Why Does My Dog Smell Like Pee? (5 Most Common Reasons)


Is there anything worse than going in for a cuddle with your pooch only to be met with an unpleasant scent of urine? It’s hardly the smell you want when you’re after a little bit of attention and comfort from your canine friend. 

The smell of urine however, isn’t all that unusual for dogs, and there are a number of common reasons that offer an explanation as to why your pooch smells like pee. 

This guide will take a closer look at five of the most common reasons for a strong urine odor in dogs, as well as some useful tips on how to eliminate the unpleasant smell. 

Incontinence

The majority of dogs will let out a tiny bit of dribble from time-to-time and this is perfectly normal. Even the healthiest dogs will do it. The best way to deal with an occasional bit of dribble isn’t to get angry, but to simply use a dog-friendly wipe and clean it up. Quite often, this type of sporadic and minimal urine won’t have too much of a strong scent. 

Most dogs that smell badly of pee will do so because of more serious and frequent incontinence issues. These can be caused by a range of factors, including age, weak bladder muscles, infection, injury-like nerve damage, and sometimes even a genetic abnormality. Incontinence results in dog’s leaking onto themselves, therefore making them smell strongly of urine.

If you have a young dog that’s suffering with incontinence, this could simply be a housetraining issue that’s easily rectifiable. Puppies don’t have as much control over their bladder and can’t hold urine for as long as older dogs. They also tend to pee themselves when they’re excited, so leaks are unfortunately inevitable. 

Urine leaks don’t just happen when your dog is awake. They can also occur whilst your dog is asleep. This invariably means they’ll sleep through the night in a urine-soaked bed and won’t realize until the morning, leaving the scent of urine lingering in the air. 

Ultimately, the bottom line is, if your dog smells like pee it’s more than likely that they’ve peed on themselves. Most of the time urine is quickly absorbed by their fur, but this doesn’t disguise the smell. Another method of checking whether they’ve peed themselves is to check their blanket. If this also smells like urine, it’s probably worth consulting with your vet to further assess the problem. 

Urine splashes

It’s always worth checking how your dog pees when they go outside to do their business. This is because a lot of dogs may smell like urine because of splash-back. Whether that’s on their feet or on their fur, it’s a thoroughly unpleasant smell. An effective method of reducing urine splash-back is to ensure your dog is well groomed.

By cutting back the longer hairs that typically soak up the splash-back, they’ll be left with a shorter cut that isn’t as liable to getting urine on it. You can cut their fur yourself, or if you’d prefer something more professional, you can also book regular grooming sessions. 

Rolling in pee

Another common explanation behind your dog smelling of pee is the possibility of them having rolled in it. It’s certainly not unusual for your pooch to enjoy rolling in the urine and poop of other animals.

Unlike poop which is easy to spot and avoid, pee is less distinguishable on surfaces like grass. If this is the cause of your dog’s urine scent, the best way to avoid it is simply keeping them on a shorter lead and closely monitoring their behaviour. This will save you having to constantly bath them to eradicate the smell. 

Infection

More serious explanations for the strong urine odor in dogs are typically medical reasons. One of the most likely health issues causing this smell is a urinary tract infection (UTI). Dogs suffering with a UTI will have particularly foul-smelling pee due to the increased bacteria in it. Having a UTI will also make your dog want to pee more frequently, thus increasing the likelihood of them smelling like it. 

Other common indicators of your dog suffering from a UTI can be them straining as they attempt to pee, or even crying out due to the pain of urinating. Sometimes there may also be a little bit of blood in their urine. 

Kidney problems 

Dogs can smell of urine when their kidneys are failing. Kidney problems are said to make their fur, skin and breath all smell like pee. In addition to this diagnosis, some dogs will also have pee or breath that has a distinct metallic scent.

Needless to say, if your dog has any of these symptoms, and you can rule out many of the other common causes of a urine odor, you should immediately contact your vet for an appointment. 

Why is there a smell of cat pee with my dog? 

There are a number of reasons why your dog may be smelling of cat pee. The first possibility, and perhaps the most likely, is if your cat is marking its territory around the house. This often happens when you introduce a puppy or a new dog into a home where your cat has already settled.

In situations such as these, the most popular place for your cat to mark their territory is in your dog’s bed. This is either an attempt to exert some form of dominance or an indication of anxiety. If your dog then sleeps in their bed, on top of this urine, it’ll likely soak, and subsequently dry into their fur and cause an almighty smell.

If however, you don’t own a cat and your dog somehow still smells of cat pee, a possible explanation could be dietary-based. A large number of dog owners have reported their dogs smelling like cat pee after changing their dog’s diet to the Natural Balance brand of dog food. Even after a bath and a good clean, the smell will still persist.

If you believe the food is responsible for your dog’s urine odor, it’s worth changing food again to see if this makes any difference to the smell. If so, the problem can be easily solved. 

What does pee-smelling breath mean?

Dog breath that smells distinctly like urine links back to the issue of kidney disease that I focused on earlier. It’s also a common indication of other health problems that’ll need further examination from a vet.

It goes without saying that kidney disease is a serious issue, and often a symptom of a medical problem even more severe in nature. 

What are the best methods of removing the urine smell from a dog?

Some of these methods have already been touched upon, but they’re incredibly important to understand and implement as soon as possible if your dog smells of urine. Depending on the cause, leaving the odor too long could result in the urine burning your dog’s skin.

A simple way to remove urine from your dog is to use wet wipes to clean them up after they’ve peed or dribbled. You can also use dog-friendly wipes to clean them just as effectively. Dog wipes don’t include some of the chemicals, fragrances and parabens that normal wet wipes do. This is beneficial because dogs will often lick themselves after being wiped down, so using standard wipes could result in them ingesting harmful chemicals and fragrances. 

A second way of removing the urine smell is to give your dog regular trims and keep them well groomed if they suffer from splash-back. If you don’t have money to burn, there’s no need to invest in a professional dog groomer. You can just as easily cut their hair back with scissors when it’s getting too long and becoming at risk to splash-back. 

If your dog smells of pee, it’s pretty likely that their bed will too. This will take longer to lose the scent however. So, just as it’s important to wash your dog down, it’s equally important to clean your dog’s bedding. This will give your pooch added comfort and hopefully encourage them to look after themselves. Washing your dog’s bed and blankets is an essential step before addressing any more significant issues with your vet. 

As touched upon, washing your dog is the obvious method of ridding them from their urine scent. This is best achieved by using specialist shampoo that’s designed to battle some of the strongest odors. You can wash your dog as often as you see fit, but it’s recommended to do it at least every few weeks. Needless to say, this will be more frequent the worse your dog’s urine scent is. 

Finally, you can also invest in some dog odor eliminator spray. As the name suggests, this is a pet-friendly deodorant, ideal for removing unfavorable odors such as urine. Many of the companies that sell specialist dog shampoos similarly sell odor eliminator sprays, so it could be a good idea to do some research and select a company for both. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I bathe my dog? 

There isn’t a conclusive correct answer to this question. However, the general guideline is roughly every four weeks. This is dependent, of course, on their daily activities and general levels of hygiene.

If your dog regularly gets covered in mud on their walks and isn’t the most efficient at cleaning and grooming themselves, then more frequent bathes are essential. 

Why do dogs roll in pee? 

Dogs typically roll in pee for the same reason they tend to roll in poop – to mark their territory and as a means to instinctively communicate. For dogs, odors are a means of conveying information to other dogs. Therefore, a dog that rolls itself in urine is trying to communicate a particular message. 

It’s not quite clear what this specific message is, but one possibility is that the dog is trying to cloak itself in the scent of a predominant dog. If however, a dog rolls in its own urine, this is a common method of spreading out its mark. 

What is “spay incontinence”? 

This is a condition which spayed female dogs can suffer from as spay surgery often results in a hormone imbalance. The effective functioning of the urinary tract tissue is dependent on suitable exposure to estrogen.

However, after a female dog’s ovaries are removed in spay surgery, her estrogen levels are low. This deficiency of estrogen can subsequently cause the urethral sphincter to relax and release urine involuntarily. As noted earlier, incontinence is most likely to happen during rest as this is when the muscles are most relaxed. 

How long can a dog go without peeing? 

As a general rule, experts say that dogs can be trusted to hold their urine or feces one hour for every month old they are – up until 8 hours at 8 months old. So for example, a puppy at 3 months should typically be able to hold their bladder for 3-4 hours. It’s worth noting that no dog of any age should be expected to hold their pee or poop for longer than 8 hours. 

They can go for 8-10 hours without urinating overnight as they sleep, however, all dogs need to be taken out to go to the toilet after a meal or drink, upon waking up and after a period of playtime or activity. 

Why does my dog lick the urine of another dog? 

Yes, this may seem a little gross, but it’s a natural behaviour for dogs. They can pick up a whole host of information by using their nose and mouth – significantly more than us humans. This is why dogs, with their heightened senses, will lick the urine of other dogs. It’s a way of understanding the information that they smell in great detail.

For example, they can tell whether the urine is from a male or female dog, a neutered or unneutered dog, and also whether the dog that produced the urine is stressed or not. 

Conclusion 

If you’re able to quickly identify the cause of your dog’s urine smell, the easier it’ll be to rectify. For instance, in situations where the smell is simply related to your dog having pee on their fur from rolling in it, the issue can be easily resolved.

However, reasons related to incontinence or something potentially more serious are a lot more problematic and should be taken to the vet for further evaluation. Having this professional opinion can be vital in uncovering the nature and severity of the health issue. 

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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