I get a surprising amount of messages from owners reporting that their Havanese smells. Naturally, they want to know why and how to solve the bad odor.
As this is requested so much I’ve created an article explaining the likely causes behind why your Havi smells, and what to do about it.
Plus, this article has been reviewed and approved by one of our veterinarians, so you can rest assured the information is accurate and safe.
Table of Contents
Normal Dog Smell vs Bad Dog Smell
Although most of you will only be searching for this if your Havanese really does smell bad, it’s still important to cover, as not all doggy odor is unnatural.
There is a difference between what we could call “normal” and “bad” smell.
Typical doggy odor is to be expected to some extent. And if your Havanese only has a slight smell to her then there’s nothing much to worry about. Dogs aren’t supposed to smell of roses! Although that would be nice.
When the smell isn’t normal:
● If you can smell your Havanese from across the room
● If your hand smells bad after touching her
● If your Havanese smells of something strong other than typical doggy odor (like fish)
In these situations, there is likely something wrong. So let’s get into the causes below!
6 Possible Causes of a Smelly Havanese
The following causes are in no particular order and you’ll have to think about the recent events leading up to now to have an idea of what’s behind the bad odor.
1. A dirty or mucky coat
First and foremost, it’s important to scan her coat. A build-up of dirt, mud or general muck can eventually start to smell bad.
This can happen easily when out on walks, running in overgrown areas, rolling in unknown substances, or swimming in lakes, rivers, or the ocean.
A dirty coat is also more likely if you don’t have a frequent brushing routine established or you’re overbathing (both covered in detail below). Frequent brushing will help keep her coat clean for a long time (without bathing).
2. Unwashed paws
The paws are another culprit of some seriously bad smells.
As the paws are the first point of contact to the ground, they can stomp through some very nasty substances while out on walks. This can happen easily and without you knowing.
The paws are also home to your Havanese’s sweat glands, which keeps them warm, moist, and bacteria prone. I will cover this below.
3. Skin infections & yeast infections
Dry skin, skin infections, and yeast infections are all common causes of bad odor.
Yeast infections happen when bacteria grow out of control in certain bacteria-prone areas. This being the paws, underbelly, and ears in particular.
Yeast infections have an extremely strong cheesy smell (not to be confused with a mild corny smell from the paws, which is normal).
Different skin infections can result from a range of underlying health conditions including Cushing’s disease, allergies, hypothyroidism, or from simply having dry skin for a prolonged period of time.
Dry skin can cause irritation and itchiness, leading to a lot of scratching, causing inflamed and broken skin, opening up the chance for infections.
If this is the case for your Havanese, you’ll either be able to see visible irritation on her skin, bacteria growth, red inflamed skin, or dry crust patches that may even puss (in extreme cases). Not to mention, you would have noticed her itching a lot in the recent days or weeks.
4. Bad breath & dental issues
While bad odor is mostly associated with a dog’s coat and skin, bad breath and dental issues are also common sources of unwanted smell.
Bad breath can be caused by a range of issues, including an upset stomach, a diet that isn’t digesting well, kidney or liver disease, diabetes, or poor dental hygiene.
If you’re guilty of not brushing your Havi’s teeth, then there’s a strong chance that she has tartar or plaque build-up, which can eventually smell very bad.
In addition to this, plaque and tartar (which is essentially just bacteria) are a known cause of gum disease, which is one of the biggest killers in dogs (and also smells very bad).
5. Ear infections
As many Havanese owners already know, Havis are suspectible to ear infections due to their floppy ears.
Ear infections are not only painful but can actually smell awful. In many instances, you’ll smell an ear infection before you notice it any other way.
You’ll also likely see your Havanese paying a lot of attention to her ears, either scratching at them or shaking her head frequently.
Avoiding ear infections is generally easy if you have a weekly ear-cleaning routine. This can be as simple as giving the insides of her ears a thorough wipe every week with dog-friendly baby wipes. (link below)
However, if you suspect that your Havi has an ear infection, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible for professional assistance.
6. Anal sacs (smelly bums!)
Oh no, smelly bums…
Havanese, like most breeds can be affected by impacted anal sacs several times throughout their life.
All dogs have two glands just inside their rectum. These glands are known as anal sacs and produce a strong-smelling substance that secrets itself whenever your Havanese poops (in simple terms). This is for the purpose of scent-marking, and it’s actually very important in the dog world
Unfortunately, for many reasons these glands can become impacted and secret the substance incorrectly. This substance can sit around your Havi’s bum area and you will smell an awfully strong fishy smell.
The most common indicator of this is when your Havanese scoots her bum across the ground.
While impacted anal sacs can be expressed and resolved by many groomers, in my opinion, it’s best to take her to the vets for them to do it. In some cases, the substance can dry up inside the sacs and a veterinarian will need to flush her with an appropriate solution (which a groomer may or may not be able to do).
- Can You Shave a Havanese? Exactly Why You Shouldn’t!
- How Often Should You Bathe a Havanese? FAQ Guide & Tips
When To See a Veterinarian
Before we get into certain things you can do at home, it’s important to clarify when you should waste no time in seeking help from a veterinarian.
Times when you should seek veterinarian help as soon as possible:
● Your Havanese has an obvious skin infection, yeast infection, badly irritated skin
● Your Havanese has impacted anal sacs
● Your Havanese has an ear infection
● Your Havanese has a lot of plaque or tartar build-up
● You can’t identify the source of the smell
In those situations, it’s necessary to receive help from your veterinarian. Whether it’s because your Havanese will need medication, or because your veterinarian will need to perform further health checks.
Unfortunately, we can’t always treat bad odor at home.
6 Ways To Stop Your Havanese Smelling So Bad
Unless your Havanese has a health issue that needs to be seen by a veterinarian, the following tips should help prevent your Havi from smelling.
1. Brush her regularly
Havanese require regular brushing, ideally 3-5 times per week. The best brushing routine only needs to be 10-15 minutes using a pin and bristle brush (the most appropriate for Havanese)
In my experience, the best approach to brushing is “little and often”. Not only is it easier for you, more enjoyable for your havanese, but it’s more effective at keeping her coat clean! Not to mention it’s perfect to maintain shedding.
By brushing her regularly, you will constantly be clearing out her coat, removing dirt and muck build-up before it gets out of control.
This is such a simple thing to incorporate into your weekly routine, but will go a long way in keeping her coat and skin clean and healthy.
2. Bathe her, but don’t overbathe her
If your Havi smells bad and you suspect it’s her coat, go ahead and give her a thorough shower. But after that, don’t be tempted to give her another one until around 3 weeks later.
I’ve heard of some owners bathing their Havanese multiple times per week, and this is far too much!
The main issue with overbathing is that eventually her natural oils will be removed due to the shampoo. When this happens, her skin will react accordingly and overproduce on the oils (almost like an emergency response).
Unfortunately, too much of a good thing quickly becomes a bad thing! The excess oils will lead to a dirty, greasy, and smelly coat in no time at all. Not exactly the goal of bathing her in the first place!
This is original content produced and published by The Puppy Mag
3. Wash her paws regularly
Bathing aside, it won’t hurt to wash your Havanese paws more frequently.
While it’s still best to avoid using shampoo every time, you can at least wash her paws down with water without the risk of irritating them.
This is a good way to keep her paws free from the nasty muck and substances she might walk in outside in public areas.
Just be sure to dry her paws thoroughly after each wash. It’s never a good idea for her paws to remain wet as this could create a bacteria-prone environment.
4. Brush her teeth
It’s crucial to start brushing your Havanese’s teeth at least 3 times per week (ideally every day!) Please only use dog-friendly toothpaste.
This isn’t just to reduce bad odor, this is important to prevent tartar and plaque build-up, which as I mentioned earlier, is one of the main causes of gum disease (which is fatal).
It’s reported that almost 33% of dog owners in the USA don’t brush their dog’s teeth, ever. This could potentially be why gum disease is one of the most common killers of dogs today…
And of course, better dental hygiene will significantly reduce the instances of bad breath.
5. Ensure her diet is working well for her
Continuing on with bad breath, it’s crucial for your Havanese to consume a high-quality diet that she actually gets on well with.
It’s one thing to find a high-quality brand (which is still important), but it’s another thing altogether to find a brand that your Havanese gets on well with.
If she doesn’t agree with her diet, not only will this cause bad breath or increased flatulence, but it could lead to malnutrition and a wide range of subsequent health issues.
When it comes to fixing bad odor, this one is often forgotten about, but it’s vitally important to consider.
6. Avoid table scraps
Around 40% of dog owners in the USA give their dog table scraps on a daily basis.
Although table scraps seem like a tasty treat for our dogs, they’re nearly always more harmful than good.
Human food is oftentimes far too rich for dogs, and contains many ingredients that dogs shouldn’t have anyway.
This can cause a lot of upset stomachs (even if you aren’t aware of it), affect her health negatively, and cause bad breath or increased flatulence quickly.
Key Takeaways Summarized
To leave you with a clear and concise understanding of the information in this article, I’ve highlighted important points below.
What to do now to fix bad smell in your Havanese:
● Check her coat and skin thoroughly, and give her a good brushing
● Bathe her with a natural-ingredient shampoo and conditioner
● Check her paws, if you suspect a yeast infection call your veterinarian
● Check her ears to rule out ear infections, call your vet if you suspect one is present
● Brush her teeth with a dog toothbrush and toothpaste (not human toothpaste!)
● Provide veterinarian-approved dental chews (daily chews are great)
● Consider her eating habits and change her kibble if she doesn’t get on well with it (does she refuse food? have diarrhea? throw up? seem lethargic after eating?)
When to seek veterinarian help right away:
● You suspect a skin infection (or a lot of skin irritation)
● You find a yeast infection or bacteria growth (paws, underbelly, skin folds, ears)
● You find or suspect an ear infection
● You witness your Havanese scooting along the ground (impacted anal sacs)
● You find a large build-up of tartar or plaque
● You can’t find the source of the smell
- Pin and bristle brush
- Natural ingredient shampoo & conditioner
- Dog-friendly ear wipes
- Dog toothbrush and toothpaste kit
Always check reviews and do your due diligence when choosing products.
Be sure to check out our other Havanese articles!