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7 Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Smell (& how to fix it!)

If you’ve got a smelly Australian shepherd, what should you do next? 🦨

Instead of holding your nose I’m going to run through the best solutions to solve bad doggy odor, and why the foul smell happened in the first place so you can avoid it in the future.

I’ve been covering this topic for a few years now, and have recently had this issue (now solved) with one of my pups. Story below.

australian shepherd smells bad

Do Australian Shepherds Smell? 👃

In general, no. ✅ Australian shepherds are a fairly clean and hygienic breed that rarely gives off a bad doggy odor that most of us don’t like.

I know what you’re thinking… But what about that long thick coat? Isn’t that just asking to smell bad…

Well, the answer is still no, not really.

Despite their long coat, Aussies usually remain odor free. Of course, we have to accept some level of smell, after all, they are a dog, and dogs shouldn’t smell like Dolce & Gabbana.

7 Reasons Why Australian Shepherds Smell Bad

Despite being generally clean dogs, Aussie can become a little smelly due to a number of reasons. I’ll explain after which of these issues I recently had to tackle.

In your Aussie’s case, it’s likely down to one of the following, but keep in mind it could be multiple.

1. Skin issues 🐶

A common cause of bad doggy odor comes from various skin problems. These issues can range from general bacterial build-up to pesky yeast infections on their paws and belly.

Skin problems are often caused by things like overbathing, a poor diet, or allergies. Overbathing your pup can dry out their skin and cause it to produce extra oils, which can lead to a greasy coat and other problems. So, it’s important to make sure you’re not washing them too much.

What your Aussie eats also plays a big role in their skin health. If they’re chowing down on high-carb foods or common allergens, it can cause inflammation and excess oil production. This can lead to scratching, open wounds, and even infections.

2. Dental issues 🐶

Bad breath is another common area of bad odor. While your Aussie’s breath shouldn’t smell like spearmint, it shouldn’t smell diabolical either. If a bad smell is coming from their mouth, take note.

Bad breath is caused by plaque, tartar, gum disease, or their diet and what they’re eating.

If it’s in their mouth, then it always starts off with plaque build-up, before long this plaque build-up will start to smell pretty nasty, and then in the worst-case scenario, this bacteria develops enough into some form of periodontal disease, like gum disease.

This is why it’s so important to brush your Aussie’s teeth just like you do yours (but with toothpaste made for dogs!)

Guilty as charged: Yup, I didn’t do this when I first got my pups, but thankfully since I found out how important it is, I do it every day for about 60 seconds.

3. Dirty paws 🐶

The paws on your Aussie can be pretty dirty, and it’s something we don’t often think about. How many times do you walk your Aussie, letting them go anywhere they like, then allowing them to walk that through the house?

But that’s normal, right?

Yeah, it is, but it’s also a problem… There are so many foul substances, including straight-up poop, that your Aussie can walk through (and you might not see). Then, they come home and mash it into the carpets.

Not only can this muck get onto your floors but it can build up on their paws and start to smell very bad.

4. Ear infections 🐶

If the bad odor is coming from your Aussies head area, but not their mouth, then it could indicate she has an ear infection or a large build-up of wax.

Ears infections give off a very strong pungent smell and it’ll be super strong when you go near their head/face.

With ear infections you might also notice your Aussie behaving weirdly, scratching their ears, or shaking and tilting their head.

Ear infections are more common in Aussies that have very floppy ears, compared to those that have erect, standing ears.

5. A dirty coat 🐶

Another very common and likely cause of the bad smell is a dirty coat.

This could be that the coat is greasy, hasn’t been washed in a while, or that there is actual physical dirt stuck in the coat.

Dirty coats often happen when the owner gives too many baths, and also when your Aussie rummages through bushes when outside on walks!

Some bushes have a strong smell to them and this can rub off into the coat should your Aussie be sniffing around them and brushing up against them.

6. Impacted anal sacs 🐶

If the smell is a strong fishy kind of smell, and your Aussie is also scooting their butt along the ground, this could indicate impacted anal sacs.

Inside your Aussies bum, on either side, there are two glands. These glands are responsible for secreting a potent substance with a strong smell every time your Aussie poops.

When the anal sacs get damaged, injured, or infected, they can secret this substance at the wrong times and it can come out when it shouldn’t. This can lead to it being around your Aussies bum.

Not only will this smell super bad, but it’ll cause them to itchy, scoot, and pay extra attention to their bum area.

7. Dietary problems 🐶

If your Australian Shepherd isn’t thriving on their diet, it could result in gassiness (farts and burps), general bad breath, and skin problems, just like we mentioned before.

This could be due to kibble that is too high in carbs, poor quality, or simply not agreeing with your particular Australian Shepherd.

There are many reasons why certain diets may not be suitable for some dogs. Therefore, it’s important to find a premium kibble with a proper macronutrient profile that is easy for your Australian Shepherd to digest. This is essential not only for overall health but also for avoiding unpleasant odours.

My recent experience: (be warned, it’s gross). One of my pups had been sniffing through some bushes while we were out hiking and at first, all seemed perfectly fine. (these weren’t thick bushes and I always had an eye on her) However, the following day I noticed her coat to be sticky in certain areas. It smelled absolutely vile and suspiciously like vomit. I washed her thoroughly with shampoo and wiped her down with a dog grooming wipe for good measure. The following day I kept her on the leash while on the same trail. I took a quick look near the bushes that I knew she had rummaged through and found a huge pile of what I suspected: vomit. It was on the floor and up many of the leaves. Yup, absolutely gross. Sometimes the weirdest things can happen and cause our dogs to come home smelling foul.

Where Does The Smell Come From?

It’s super important to find the cause of the bad odor if you want to effectively resolve the issue for good.

Unless something instantly sticks out from the above list, then it’s time to give your Aussie a thorough inspection.

Take a good look at her ears, mouth, paws, coat, and scan her skin, particularly in areas like her underbelly, lower hind, and neck area.

Locating the source of the smell will help tremendously in understanding the cause.

➡️ Ears:
Ear wax build-up, or ear infections

➡️ Mouth:
Food intolerances, dietary discrepancies, plaque buildup, or gum disease

➡️ Bum:
Poop stuck in long surrounding hair, impacted anal glands

➡️ Skin:
Skin infections, yeast infections, bacteria, mange, or wounds

➡️ Coat:
Unwashed, overly greasy, or dirty substances from outside stuck in the coat

➡️ Paws:
Bacteria build-up, yeast infections, poop, or other nasty substances

  • If you find skin infections, impacted anal sacs, ear infections, or heavy plaque build-up then it’s best to contact your veterinarian for further advice and assistance.

Solving & Preventing Bad Smell In Aussies

Let’s explain the best things you can do to solve the bad odor, and prevent it from happening again in the future.

1. Never over bathe ✅

Overbathing is a big problem causing many skin and coat issues. It’s crucial to avoid it if you want your Aussie’s skin and coat to be in tip-top condition.

Bathe your Aussie once every 3-4 months using natural dog shampoo, and you’ll be good to go. If they need bathing because they rolled in something, no problem at all, grab the shampoo! Just avoid giving too many baths too close together.

2. Brush daily ✅

Daily brushing does many things other than reduce dead hair and shedding. It helps keep the coat clean and muck-free. Constantly brushing will remove dirt and debris before it collects and builds up.

It ALSO distributes the coat’s natural oils around evenly, which does a great job of preventing a lot of dirt from sticking to the coat. Daily brushing for the win!

3. Inspection of the coat and skin ✅

Assuming you’re brushing daily, you can use this time to also inspect the coat and take a look at her skin. Make this a part of the brushing routine and you’ll be ahead of any skin problems should they be present.

By consistently inspecting your Aussie, you know what is normal, and what isn’t normal. You’ll also spot potential issues before the develop into something bigger.

4. Brush your Aussie’s teeth! ✅

It’s time to start brushing your Aussies teeth as much as possible (daily would be the goal). You’ll need a dog-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste.

It’s super easy to brush a dog’s teeth, you only need to brush the outer side of the teeth, on each side for 30 seconds each. Your Aussie takes care of the plaque everywhere else.

5. Wash her paws ✅

While it’s not necessary to go overboard with this, it IS important to start washing those paws more often. Two to three times per week will be just fine.

Be sure to use a small amount of natural dog shampoo to avoid causing further irritation OR dry skin problems. Thoroughly dry the paws each time.

This will keep bacteria low and prevent yeast infections from happening.

6. Make sure her diet works for her ✅

It’s crucial to feed your Aussie a high-quality diet with an appropriate macronutrient breakdown.

Still, even the best diet/kibble on paper doesn’t always work out well for the dog. So it’s important to look for signs your Aussie isn’t getting on with her food.

  • This can include runny poop, vomiting, lethargy, food refusal or leaving part of the food, or not being excited to eat in general.

If you notice this, along with bad breath, then the kibble might not be digesting well and it could be time for a switch.

Also worth noting: It’s true that some fish-based kibble (salmon or mackerel) can influence their breath and make it smell a bit more pungent than other flavored dog food. Still, if salmon kibble works well for your Aussie, you might want to continue using it if the breath isn’t that bad.

Should You See a Vet For The Bad Smell?

If the smell is coming from something obvious and nonserious (like muck in her coat, dirty paws, or a greasy coat) then it might not be necessary to seek veterinarian help. At least at first.

However, it’s best to go to the vet if you suspect the following:

  • Skin infections
  • Rashes or wounds
  • Ear infections
  • Impacted anal sacs
  • Plaque build-up
  • You have no idea and can’t figure it out

In those cases, it’s best to get advice from your vet.

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Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.