Stinking, Balding Bulldog



My bulldog is 9 years old and losing hair. Her skin is dry and it smells bad. Her ears have gooey junk in them and they stink too. Is this just because she is old?

Dr. Nichol:

Dry skin problems and hair loss are not signs of good health and, except for humans of a certain age, aren’t considered a normal part of membership in AARP. Your bulldog’s foul odor and her infected ears are indicators of a serious skin problem. More than just exuding B.O. she may have seborrhea and chronic infection.

I consulted with veterinary skin specialist Dr. Rebecca Mount of Dermatology for Animals. Here is her response. “This poor pup! The odor is a strong sign of a secondary skin infection. It is really important to have a microscopic evaluation of her skin to ensure we are treating the right infectious agent. I have seen hair loss secondary to infection and self-trauma if the dog is itchy. But it could also indicate a hormonal problem such as low thyroid (hypothyroidism) or excessive cortisol (Cushings). Food allergies and demodectic mange are also common in older bulldogs”

“While the symptoms are not necessarily related to age, it does change the list of possible causes. In addition to allergies, which are common in this breed and can predispose to dry skin and skin and ear infections, hormonal changes can do the same thing. A full history about the onset of these changes, response to any previous therapy, blood work, and other clinical signs would be helpful in pinpointing the underlying disease which is predisposing this poor kiddo to secondary skin infections.”

The take-away is that your bulldog needs a thorough diagnostic evaluation. She could actually be sicker that she appears and may feel worse than she smells. The chronic inflammation in her skin can affect other organ systems including her kidneys, heart valves, joints, and even her brain. Dementia is common in elderly dogs. Your girl’s quality of life can improve a lot. Get her examined ASAP. She’s not a happy camper.


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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom ( Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Email pet behavior or physical questions to or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.