When weather is foul, your pets might be smelling that way too

PETS AT HOME

January 09, 1993|By Gina Spadafori | Gina Spadafori,McClatchy News Service

I don't mean to complain, really I don't. I'm glad it's raining.

But would it be uncharitable of me to whine, just a little bit, about muddy dog feet and smelly dog fur? To wish for animals with enough sense to stay out of the rain, or at least enough consideration to wipe their paws before jumping on the bed? To have a house that smells as clean as the rain-scoured outdoors?

At least it's a temporary situation. My dogs are healthy and well-groomed, and I keep the house clean enough to keep smells to a minimum under normal circumstances -- although there'll probably never be a time when you couldn't guess there are pets in my little house.

For others, the pet-smell problem isn't seasonal. Sometimes it seems no matter what they do, their dogs are always a little rank. If your dog is in this category, a little work may help solve the problem. Here are some smell-better tips:

* Bathe and brush your pet regularly. How often should you bathe your pet? As often as you need to to make living with him bearable.

Years ago, twice-yearly bathing was advised, but that's certainly not frequent enough for house dogs.

After a month, my long-haired dogs are carrying half the dirt in the county and all the leaves. After six months, they'd be unrecognizable.

Some dogs do well with a weekly bathing, when high-quality shampoo and conditioner are used. For most dogs, a bath once a month or every six weeks probably will suffice.

Brushing should be done several times a week. It's a good way to keep coats clear of debris and dead hair, and keep mats from forming. Even short-haired dogs will appreciate the rub-down.

* If grooming doesn't help, see a veterinarian. Vile odors usually come from one of three places -- skin, mouth or anal area. In any of those locations, an odor problem can be the symptom of an illness, perhaps a serious one.

Schedule a complete checkup, with special emphasis on the condition of the coat and skin, as well as mouth and anal area.

If it's a skin problem, you'll probably go home with some pills as well as shampoo. Be sure to follow your veterinarian's instructions precisely -- if you stop midway through the course of treatment because the problem seems solved, you're begging for a relapse.

If it's not a skin problem, teeth are probably the next most likely source of odor. Dental problems start as plaque build-up and deteriorate into rotting teeth and gums. Early stages of dental disease are unsightly; advanced stages are not only smelly but could shorten your dog's life.

Finally, the anal glands, which can be found on either side of the anus, are another possible problem area that needs the attention of a veterinarian. They may be impacted, which is often easy -- but messy -- for the vet to fix, or there may be a more serious problem, such as an infection.

* Keep pet areas clean. It doesn't help to keep your pet clean if his bedding is a smelly mess. Use washable pet bedding and don't spare the bleach, and keep a room deodorizer in your pet's favorite spot. For more tips, pick up a copy of Don Aslett's "Pet Clean-Up Made Easy" (Writer's Digest Books). It's a must-have book for any pet-lover who hates pet smell and dirt.

If your pet-smell problems, like mine, are the result of a wet winter, take heart: It'll be summer soon enough, when all we'll have to worry about will be fleas.

Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o Saturday, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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