"He smells like a dog", the client says. Being as he is a dog, this doesn’t seem to me to be a problem, technically. If, being a dog, he smelled like, say, a camel — now that would be a problem. Of course, this is not the truly stinky dog. Every dog has a tendency to smell a little strong when wet. If you can love your dog when he’s wet, then you really love your dog. Something about being wet, or even just a really humid day, brings out that "doggy" odor. That’s not too bad, though. Nothing a little bath or a little deodorant (like Elimin-Odor, or Fresh-n-Clean) won’t fix. In fact, some clients complain about the dog smelling "doggy" when I personally cannot even detect an odor. Admittedly, my nose is not sensitive at this point, so I do ask the staff to come in and give their viewpoint (smellpoint?).
Then there is the ever popular, "let’s find something dead and roll in it". It’s a taste treat, a fashion accessory and a designer fragrance. Again, nothing a bath (or two) won’t cure.
Some dogs, however, are truly stinky. A small minority of stinky dogs have an odor that arises from an internal illness. Dogs with chronic and advanced kidney failure can have so much waste accumulating in their bloodstream that it makes their breath smell like ammonia (or urine). Some seriously unregulated diabetics have so many ketones (fat break-down products) in their blood that their breath smells like acetone (the stuff in nail-polish remover). These are not going to be long-term stinky dogs. In fact, without some intensive care they are not going to be long-term alive dogs.
Long-term stinky dogs tend to either have personal hygiene problems, anal sac problems, mouth problems, skin problems, or ear problems (often extensions of skin problems, and I will discuss ear problems in more detail in a future post).
The personal hygiene problems are worst for long-haired pets. If you have lots of fringe around your mouth, food and saliva can lodge there and cause odor problems. Long hair around your hiney needs to be kept trimmed. Otherwise, the first soft stool hangs up and starts a "snowballing" effect. It’s hard to stay clean if you go to the bathroom with your pants on. Dogs with deep skin folds also have odor problems with yeast and bacteria growing in the valleys. This would include the English Bulldogs, the Chinese Shar-Pei, any "smashed face" bug-eyed dog, and some obese dogs. Spaniels sometimes have folds in their lower lips that catch food and saliva. You need to keep the folds clean. In some extreme cases, plastic surgery may be needed to eliminate the offending creases.
We have discussed basic dental care in previous posts. The gunk in a diseased mouth stinks, and if you have an itchy dog, they will be spreading that goo on their skin wherever they chew themselves. Sweet.
Really itchy dogs (or pruritic dogs, as we scientists would say) are usually stinky if the problem is long-term. The really itchy dog chews and scratches himself constantly. This traumatizes his skin. Often you can see sore places where he has actually broken the skin in an attempt to relieve his itching. The skin attempts a protective response when continually assaulted in this fashion. Most of us are familiar with the formation of calluses in skin areas that take a lot of wear and tear. In dogs, the constant scratching does some other things as well. It speeds up the process of new skin formation and maturation, though this is not particularly helpful. When you shortcut a 3-week process, the results are not as good as if you "did it right". That’s why the skin begins to flake: it’s just not built as well as it should be. Another thing that happens is that the oil glands in the skin get over-active. This is a fatty secretion, and when produced in excessive amounts, it gets rancid pretty quickly. This rancid odor will therefore develop with many chronically itchy dogs, no matter what the underlying cause for their problem. Thus, dogs with yeast infections, bacterial infections, mange mites, allergies or contact sensitivity all "smell mangey". Give them a bath and they will be stinking again in very short order. Their skin continues to crank out the grease, which goes rancid in a hurry. The technical name for this situation is seborrhea.
Medicated shampoos (benzoyl peroxide, colloidal sulfur, coal tars) will help abate the excessive flaking and greasiness, but you must find the underlying cause and treat that. The stinkiness would not be happening if the itchiness were not happening.
Acceptable Stinky Dog Treatment Plan:
1. Find the source of odor: mouth, ears, hiney, skin or combination thereof
2. Find the underlying causes and treat all of them.
Unacceptable Stinky Dog Treatment Plan: throw dog outside.