important source of bad odor in dogs, and they can also cause severe pain that causes the animal to behave restlessly.
  • Digestive diseases in dogs: Some digestive problems such as windiness are a problem frequently linked to a dog’s diet, although it can also be caused by a gastrointestinal disease, often also related to parasites.

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