Most dog owners will tell you that they love their dogs until they start smelling, well, like a dog! There are a number of things that can cause your normally pleasant smelling pooch to suddenly reek like a skunk, ranging from something in their environment to a medical condition that has gone unnoticed by you or your veterinarian.
Since you are most familiar with your four-legged friend, you are more than likely well acquainted with the usual “doggie” body odor, which is usually most noticeable if the dog is wet. This is normal, and should correct itself once the fur dries out completely. If you notice the odor constantly, however, it may be time to do a little detective work to find out what is going on with dear Ginger. First, look for something obvious that could be causing the odor. Dogs gather a great deal of their information through their noses, and when they find something that sets their snouts tingling with delight, they immediately want to roll in it, or carry it around for a while. As a result, poo from other animals, bits of deceased animals, fur, feathers, and all sorts of other unsavory-smelling materials can easily get lodged in their coats, becoming a breeding ground for odor-producing bacteria. This is especially the case with longhaired breeds, or those that are suited for hunting or romping over large expanses of land.
If this is the case, the solution is relatively simple: a good bath and brushing should correct the problem. Be careful not to bathe your dog too often, however, as most shampoos tend to remove essential oils from the dog’s skin and coats. This is extra important if you have a breed that swims or spends a great deal of time in water as too many baths can damage their coat’s natural waterproofing qualities. When bathing your dog, try to get a shampoo that will actually remove the smell, rather than a scented brand that merely covers the existing smell with fragrance. A good brushing beforehand should remove any debris lodged in their coat. Wet the dog thoroughly, beginning at the head, then apply the shampoo and lather your dog beginning at the neck and working back to the tail. Make sure to cover the legs, stomach, chest, tail and outside of the ears. If there are feathers of fur, be sure to shampoo those as well, but take care not to get soap in the dog’s eyes. Some shampoos need to sit for a minute or two, other can be rinsed right away, in either case, be sure to remove all the soap from your dog’s coat to avoid skin irritation. Repeat the shampooing if needed, otherwise, dry the dog using a towel or hair dryer, being careful not to apply heat directly to the skin. You may also want to shampoo the dog’s comb and brush as well before brushing the coat again once it is dry.
Another possible cause of doggie odor is poor hygiene, particularly of the ears and the teeth. On a routine basis, use a small flashlight to check your dog’s ears for foreign items that may have gotten stuck in the ear on one of the animal’s many adventures outside, or for signs of an infection. One parasite that you should be on the lookout for is ear mites, which can cause a dog to have a foul odor. In addition to being unpleasant for your pet, they can also trigger reactions in people who already have allergies to dust mites. Ear mites are attracted to waxy buildup, so keeping your dog’s ears clean can reduce the chances of an infestation, as well as prevent infections from starting.
There are a number of products available to help keep your dog’s ears clean, including specially designed ear wipes, or you can purchase an ear cleaning solution and use simple cotton balls. First, wipe away any obvious wax buildup along the inner ear flap, making sure to clean and creases or crevasses in the ears. Built-up earwax will usually be dark brown, and is easily detected. Once you’ve removed the initial build up, squirt a small amount of the ear cleaning solution into the dog’s ear, then rub the ear with in circles a few times to loosen any wax in the inner ear canal. Place a cotton ball just under the ear flap and lean your dog’s head toward it to drain any remaining fluid and dissolved wax into the cotton ball. Using a clean cotton ball, wipe away any remaining solution. Do the same with the other ear.
Routine oral care can also prevent unpleasant odors, especially the infamous “doggie breath.” Brushing your dog’s teeth is a fairly easy process, and can be done at home at minimal expense to the owner. The first step is to find a toothbrush that best suits the size of your dog’s mouth. There are a number of sizes and styles available in pet stores, or you can special order one through a pet supply catalog or from your veterinarian. As with young children, a very small amount of toothpaste is all that is needed to do the job; it does not need to be any more than the size of a pea. Lift your dog’s lips so that all the teeth are visible, and then brush for about a minute, taking care to brush each side of all the teeth. For best results, this should be done at least twice per week, with additional brushing as needed. If the problem seems to be centered on the breath, or you notice an increase in flatulence, you may want to consider putting the dog on a homemade diet for a time, as some processed dog foods may cause gassiness or bad breath. Be sure your dog is eating at a reasonable pace and has a high quality diet, as this can also contribute to excess gas in the stomach.