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Something stinks with groomed dog

Dear Dr. Fox:

We own two Scottish terriers: one spayed, 3, and one un-neutered, 2. They both eat Harmony Farms dry dog food.

The male develops a bad odor only a few days before his bath. He is groomed and shaved regularly. Why does our male have such a foul odor? The female doesn’t have this problem.

We have tried different shampoos. The groomer suggested Harmony Farms because it is all-natural. Switching dog food has made no difference.

V.M., Herndon

DF: Dogs differ individually in their metabolism and body chemistry, owing in part to differences in gender and genetics.

I presume the odor is from your dog’s skin, which produces oils and pheromones. Because you are feeding a dry food, his coat might lack beneficial oils, especially polyunsaturated fats. Giving your dog a teaspoon each of flaxseed oil and coconut oil in his food daily should help improve his coat and skin in a few weeks.

A weekly dry bath outdoors with baby powder or cornstarch rubbed into his coat and then brushed out after a long walk will help remove odoriferous, oily compounds from his coat that his skin is secreting. A periodic (every two weeks) bath with human Selsun Blue (medicated) shampoo might do wonders.

Healthy dogs rarely need to be bathed unless they have especially oily skin or get into dirty pond or polluted lake water. Frequent bathing every few days, unless advised by a veterinarian for certain skin conditions, can aggravate skin problems by removing natural protective oils and disrupting the healthy bacteria on the skin, leading to such complications as fungal infections and staphylococcus.

PART-TIMER

Dear Dr. Fox:

My neighbors have an 8-year-old cairn terrier, Benji, that has exhibited unusual behavior toward one member of the household. He urinates in this person’s shoes or on the side of his bed.

I suggested maybe it’s because this person used to walk him regularly but had gotten out of the habit, so I offered to help out.

I take Benji four days a week because his owners work. I take him with me to the office, and he has never had an accident.

This satisfies my desire to have a part-time dog and relieves the owners’ guilt of leaving him home all day. Benji enthusiastically endorses this arrangement every morning when I get him. I recommend this arrangement to anyone willing to give it a try.

M.J., New Brighton, Minn.

DF: I hope many readers will consider your idea of being a part-time canine caregiver. It is a great notion for those who enjoy dogs’ company and want to help the dogs and their owners who are out of the house, leaving their dogs alone for long hours during the workweek.

Benji’s shoe-marking with urine could be for the reason you suggest or because he is marking his territory and strengthening his bond with the wearer of those shoes, whom he might be pining for.

NEEM OIL

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have been using neem oil on my 80-pound dog and three cats for two years to protect against fleas and ticks. What is your opinion of neem oil? It has worked great, with seemingly no side effects.

J.P., Springfield, Mo.

DF: Neem oil (and also the leaf) is widely used in India as an insect repellent. It is also used as medication for various skin, internal parasitic and other medical problems. It is now gaining recognition in the West.

Depending on the source (as with many imported products for medical and veterinary use), quality, safety and effectiveness go hand in hand. Many imports are contaminated, adulterated or diluted. So look for international organic certification and other recognized quality assurance.

Neem and other essential oils are generally not safe for cats, so I wouldn’t advise using this product on your cats until more research is published. There is also the risk to consider of cats grooming dogs in a shared household after any anti-flea preparation (herbal and non-herbal) is put on the dog’s coat. Also, cats groom themselves more than dogs do, so there is always the risk of poisoning when they ingest such products off their own fur or from other animals they might live with.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. Write to him at United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

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