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Do Westies Smell Bad? Learn the Good from the Bad

Westies have a typical dog smell that is considered milder than many other dog breeds. Westies have a short, wiry coat that doesn’t trap dirt and debris easily and this goes a long way to keeping your Westie aroma-free. But, your Westie must be kept clean with a regular brushing and grooming routine to keep smells to a minimum.

Westies can suffer from a dermatitis yeast infection that causes a terrible odor as well as other skin infections and ear infections. These conditions require a vet diagnosis and treatment to cure the infection and bad smell.

Do Westies smell?

My Westie, Tasha, is not a smelly dog, thank goodness. As long as we brush her most days and keep up with her regular grooming routine, she has just a mild doggy smell.

She has had the occasional ear infection and skin infection in her 16 years. Those had a bad smell that was quite distinct and obviously different to her usual smell. Luckily, the vet was able to tell us what the problem was and sort it out quickly.

West Highland White Terriers, Westies, have one of the most adorable and iconic faces in the dog world. Due to their intelligence, high energy, and spunky attitude, Westies are popular as family pets.

Westies are so adorable that neither I nor other dog owners mind the typical dog smell. But are Westie’s smellier than other dogs?

Keep reading to learn what is needed to help a Westie smell cuddle-worthy all the time. 

Do Westies Smell More Than Other Dogs?

Westies are considered low-odor dogs. Their short, wiry coat doesn’t keep dirt and debris trapped easily, which helps them stay cleaner and less smelly than some other dog breeds.

Westies also produce less sebaceous oil, or sebum, than some other breeds. Although sebum is useful in making a dog’s coat waterproof, it can cause aromas of the doggy type. 

According to Pets Training & Boarding, Westies are amongst the least smelly dog breeds.

How Healthy Westies Smell

Westies are not renowned for having any abnormally bad smell when their coats are in good condition. They have a mild, doggy odor.

They smell best when their coat is kept fresh with: 

  • Frequent brushing – brushing keeps the coat in top shape, which in turn helps to minimize odors. Brush daily, if you can but at least twice a week. This helps remove dead undercoat hair and any foreign particles and dirt. It also helps keep the skin as healthy as possible, and you are more likely to spot any skin issues in their early stages when you are brushing your Westie.
  • Professional grooming – Professional groomers can take care of cleaning all parts of your Westie. A groomer experienced in Westie care can save you from some at-home care and spot potential issues before they cause a problem.
  • Regular baths (but not too often)Westies only need baths every 4 to 6 weeks. Westie’s skin is very prone to allergies and inflammation. Bathing too often can cause dermatitis, which inevitably leads to bad smells and discomfort for the dog. Westies taken for monthly professional grooming should not need baths at home between grooming sessions.
  • Dry Shampoo – Westies that are dirty and smelly before their scheduled bath time can be thoroughly brushed and cleaned with dry shampoo to prolong the cleanliness in between baths.

How often should you bathe a Westie?

A healthy Westie with skin that is comfortable and in prime condition will have a mild dog smell that should not be offensive to dog owners. Most dog owners will not notice the smell in particular.

>> How Often Should You Bathe A Westie

See our guide to the best dog shampoos for Westies.

When Do Westies Smell Bad?

There are five main causes of bad smells in West Highland Terriers. These smells are very distinct and far worse than a normal doggy smell.

If your dog is due for its routine trip to the groomer or the bath at home, he might be smelling a little more pungent than usual, but it will still be his normal doggy smell.

However, the following conditions and situations cause your Westie to smell bad:

  1. Yeast infection of the skin
  2. Food allergies resulting in skin infections caused by scratching dry, irritated skin
  3. Ear infections
  4. Bad breath
  5. Dirty from rolling in animal poo at the park

The first four will usually need a trip to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

The fifth one should be solved with a good bath.

1. Westie Skin Problems That Cause Bad Smells

Unfortunately, Westies have very sensitive skin that is prone to dermatitis, staph infections, and yeast infections.

I have noticed that these skin conditions are incredibly uncomfortable for the dog and make them smell terrible. 

  • Westies are prone to atopic dermatitis caused by allergies which are not noticeable until the Westie becomes very uncomfortable and begins licking his paws obsessively, and scratching at spots until they become raw. You need to watch out for your Westie “cleaning” obsessively because it may be the first sign of a more serious condition.
  • Westie Armadillo Syndrome. The name is quite an accurate description of the condition. This skin condition can occur in puppies from 3 – 12 months old. It causes itchy feet, belly, and head. Scratching causes the skin to become thickened and swollen, and the hair falls out. Secondary infections can set in that also cause itching and bad smells.
  • Malassezia Dermatitis. This is a yeast infection that occurs all over the skin. While the yeast is naturally found on dog skin and in dog ears, Westies tend to get an overgrowth of this yeast, which makes them itchy and smelly. The scratching can cause secondary staph infections, so prompt treatment is essential.

2. Food Allergies

Westies are prone to food allergies, which can result in itchy skin and stomach upsets and discomfort.

Bloating from stomach discomfort and subsequent gas ‘releases’ by your dog (doggy farts) are never going to smell good and should be easy to recognise!

Unfortunately, food allergies often lead to itchy skin, which your Westie will scratch. This can lead to breaks in the skin which get infected and can become smelly.

Westies are known to be intolerant of a number of common foods. You should avoid feeding your Westie dairy foods, for example, if you notice he has a poor reaction.

I have found that putting the Westie on special vet-recommended diets and purchasing special Westie food goes a long way. This helps to manage dermatitis and other common Westie skin problems.

> What Can Westies Not Eat? Common Foods To Avoid

3. Ear Infections

Westies are prone to ear infections and they can be very smelly.

You need to clean your Westie’s ears as part of your regular grooming schedule. Once every 4 – 6 weeks should be enough for most Westies, although some dogs produce more ear wax naturally than others and may need more frequent ear cleaning.

Westie having ears cleaned and checked by a vet

However, cleaning too often can make the ear canal irritated and inflamed, which can lead to infections and other issues. So don’t go overboard with cleaning, especially if there doesn’t seem to be any sign of problems.

To clean ears, I take a cotton ball or cotton swab moistened with warm water and gently swab dirt and debris from the visible parts of the inner ear. Never put anything into the ear canal. Simply keep the outer part of the ear as clean as possible.

We’ve got more about cleaning in our post about Westie Ears.

If you notice any signs of ear infection or discomfort, consult with your veterinarian.

Ear yeast infections are the most common reason dogs go to the vet for ears that smell bad. 

4. Bad Breath

If your Westie has bad breath, you may need to clean their teeth.

Dental chews are a great way to keep your Westie’s breath smelly sweet. 

Regular teeth cleaning should also be part of your Westie health routine. 

To clean my Westie’s teeth, I use a dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste and gently clean the dog’s teeth daily. Dogs generally do not like this procedure, but with patience, your Westie can be trained to undergo this cleaning calmly. 

Dog toothbrush and dental chews

Don’t use human toothpaste. Most have ingredients that are not good for dogs.

The Westie Club of America have a guide to cleaning your Westie’s teeth

There are, however, some gum and dental infections that cause smelly breath and discomfort to your dog. These include gingivitis and periodontal disease. 

Healthy gums should be pink. If you notice discoloration, swelling or bleeding, take your Westie to the vet for a full dental examination.

Make sure you get an annual dental check-up for your Westie at your vet to keep dental problems and smelly breath at bay.

5. Dirty From Park Play

If your exuberant Westie has got extra dirty from foul play at the park, he’s going to need a bath.

In general, Westies shouldn’t be bathed too often because they have sensitive skin which is prone to dryness, particularly after bathing. Once every 4 – 6 weeks should be often enough in normal circumstances.

However, if your dog has rolled in something particularly nasty, needs must and a bath is most definitely called for! 

See our full guide to bathing your Westie and please make sure you don’t use human shampoos as these can lead to skin irritation. Westie-approved dog shampoos only!

Ways to Help Westies Smell Great

The best ways to help a Westie smell its best are preventative maintenance and cleaning. I recommend taking the Westie to a professional groomer monthly to help ensure that the coat is at its best and that the Westie is being properly shampooed for skin health.

In the meantime, Westies benefit most from owners who take the time for brushing sessions several times a week. This brushing maintains the cleanliness of the coat and will give you the opportunity to check for early signs of dermatitis and skin infections.

  • First, brush the Westie gently all over with a slicker brush, also called a pin brush. These pins will help to remove all the dead hair from the undercoat. This is also where food particles, stickers, and other smelly items will be found and removed during brushing.
  • Secondly, go all over the fur with a steel comb. A good comb will have closer tines on one side and wider tines on the other side. This will help to ensure that the coat is smooth and tangle-free.
  • For stubborn tangles, do not pull and tug at the Westies fur. This is uncomfortable and will make the Westie less cooperative for brushing sessions. Instead, get a detangling tool and use it to gently loosen tangles and separate hair with the tool and your fingers.

Westie having hair brushed

What to Do When a Westie Gets Smelly

When a Westie gets smelly, it is a sign that something is wrong. 

I never ignore unusually strong or offensive smells, as these are usually a sign of an underlying health complication.

Here are some steps I recommend taking to identify the reason why a Westie is smelly: 

  • Check the dog over for signs of swollen, red, or scaly skin.
  • Check the paws, in-between the toes, the belly, and around the head for signs of irritated skin, dry flaky skin, or red patches from scratching and biting.
  • Look in the ears for signs of yeast. There might be a bad smell, scaly skin, redness and a sticky colored discharge in the ear.

It is important to take your Westie to a vet as soon as possible.

Many Westie owners try DIY treatments first but these can result in the condition worsening. A professional diagnosis from your veterinarian is the best action to take. They can work out what the problem is and give you a suitable treatment plan, which should clear the problem, and the aroma, up quickly and easily.

If left until more advanced, any infection will be more difficult to treat than if it was caught and dealt with in its early stages.

Wrapping Up

Westies have a dog smell, but I do not find this smell to be unusually odorous or offensive. When they are in healthy condition, the smell is easy to ignore and never impedes petting sessions, cuddles, and lap naps. 

Westies that have any kind of unusual or offensive smell, especially when combined with unusual licking, biting, and scratching, are a sign that the Westie is suffering from a condition that needs treatment. This requires a prompt visit to the vet for diagnosis and a professional remedy.

Within no time at all, the condition should have cleared up and the odor gone!

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