Dogster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How to Cure Stinky Dog Face: 5 Remedies (Vet Answer)

Written by: Dr. Joe Mallat DVM (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Dogster Team

close up of cute dog face

How to Cure Stinky Dog Face: 5 Remedies (Vet Answer)

If your dog loves to lick you, but the smell of their face is unpleasant, you’re not alone! This is something lots of dog owners experience. A smelly dog face can be caused by crusty eyes, ear infections, dermatitis, poor dental hygiene, or a dirty coat. Getting your dog to a quality groomer certainly helps, but what about if the smell returns quickly?

Thankfully, there’s lots that you can do at home to cure your pup’s stinky face!

The 5 Remedies to Cure Stinky Dog Face Causes

1. Crusty Eyes

Small breeds of dogs seem to be more commonly affected by “crusty” eyes. It’s normal for dogs to have a small amount of eye goop in the morning, or after a long nap—this is an accumulation of tears, dust, oils, and dead cells. However, it’s important to clean this material away frequently, as it can dry in the hair beneath the eyes and form a crust. This crust can become irritating to your dog, as well as developing a bad smell.

At home, it’s a good idea to wipe away the tear build-up before it gets too hard and crusty. Always use a gentle, dog-friendly face wipe. Another option is a soft cloth dipped into warm water or saline.

It’s important to note that while crusty eyes are not related to any disease in some dogs, other dogs have excessive tear production due to eye disorders. Vets refer to this excessive tear production as epiphora. Epiphora can be caused by blocked tear ducts, conjunctivitis, entropion (an inward-rolling eyelid), and many other issues. If your dog’s eye discharge seems too abundant, or you’re concerned that your dog’s eye seems uncomfortable, you may need a consultation with your veterinarian. They can check for any underlying eye problems and sometimes may need to flush the tear duct under anesthetic.

Close up of redness and bump in the eye of a dog
Image By: Alexandr Jitarev, Shutterstock

2. Ear Infections

While dogs with big, floppy ears are more prone to ear infections than pointy-eared dogs, any dog can develop an ear infection. Ear infections are a fairly common cause of a smelly dog face, as the yeast or bacteria in the ear canal produce an unpleasant odor. To check if your dog’s ears are the source of its stinky face, you may need to lift the ear and have a smell. Most dogs with an ear infection show signs of discomfort in addition to the pungent smell. Excessive head-shaking, scratching at the ears, or pressing the ear toward the ground are typical signs.

If your dog’s ears are smelly or causing them discomfort, we recommend getting them checked over by your vet. Vets will examine the ears, inspect the deeper ear canals with an instrument called an otoscope, and often take ear samples to check for bacteria and yeast.

3. Dermatitis

Dermatitis refers to inflammation of the skin, and it can be the cause of a stinky face. Dermatitis can be a generalized redness to the skin or crusty oozing patches of skin (“hot spots”). Some dogs with dermatitis may have a rash, or reaction to something in the environment, while other dogs with dermatitis have underlying allergies. Allergies can be due to pollen and grasses, food, fleas, and mites. As the skin becomes inflamed, dogs scratch at it to alleviate discomfort. This can break the skin barrier and allow bacteria to enter, causing secondary infections and a nasty smell.

Unfortunately, secondary skin infections make the itchiness worse, and the cycle continues unless treatment is initiated. If your dog has unhealthy-looking skin on their face, or a bad smell coming from the skin on the face, seeing a veterinarian is a must.

Dermatitis on French bulldog skin
Image By: Oyls, Shutterstock

4. Dental Hygiene

Bad breath is one of the most common causes of a smelly dog face. Pet owners often forget to look in their dog’s mouths; furthermore, some dogs don’t like their mouths being looked at, which makes it very hard. When vets talk about poor dental hygiene, they’re often talking about the plaque and calculus buildup on the teeth. This is referred to as periodontal disease, and most dogs have it to some degree. Indeed, some studies suggest that roughly 80% of dogs over the age of three have periodontal disease! Dental plaque makes a great hiding spot for bacteria; as with skin and ear infections, these bacteria are responsible for the bed smell.

So, what can be done to improve your dog’s dental hygiene? It might come as a surprise, but good dental hygiene in dogs starts with daily tooth brushing. Always use a pet-grade toothpaste and toothbrush, as human-grade products can be harmful. Another easy and beneficial option is dental chews. These are products designed for your dog to chew on; in theory, the chewing helps break down plaque on the teeth.

However, some dogs won’t tolerate tooth brushing, and other dogs have such advanced periodontal disease that tooth-brushing and dental chews won’t fix the problem. If this is the case, your vet may recommend a dental clean-up under anesthetic.

5. Dirty Coat

Despite all of the above causes of a smelly dog face, some dogs just need a good clean! Most dogs are just like people and benefit from a regular wash. Dogs that are keen swimmers, mud-rollers, and bush-walkers are more likely to have a dirty coat. Additionally, dogs that get wet are prone to getting that damp “doggy” smell that we so often notice. Bathing and grooming frequency varies depending on your dog’s breed and lifestyle, as well as the time of year.

But if you notice a generalized bad dog smell, find a good dog shampoo such as Veterinary Formula Solutions Ultra Oatmeal Moisturizing Shampoo, and give your pup a bath! If this is too hard to do at home, find a good local groomer and let them take care of it for you.

A wet chocolate havanese dog after the bath
Image By: Dorottya Mathe, Shutterstock


Don’t let a smelly face get in the way of your canine cuddle time. If you notice a bad smell from your dog’s face, check their eyes, ears, skin, and teeth. There’s plenty you can do at home to solve this problem, and your dog will most likely be thankful for it!

If the smell won’t go away, or if you have any concerns about your dog’s health, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian.

Featured Image Credit: sweetlouise, Pixabay

Get Dogster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Dogster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.