I’m A Veterinarian: Here’s Why Your Dog Smells Like Pee All The Time

german shorthair pointer smells like pee after spending time outdoors

As much as we love our dogs, they sometimes assault our noses with some foul odors!

While dogs may not mind the stink quite as much as we do, it can sometimes puzzle us as to why our dogs smell

One of the more common (and stinkier) smells is that of dog urine and it’s common for clients to ask me why their dog frequently smells like pee. So what’s going on here?

Dogs most often smell like pee due to direct contact with urine, which can be more common in male dogs due to splashback during urination. Long-haired dogs are also more prone to getting urine in their fur. Puppies might get urine on them during play, and senior or incontinent dogs could pee on themselves. It’s also not uncommon for dogs to roll in urine as well. 

To reduce urine smells, you can bathe your dog with deodorizing shampoo, use waterless pet shampoo, or pet wipes, especially for localized smells. Long-haired or senior dogs might benefit from a sanitary trim. 

Strong-smelling urine can also signal health issues like urinary tract infections, kidney problems, or diabetes. Symptoms to watch for include increased urination, difficulty controlling urination, lethargy, and excessive thirst. If the smell persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, a vet check-up is advised.

Below, let’s take a look at a few of the more common reasons why your dog may smell like pee, and what you can do to help fix the issue.

Reason #1 – They Have Pee On Them

This is, obviously, the most common reason why your dog may smell like pee. Pee has a strong ammonia smell that will linger long after it’s dried up, so even if your dog isn’t soaking wet, they may still have pee on them.

Dogs of either sex can pee on themselves, but it is more common in male dogs because they are more likely to experience “splash back” when the pee hits the ground. If the ground or object they are peeing on is hard or non-absorbent, there is a greater chance the pee will splash back onto your dog.

Female dogs can also have urine sit within the folds of their vestibule folds surrounding their vulva which can cause a urine smell to linger.

Similarly, if they are peeing on a spot that is already wet, this can also create more of a risk of the urine splashing back up towards your pup.

If your dog has longer hair, there’s also a greater chance of urine and feces getting into their fur. This is why many groomers provide what’s called a sanitary trim!

If you have a senior dog or a dog who has an incontinence problem, they may also pee on themselves in their sleep, while relaxing, or even during physical activity.

Puppies are also prone to getting pee on them, usually from playing in their pee (accidentally or on purpose!), or due to submissive urination.

Dogs in extreme states of excitement, fear, or anxiety may also urinate on themselves.

Sometimes, the urine smell on your pup is the result of another dog peeing on them, or because they rolled themselves in the urine of another animal.

While we may not like the scent of pee, our dogs often feel the opposite!

Reason #2 – Their Pee Is Pungent

While it’s perfectly normal for dogs to have a small amount of pee on them after they go to the bathroom, a healthy, hydrated dog’s pee is usually fairly odorless, though individual dogs may have varying levels of odor based on their unique physical chemistry.

Dogs who are dehydrated tend to have more pungent pee because the urine is more concentrated.

Certain foods (like asparagus) and diets can cause a dog’s pee to be smellier than normal.

When these dogs pee, the odor is stronger and can stick to them more, even if there is minimal splash back.

Stronger smelling urine can mean that there is a change in the urine pH which can sometimes make a pet more prone to developing certain stones, crystals, or even a urinary tract infection. If your pup has smellier pee than normal, it’s probably a good idea to get them checked out by their veterinarian.

Reason #3 – They Are Sick

A dehydrated dog’s smelly urine is usually an easy fix, but pungent urine may also be a sign of a more serious underlying illness or disease.

Urinary tract infections, kidney infections, and bladder infections are all illnesses that can create more pungent-smelling urine in dogs.

Dogs who suffer from these illnesses may also have to pee more frequently than normal, may have trouble controlling their urination (which results in them peeing on themselves frequently), and they may also act lethargic or drink more water than normal.

Cancers in the kidney and bladder may also cause a dog to pee more frequently, and the medications to help manage these cancers can also create more pungent smelling urine.

Diabetes, which is an increasing epidemic within the dog population, is also a big culprit for strong-smelling pee. Diabetic dogs often need to pee frequently and can struggle with holding their urine for extended periods of time.

What To Do If Your Dog Smells Like Pee

If your pup smells like pee, there are a few things you can do to help get rid of the smell!

A bath is the primary option when dealing with a dog who smells like pee. You can do a regular bath in your tub, outside, or take your pup to the groomer.

A dog shampoo that is marked as deodorizing is a good choice for dealing with urine smell. Alternatively, you can also use a waterless pet shampoo or even pet wipes to clean up your dog, especially if the urine smell is confined to a specific part of their body.

If you have a dog with a longer coat or a senior dog, you may also speak to a groomer about providing a sanitary trim for your pup.

If the urine smell persists after a bath, then there could be an underlying health issue. Ensuring that your pup has constant, fresh access to clean water is a must.

If you are noticing an increase in urination along with an increase in water intake, please let your veterinarian know.

Monitoring your dog while they are outside or with other dogs to discourage rolling in pee is a good way to prevent the urine smell in the first place. Encouraging your pup to pee in areas where there is minimal risk for urine splashback is also a good idea.

Closing Thoughts

If your dog smells like pee, most of the time it’s because they have pee on them.

A bath or wipe down can usually remove the smell, and monitoring your pup to make sure they aren’t rolling in pee or peeing in an area that’s more likely to cause the urine to splash back can help decrease how often you need to clean them up.

If the urine is particularly pungent or the smell persists after a bath, though, it’s a good idea to get your dog checked out by a vet.

No matter the reason for why your dog smells like pee, it’s always a good idea to have fresh, clean water available to them at all times.

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