Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Doggie odor is a frequent complaint veterinarians and groomers hear from clients.
The good news is that in most cases a twofold solution – giving your dog regular baths and cleaning your home weekly – will solve the problem.
How can my sweet dog smell so bad?
Doggie odor happens when bacteria and yeast normally found on the skin start to break down surface oils. The oxidation of fat creates the foul smell.
It’s the same thing that causes body odor in humans, says Lowell Ackerman, DVM, American College of Veterinary Dermatology diplomate, and clinical assistant professor at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Mass. If we didn’t wash regularly, wed be a lot more smelly than we are, and the same is true in animals.
While not all dogs have a strong odor, some definitely smell worse than others, such as Labrador Retrievers, Basset Hounds, and Cocker Spaniels, because of heavier sebaceous gland secretion. Breeds that produce less oil include Doberman Pinschers and Poodles.
Regardless of breed, bathe your dog whenever he stinks. As long as you use a proper shampoo and rinse thoroughly, don’t worry about drying out his coat. Today’s canine shampoos are gentler than ever before, allowing you to lather him up as often as necessary. For some dogs that means once a week; others, once a month.
Finding the right shampoo isn’t difficult. Wendy Booth, a certified master groomer in Colorado Springs, Colo., recommends buying a formula specifically for dogs from a pet-supply store.
They have gobs of choices, and every last one of them should clean well, as long as the owner rinses well, she says, adding that residue left behind can cause skin and coat problems.
Other Things That Raise a Stink
If your dog still smells after his bath, an infection somewhere on his body might be the cause. Use your nose to sniff out where the foul smell is coming from. Here are a few places to check:
Mouth: Heavy tarter buildup on teeth can produce a strong odor. Make an appointment with your veterinarian for a dental cleaning; he or she will check for diseased gums and teeth, which can also cause bad breath.
Ears: Wax buildup can cause an unpleasant smell. First, try cleaning your dogs ears. If that doesn’t get rid of the odor, make an appointment with your veterinarian, who can check your dogs ears for an infection.
Anal sacs: These two small sacs, one located on each side of the rectum, contain pungent oil. When your dog defecates, the sacs compress and release the oil. Try washing the hair around your dogs bottom. If that doesn’t get rid of the smell, see your veterinarian. The sacs might be infected.
Skin:The most common causes of malodor are bacterial and yeast skin infections stemming from allergies or endocrine problems, says Joy Barbet, DVM, ACVD diplomate, and assistant professor at the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine, in Gainesville.
Barbet estimates 25 to 35 percent of odor-related cases seen in small-animal practices are related to skin and ear problems. That number jumps to about 50 percent during warmer months, she says, when fleas proliferate and allergies to pollens and house dust flare.
Along with scratching, which causes local trauma to the normal skin barrier, allergic reactions actually change the immune chemistry of the skin in such a way that microbes may grow more easily, resulting in infections and more odor, she says.
Take the Odor Battle to the Home Front
After you’ve figured out the cause of your dogs odor and address the problem, the next step is to get your home smelling good, too.
No one knows how to tackle tough indoor doggie odor better than business owners and purebred hobbyists.
George Bernard, owner of Silver Trails: The Animal Inn, washes the floors and walls of his Westbrook, Conn. kennel with a food-handling product that kills bacteria and odors on contact.
It’s the same thing that’s used on butcher blocks in butcher shops, so its edible, says Bernard, whose boarding facility houses up to 150 animals. You can actually have a dog lick the floor and he won’t get sick.
Booth, a groomer for 26 years, doesn’t use any special cleaning liquids. Instead, she plugs in an ionic air purifier to help freshen her 300 square-foot shop.
Dalmatian breeder Elaine Gewirtz tries to prevent odors before they start by cleaning her Southern California home on a regular basis. Every week she vacuums carpets and washes floors. Each of her three dogs beds has removable covers, making them easy to launder. She also opens windows frequently to air out the home.
Gewirtz has noticed that dogs left outside during the day while their owners are at work pick up unpleasant odors, which they then bring indoors. She recommends brushing or wiping down dogs with a damp cloth before letting them in the house.
By tackling odors in your home and on your pet, it won’t be long before you not only love just your dog, but how he smells too.