10 Reasons Why Your Pug Smells: Here’s How You Can Fix It

Pugs are known to be cuddlers, and there is nothing better than embracing your dog while relaxing on the couch. But canines aren’t known for being hygienic, so when your pug starts to smell, it can deter owners from wanting to get too close.

Why do pugs smell? The combination of sweat, dirt, and infections can cause many pungent odors. This can stem from places like a pug’s facial wrinkles, wet skin folds, ears, paws, anal glands, heat cycles, and bad breath. Regular grooming is essential to preventing a smelly pug.

While your pug may look adorable, they may not smell as fresh as they look. It can be surprising but this is expected of dogs that aren’t properly cared for. The most important thing is to understand why they are smelling, so that we can find a solution to the problem. If left untreated, it can lead to more dire consequences.

Do Pugs Smell More Than Other Breeds?

Pugs, like any other dogs, can smell if not taken care of properly. That said, pugs are more likely to smell compared to other canines because of their unique characteristics. For instance, their skin folds make them more likely to become smelly compared to other canines that don’t have wrinkly coats. While it’s natural for pugs to smell, it would be good to note that not all smells are similar.

For instance, your pug could be producing various smells from multiple parts of its body that are different from each other. They could also become smelly on different occasions depending on seasonal changes and whether or not it’s mating season. Your pug could also develop a pungent odor if infections or diseases are present.

This can make it a little tricky to keep your pug smelling rosy all the time. Being a pug owner myself, I decided to look into the possible causes of these odors, as well as the solutions for it. These tips have kept my pug smelling fresher and most importantly healthier.

1. Facial Skin Folds

Your pug’s cute facial skin folds may make them look adorable, but without the proper care, it can be a primary cause of odor. Pugs are a brachycephalic (flat-faced) breed, and their facial anatomy consists of skin folds that can be susceptible to infections.

Dirt, debris, and moisture are regularly trapped in these pockets of skin. This makes them a breeding ground for bacteria, which can easily lead to infections. This is why it’s recommended to clean their facial folds daily. Aim to use a wipe that is hypoallergenic or antibacterial, but it’s also possible to use a damp cloth with warm water.

This is an essential practice and should be part of every pug owner’s daily routine. Doing so will help eliminate any food particles or grime, thus preventing the build up of yeast and bacteria that can lead to infections. And if left unattended, it will not only produce a pungent smell, but it can snowball into further health complications.

2. Bad Breath

Had a whiff of your pug’s breath recently only to be met by a not so pleasant stench? Well, you shouldn’t be surprised because dogs, similar to humans, can develop bad breath if you don’t take proper care of their dental hygiene. Your pug’s oral cavity contains hundreds of bacteria that could cause them to have bad breath.

“Halitosis” is the scientific terminology for bad breath, describing instances where there is a persistent and unpleasant odor when exhaling. To prevent this, owners need to implement a regular dental hygiene routine that includes brushing their teeth at least 2-3 times per week.

This will help remove plaque and tartar, which is a major cause for infections. Ensure that you’re using canine toothpaste when brushing, as the human equivalence isn’t suitable for dogs. This will help reduce the chances of developing diseases like gingivitis, gum disease, and even dental abscess.

Gingivitis In Dogs

Gingivitis is a condition where your pug’s gums become inflamed (it’s an early stage of periodontal disease). It’s quite common in dogs and can be treated. However, if unattended to and left to develop into periodontal disease, it can be much more dangerous, and even lead to tooth loss. The condition is caused by bacteria that accumulate from tartar and plaque build-up.

The inflammation can be quite painful and cause your dog’s gums to bleed. If your pug suffers from this condition, then bad breath will be one of the symptoms. Gingivitis in dogs can be caused by several factors like poor diets, self-grooming, and poor oral hygiene. Pugs and other toy breeds are more susceptible to this condition because of their crowded teeth.

Dental Abscess

A dental abscess is a painful condition for dogs. While there are some tell-tale signs that can help owners identify a dental abscess, it can also be hard to spot as your pug may not show any direct symptoms whatsoever. If you’re not actively looking out for it, some of these can seem like normal day-to-day occurrences, and it’s understandable how some owners can miss it.

For instance, you may notice your pug chewing their toys with one side of their mouth, reluctant to chew their toys, dropping their food while eating, or pulling away when you touch the affected side of their face. The most obvious sign however, is that there will be a very noticeable odor coming from their mouth.

Fortunately, vets can treat the condition by performing a root canal therapy procedure to preserve your pug’s tooth’s structure. The procedure is designed to remove the infected pulp, clean the tooth, and prevent reinfection. If your pug’s tooth can’t be salvaged, then your pug’s vet may be forced to extract it.

3. Their Wrinkled Coats

Pugs have wrinkles in their coat, and while this unique feature of theirs make them look very cute, it can be a cause of several issues. As a result, owners need to take extra measures when caring for their pug’s wrinkled coats. Daily grime and scraps of food can get lodged in-between their skin folds.

Add this to any moisture your pug is exposed to, and it becomes the perfect recipe for a smelly dog. As stated earlier, bacteria and yeast thrive extremely well in humid locations with food that they can feed on. The space in between your pug’s folds has the perfect conditions for bacteria to thrive.

Suppose you notice your pug scratching or nipping at a specific area of their coat. If there is a noticeable stench coming from there, then it’s a good chance that it could be due to a yeast or bacterial infection. You should aim to take your dog to the vet to get examined as soon as you can.

Grooming is a vital to preventing these sorts of issues. Brushing your pug’s coat daily helps remove any debris, foods, or grime that could create the right environment for bacteria to multiply. Plus, it’s a great time for you to bond with your pug. You should aim to brush your dog every day if possible since they also shed a lot.

However, just be aware that no matter how diligent you are at cleaning their skin folds, there is a likely chance that they will face an issue at one point or another. You can’t completely avoid it, but knowing what to look for and how to react can help prevent further health complications.

4. Ear Infections

Your pug’s ears could be the cause of that pungent smell, especially if there is an ear infection present. A pug’s forward folding ear structure makes it easier for infection to thrive because their floppy ears tend to cover their ear canals. Bacteria and yeast love warm, moist, and dark environments; and your pug’s ears are the perfect location for them to grow and thrive. How does this happen?

Otitis externa is an infection of the external ear canal, and it’s one of the most common types of infection in dogs. These types of infections are often quite painful and can affect your pug’s capacity to hear. The infections can also develop in either one or both of your pug’s ears; therefore, if you suspect that your pug has an infection, it’s worthwhile checking out both ears to be sure.

You could observe various signs to determine if your pug may be suffering from an ear infection. These signs include:

  • Itchiness is observed, and your pug will shakes their head and scratches its ears to alleviate the itch.
  • Redness
  • Presence of a yellowish or black off-color discharge
  • Inflammation or swelling (your pug’s ears will be hot to the touch)
  • Odor
  • Pain when you touch their ears

Cleaning Their Ears

Ensure that you clean your pug’s ear flaps regularly if you want to reduce the build-up of wax and bacteria. Wipe the outer ear canal and ear flaps with a pet-friendly wipe at least once per week. If your pug is prone to ear infections, then you’ll want to do it more regularly.

The inner ear canal should be cleaned every 4-6 months, but again, if your dog suffers from recurring ear problems, then it may need to be done weekly. There are ear cleanser solutions widely available that you can use to flush out any trapped dirt and debris from their ears. This will also be helpful in breaking up clumps of wax that may be lodged deep inside.

Make sure you wipe their ears dry afterwards, as exposure to water can lead to another infection. Don’t go overboard and clean their ears too regularly, as it can irritate their ear canal. However, if you’ve got a more serious situation, you could try using a medicated ear cleaning solution containing hydrocortisone to prevent infection and reduce irritation. Take your pug to the vet if the situation worsens.

5. Anal Glands

Some owners might feel uncomfortable when discussing disorders related to their pug’s sensitive areas such as the rectum or anus. But like any other body part, it’s crucial that they are also kept an eye on. And it will no doubt be noticeable when that region starts emitting a fishy smelling odor.

Your pug has anal sacs (glands) that secrete oils, which acts as scent markers. The scent markers are special chemical compounds through which your pug communicates with other dogs. While these secretions play a vital role in the canine world, pugs can have issues with their anal glands that can not only stink, but also leave stains around the house. This problem often worsens if your pug is overweight.

There are a few scenarios that you’ll need to look out for in relation to this. Intervening early can prevent discomfort for your pug, and save you a lot of time cleaning and ridding the stench from your house.

For example, if your pug is secreting more scent oils than they are supposed to, it can leave your dog smelling really bad. Also, a pug’s anal glands can leak if they have poor control over their sphincter muscles; which is more common for young pups and senior dogs. The excessive secretions can get overbearing, and most people will want to avoid your foul smelling dog as a result.

Additionally, if your pug is regularly having soft bowel movements, this is most likely due to them being on a low-quality diet. In turn, owners may find droplets of their feces stuck to their hairs in the region. This, in addition to the oil secretions, could cause your pug to smell really bad long after they are done using the bathroom outside.

What To Do With Clogged Anal Glands?

Occasionally, your pug’s anal glands may get clogged or impacted, causing your pug to drag its butt across the floor, which can lead to further infections. Other signs include extreme itchiness that will cause them to lick the area, difficult defecating, and pus or blood in the stool or rectum.

If your pug is showing these symptoms and emitting a foul smelling odor, you’ll need to take them to a vet immediately to get their anal glands expressed. This is the process of emptying your pug’s glands. When failing to do so, it will leave your dog in a lot of discomfort. If it isn’t too severely impacted, a groomer can also help empty their glands manually too alleviate the irritation.

It’s also possible for you to do it yourself at home if you’re willing to give it a try. You will need to be situated in an area where you can make a mess (e.g. backyard), while having paper towels and gloves ready.

  1. Gently lift the tail – this pooches the rectal glands.
  2. Take a clean paper towel and gently grab the anal glands.
  3. Push in besides the rectum to get behind those glands, then milk it towards you.
  4. A light colored and liquid fluid should come out.
  5. Wash up with a baby wipe.
  6. Preventative measures: wipe your pug’s anal glands to keep the area clean when necessary. Ensure the wipes don’t have any parabens, alcohol, or any other harsh chemicals.

The frequency of manually expressing your pug’s glands depends on each dog. While it may be twice a year for some, the process may need to be done monthly for other dogs. Groomers are trained to express your pug’s glands; however, it could be great to ensure that you take your pug to experienced groomers with great track records. If the groomer doesn’t express your pug’s glands the right way, it could lead to many more problems.

6. Infected Paws

Pugs use their paws to walk everywhere, and while the cartilage covering their paws may protect them from a structural standpoint, they can still be susceptible to issues. Exposure to various types of bacteria, allergens, pollutants, and chemicals can lead to infectious issues.

Your pug sweats through their paw pads, similar to the way humans sweat through their feet. When not given the proper care, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. When infections are present, they will lick their paws excessively to relieve the itching. Their toe pads or the area between their toes will also become red and inflamed. Again, a noticeable smell will be present as a result of the infection.

Cleaning Your Pug’s Paws

Preventative measures are important to preventing infectious issues. Ensure that your pug’s paws are regularly wiped after exposure to the outside world. If you have the capacity for it, you can give your dog’s paws a soaking in warm water and anti-fungal dog shampoo. This is great at preventing the accumulation of bacteria.

Additionally, you can dress your pug in boots when going outside for walks. However, some dogs may find it uncomfortable to wear. And on a related note, make sure their nails are trimmed regularly, as this can lead to skeletal damage if left too long.

7. Exposure To Other Outside Elements

The weather can be another factor that impacts the way your dog smells. For instance, if your dog gets wet when exposed to rain, the damp fur will likely produce an odor. That’s because your pug’s coat produces oils that are continually expelled through hair follicles. This is your pug’s natural way of keeping their skin moisturized.

However, since the oils don’t evaporate, they often accumulate, leading to bad body odors. If you notice this with your pug, then you’ll know that it’s about time you bathed them or if you have done that recently, you’ll need to ensure that you towel them each time they play in the rain.

On the other hand, warmer temperatures gives your pug more opportunities to play outside. This means they’re exposed to more elements that can latch onto their fur. Overtime, it can lead to a very smelly pug. The best way to prevent this is by brushing them frequently and providing a monthly bath.

Bathing Your Pug

Bathing your pug regularly helps wash off any sticky oils that accumulates, which helps deter the growth of yeast and bacteria. Male pugs should be bathed every 3-4 weeks, while female pugs may need to be washed more regularly. That’s because females tend to produce a stronger smell than males because of their blood, body fluids, and endometrial tissue.

Ensure that you use a good-quality dog shampoo that doesn’t damage their coat, and that you rinse them off well with warm water. Try your best to get every inch of their body with a deep scrubbing. You could also use this as an opportunity to give your dog a massage to help boost their blood circulation. Lastly, dry their fur thoroughly by using a thick towel. Take this as an opportunity to bond with your pet friend.

Tip: You could invest in a leave-in, no-rinse conditioner or shampoo that’ll leave your pug feeling pleasant and protected. The leave-in shampoo or conditioner remains in-between your pug’s folds making it hard for yeast and bacteria to grow and multiply.

8. Female Pug Odors During Heat Cycle

If you’ve noticed your female pug smelling funky, then you may want to check whether they are on heat. The smell can be subjective, as some owners don’t notice it as much as others. The main goal during the heat cycle is for your female pug to attract male dogs by secreting this scent as part of the mating process.

There are a variety of ways you limit and even eliminate this odor. However, the most critical thing to do is to ensure you have them in a diaper. There is also the option to purchase reusable diapers too that are washable. Bathing your female pug is great for washing away any discharges or bodily fluids that produce extremely foul smells when they are in heat. Finally, don’t forget to wash their pet bedding in between heat cycles.

A more permanent option to eliminate the smells related to this is to get your pug spayed. This procedure removes their fallopian tube and uterus to not only eliminate their heat cycle, but it also stops them from reproducing. It’s a big decision, so it would be wise to consult with your vet for more information.

9. Diet

Providing your pug with low-quality food can cause indigestion, flatulence, and even diarrhea. The foods that cause this reaction are often processed with lots of unnecessary fillers. Instead, opt to provide your pug with healthy, high-quality foods that promote better digestion.

You’ll just need to make sure that your pug isn’t allergic to it by gradually changing it over the course of a week. A sudden change in their diet can also upset their stomach, which again, can lead to flatulence problems. If there is an allergic reaction to the new food, then it’s best you alter it based on your vet’s feedback.

10. Your Pug’s Belongings

Don’t forget that your pug’s toys, blankets, bedding, clothes, and harnesses get dirty as well. If they’re not regularly washed or replaced, then that odor will transfer to your dog. Sleeping on a bed that’s unclean every night isn’t very hygienic. You should aim to wash it regularly, and ideally at the same time as when you bathe your pug. It is also recommended that you replace their pet bed every so often.

Toys will be constantly chewed on. By now, you’ll have realized that their saliva can contain many bacterias and leave a bit of a stench. Harnesses are likely to be exposed to outside elements, and can get dirty really quickly. Especially, if your dog likes to roll around on grass and dirt. It can also be tainted by other dogs if you’re regularly socializing your pug at dog parks.

Related Questions

Why do pugs fart so much? Flatulence can be a problem that’s related to a pug’s diet. Indigestion can be common on low-quality diets since they have sensitive stomachs. They also inhale excess air while they eat, which is expelled by farting.

Why do pugs smell like fish? Fishy smells can be the result of an infection. Check areas like their facial folds, ears, and paws. You should also check whether their anal glands are secreting oils, as this can let off a very pungent odor.

Do pugs have a good sense of smell? Yes, pugs have an excellent sense of smell. Despite their short noses, they score highly and are amongst the best breeds when it comes to scent detection. They’re not known as food lovers for no reason!


Dog Psychology 101, 2019. How to Express Your Dog’s Anal Glands at Home | DIY Anal Gland Expression.

Woodward, M., 2020. Otitis Externa in Animals.

Huff, F. J., n.d. Common Dog Dental Problems.

AskABreeder, 2021. Pug Heat Cycle.

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