Why Does my Dog’s Skin Smell Bad and Itch?

I have an 7yr old female yorkie. She has had itching and patchy hair loss over the last yr. I have had her to two...


I have an 7yr old female yorkie. She has had itching and patchy hair loss over the last yr. I have had her to two different vets. One says its yeast, the other an allergic reation. I have been feeding her Duck/Potato and she has had no change. What can I do to help her? She has an odor to her hair/skin after a couple of days so she is getting baths 2xs a week.

Russellville, AR

I suspect your dog has both a skin infection (with bacteria and possibly yeast) and allergies.

Itchy skin is the hallmark of allergies in dogs. Malodorous skin is often a sign of a skin infection.

Dogs can be allergic to many things. Fleas are the number one cause of allergies in canine companions. If your dog isn’t already on a good flea preventative I would recommend that you start one regardless of whether she has a visible flea infestation.

Food allergies also can cause skin problems in pets. Duck and potato diets are hypoallergenic, but your dog may be a rare reactor to a protein in her food. You therefore could consider switching to a different hypoallergenic diet.

Finally, environmental allergens can cause symptoms like you describe. Dogs can be allergic to pollen, mold spores, dust mites, cockroaches, chemicals, detergents, cats, and even humans. Preventing exposure to these allergens can be difficult. Allergy testing is required to identify these allergies.

Once the skin is weakened by allergies, bacteria and yeast can proliferate exuberantly, leading to a skin infection with an unpleasant odor. Skin infections exacerbate itching and baldness.

Bacterial infections respond to antibiotics. Yeast infections can be diagnosed with a non-invasive test called skin cytology, and can be treated with anti-fungal agents. You should talk to your vet about an antibiotic trial and skin cytology.

Finally, although your dog’s problems truly sound like a combination of allergies and skin infection, remember that other things could be going on. Certain parasitic infestations and auto-immune diseases may cause similar symptoms.

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