Animal Doctor

Dog's Odor Problem Might Be More Than Skin-Deep

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 3-year-old shorthair beagle-dachshund mix. He is a great dog, but he has a pungent odor. I bathe him weekly, and even the next day, he has that dirty-dog smell again.

I feed him Pedigree dry dog food. He gets plenty of fresh air and is always on a leash outdoors. How can I rid him of this odor, even though I know he is clean?


Scotia, N.Y.

Many dogs have naturally oily skin. But when the skin becomes excessively oily or dry and the dog has a pungent "dirty-dog" smell a day or so after a cleansing shampoo, something isn't right.

Some people live with these chronic canine skin problems, in part because the dog seems healthy and active otherwise. But skin problems and a bad odor can indicate an underlying nutritional deficiency or other health problems that, if left unattended, could lead to more serious complications. A veterinary checkup is advisable.

Many dry dog foods are notoriously high in starches and low in essential fatty acids. A teaspoon of flaxseed oil per day in his food could do much to improve his skin health and get rid of the malodorous condition. Provide him with regular physical activity outdoors, and bathe as needed -- but do not bathe more than once a month after his odor is improved. Your weekly bathing could cause skin problems by disturbing the normal, healthy dermal surface cells and bacteria, leading to loss of natural oils, excessive secretion thereof and skin infection. Gentle daily grooming instead and periodically rubbing some diatomaceous earth or plain, unscented baby powder into his coat outdoors (and then brushing it out) will also help. A dog bed stuffed with cedar shreds will create a more agreeable atmosphere.

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