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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Expert Advice May 2019 Issue

Dear Doctor: The dog’s urine smells particularly foul

Q. Over the last year or so, the urine of my 12-year-old coonhound, Rhythm, has taken on a foul odor that is noticed not only by me but also by others. I had her urine tested by my vet, who reports no evidence of a urinary tract infection. But because the odor won’t go away, I am still concerned that there is a problem that needs to be treated.

What steps should I take to resolve the issue other than washing down the patio with Clorox when it gets too rank? (And yes, I do walk her two to three times a day.)

Diane D’Arcy

McLean, Virginia

Dear Ms. D’Arcy,

A. A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is the most common reason for a dog’s urine to take on a foul odor, so your veterinarian was right to test for that. She or he was looking for bacteria in the urine, which is what causes the particularly unpleasant scent. But a UTI is by no means the only reason for urine’s odor to become more pungent, explains Tufts veterinary urology expert Mary Anna Labato, DVM. “Other things that can impact urine’s odor include yeast infections, skin infections (especially around the vulvar area), vaginal infections and inflammation, hormonal disorders, certain medications and, sometimes, even the food a dog is eating,” she says. For that reason, Dr. Labato advises, “if you only brought a voided urine sample to your veterinarian to be checked, you may want to bring your elderly girl in for a complete physical examination, some blood work, and another urinalysis and culture obtained in a sterile manner from her bladder. The tell could be in the results of one or more of these other tests.”

Dr. Labato also wonders if Rhythm is really sick or whether the odor of her urine is simply accumulating on the patio. Patios, yards, and rugs can accumulate waste products from urine on their surface and develop an odor (especially in warm and humid weather) even when the dog has no medical issue. Bacteria and fungi in the environment (as opposed to in the urine itself) can break down the protein and other chemicals in voided urine, leading to the unpleasant scent.

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