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How To Get Rid Of Pet Odors

Updated on January 2, 2017

Sebum Odor

For a number of reasons dogs may give off odors that make them offensive in the house. Probably the most common is the simple body odor, the "doggy" smell with which practically all owners are acquainted. This comes from sebum, a secretion of thousands of tiny glands in the dog's skin, which forms around the hairs and spreads over the skin. To a certain extent it is a kind of waterproofing and helps protect the animal against the weather. In cold weather the secretion is heavier than in warm weather; hence a dog kept outdoors and brought into the house on a winter day will smell stronger than the pet kept inside. The sebum also helps to keep down certain kinds of bacteria, but only small quantities are needed, and the dog can quickly supply it.

The only way to remove the sebum and its odor is to wash the pet with a quality dog shampoo. To counteract the removal of the protective sebum secretion, a medicated rinse such as a weak solution of Clorox may be used. The related chlorine solutions are effective in combating offensive odors. Nor does bathing injure either dog or cat, as some owners believe, as long as the animal is thoroughly dried before being exposed to cold or wind.


Canker and Other Causes

Ear canker, anal gland secretions, and the teeth are other common sources of offensive odors in pets.

Canker gives off a rather cheesy odor. It causes wax to form in the ear, and the dog or cat may scratch at it until the ear becomes swollen and infected. The pet may seem sick and listless, or may go almost frantic with pain and keep clawing at its ear.

Canker can usually be cured without any lasting ill effects. Most veterinarians wash the wax from the ear with a mixture of alcohol and ether, then insert a sulfa drug solution in propylene glycol. Sometimes a solution of phenol or iodine in glycerin is used. It is best, however, not to try these without consulting a veterinarian. A good home remedy is one half to one teaspoonful of olive oil poured into each ear and massaged gently for one or two minutes. The waxy exudate may be wiped away with absorbent cotton. This is repeated daily for four or five days, then every other day for a week.

Sometimes a microscope is necessary to detect ear mites, which may cause canker, and they should be treated by a veterinarian.

A source of body odor rarely recognized or understood by pet owners is the anal gland secretion. This secretion from a skunk is widely known and far too easily recognized. A descented skunk, however, makes an excellent house pet. Dogs and cats have similar glands though the odor from them is, fortunately, not quite so potent.

These glands are situated on either side of and just below the anus, and their contents are discharged through ducts to the anus. The wild dog of centuries ago was probably constantly constipated because of its diet, which included the hair and bones of its prey. The anal gland secretion acts as a lubricant to the anus.

When a dog sits on its hindquarters and drags them along by its front legs, it is more likely that the anal glands need cleaning than that the dog has worms, despite common belief to the contrary. Putting pressure on the anal glands with the fingers will cause them to empty. The secretion may then be washed away, and this source of odor removed, at least temporarily. Dragging the hindquarters does, however, sometimes indicate tapeworm.

Tooth trouble is another common cause of odor. Although cavities are rare in an animal's teeth, the gums do tend to recede with age, and this exposure may lead to infection or to a fungus condition. Tartar will form on a dog's teeth, especially when its diet consists almost entirely of soft foods. It can be removed by the layman with a special tartar scraper, but on the "whole tooth troubles are best treated by a veterinarian.


One problem that confronts almost everyone who keeps a pet in the house is the matter of shedding, and for this there is no simple solution. It is natural for an animal to shed. Some authorities believe it is primarily due to the effect of light on the animal's body, perhaps by way of the eyes. But it is also largely due to changes in temperature. As the spring and summer days lengthen and the weather gets warmer, the animal's hair tends to quit growing and begins to fall out. This is a natural adjustment to the hotter weather to follow. However, some pets shed the year around, and the amount of shedding varies not only from season to season and from breed to breed, but from one animal to another of the same breed. This is particularly true of house pets, which are exposed to sudden and violent changes in temperature when they enter or leave the house, and receive far less sunlight than nature intended. As a result their shedding cycle becomes erratic.

Proper grooming is, in the large majority of cases, the best and only answer. As a rule the comb is more effective than the brush in removing loose hair. Best results are obtained from the use of two combs. A rather coarse one for first use, followed by a finer-toothed one. The size of the combs depends on the length and thickness of the hair to be combed. Combing should be followed with a good brushing, using a fairly stiff brush. Wire bristles set in rubber are best. In times of heavy shedding this may need to be done every day.

Bathing can also help. Before washing, the hair should be rubbed hard with the hands, against the natural growth, to loosen it. The pet should be dried thoroughly by rubbing vigorously with a heavy towel, then combed and brushed.

Some breeds of dogs need to be plucked, that is, to have the dead or superfluous hair actually pulled away.

Long-haired cats, bred for the beauty of their long hair, then kept in a warm house, are apt to shed more than the short-haired breeds. On the other hand, among dogs, the Kerry blue terrier sheds very little if at all.

Occasionally excessive shedding is the result of some dietary deficiency. In such cases the feeding of a yolk of an egg twice a week will help.


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