The Definitive (Over)Budget Pet Guide to De-Stinking Your House and Home
Part V - The Beasts
Dogs (and sometimes cats, but less often) can be pretty stinky. Their fur, their farts, their breath, etc. And maybe they just need a bath and a good tooth-brushing, but please note: If your pet has a persistent bad odor or develops a new stinky smell, it may be symptomatic of an underlying medical condition. Talk to your vet about it.
But for the non-medical-condition-induced stink, there are some things you can do.
- Wash your Dog. The hard part about advising on what dog shampoo to use is that all dogs are different -- Lulu the Pom-mix is going to require a different shampoo than Icky the whippet, who is going to require a different shampoo than Roxy the dermatitis-stricken Golden Retriever. There are medicated shampoos for itchy skin or brightening shampoos for white fur. So here is what I use for our pups, but you should experiment to see what works for your dog.
Lulu and Betelgeuse essentially have hair instead of fur, and they are active dogs who like to get nice 'n dirty. We use Earthbath Oatmeal & Aloe Shampoo ($11). It gets them super clean -- removes dirt, dingles, odors, etc. -- and I love the way it smells. This shampoo makes them so soft and fluffy, although it is a bit drying on its own. It can be paired with Earthbath Creme Rinse & Conditioner ($9) for conditioning and detangling. [You can browse the full line of Earthbath shampoos here.] I also like Isle of Dogs Everyday Lush Coating Shampoo ($13) for extra Pomeranian poof. Betelgeuse hates baths and struggles while we lather her up, so I am in the market for a conditioning shampoo or two-in-one shampoo and conditioner, like Aroma Paws Luxury Dog Shampoo and Conditioner in One ($15), but I need to use what I have before trying a new brand.
- In Between Baths. So my usual if-it's-dirty-wash-it motto does not always apply to dogs. Sometimes it's not a convenient time to give your dog a bath, even if she stinks. Our dogs take a long time -- and several towels -- to dry. So if our guests are an hour away, and Betelgeuse rolled in a dead something, I need a stop gap measure to address the odor without giving her a full bath. That's what wipes and waterless shampoos are for. I like Nature's Dog by Canus Fresh Goat's Milk Lotion-Based All Purpose Pet Wipes ($7) for wiping away dirt, mud, or dingle-berries. And for cleansing and deodorizing, I like Kiehl's Spray-N-Play Cleansing Spritz ($13), which is a waterless shampoo that smells heavenly. You spray the dog, foam 'em up, and then towel them off.
- Clean the Eyes and Ears. Our two dogs fastidiously groom each other's eyes and ears, which means less work for us. Both pups have dark fur around their eyes, so we don't have issues with eye stains. But their little triangle dog ears are the perfect breeding ground for mites, yeast, or bacterial infections, so we have to take some extra steps to keep them clean. There are thousands of ear care products on the market, and I really don't know what is best. I was using ear drops, and I recently purchased Earthbath Ear Wipes ($7) when I noticed that Betel's ears were a little bit waxy. They seem to work fine.
- Get your Dog Professionally Groomed. You can also pay someone to do all the above for you. We do this for Betel and Lulu approximately twice a year [previous post on grooming here] ($60). The groomers' price tag includes "nail clipping, ear cleaning, anal gland expression, a rejuvenating bath with all natural shampoos and conditioner, and hair cut to your specifications." [I should do another post on just anal glands, but this blog is getting downright gross.] I loooooove getting the dogs groomed -- I drop them off and pick them up a few hours later totally clean and de-matted, with clipped nails and cute haircuts. It's awesome. I just wish it wasn't so expensive. That's New York for you, I guess. We let their coats grow long in the winter, but we plan to take Lulu in soon for a "sanitary trim," which means they'll cut her butt hair short. She's been having some "stool sticking," a.k.a. "dingle-berries," and we're all getting a little tired [Lulu included] of the butt baths.
- Address Your Dog's Breath. We're currently working this one out. Lulu's breath still stinks. She has a great smile, but there is a demon stink inside of her. The vet thinks it's just gingivitis on her back teeth and said she would clean them if Lulu ever needs to go under the knife for something else [which I hope is never]. I'll update this guide when I find something that works in the interim.
And now onto cats. Meeeeeeeeeeow.
Cats are a lot easier. They can produce a foul stink [see Part IV for litter box tips], but for the most part the cats themselves are very clean. They spend approximately 10% of their waking hours grooming themselves. Same advice above is relevant for your feline companions, though: If there is a bad odor coming from their fur, ears, or mouth, or if the cat suddenly stops grooming herself, talk to your vet. These are signs something could be wrong. I have only a few tips to keep your cat smelling fresh and clean.
- Bathe your cat. I don't bathe Lola in water. If I had planned to bathe her as an adult, I should have started bathing her as a kitten. I value my skin's integrity, and so I cannot bathe Lola. To be fair, she does a very good job of grooming herself, and she has short hair, so there is no matting or hairball concerns. The occasional waterless bath with Earthbath Grooming Foam for Cats ($6) seems to be enough to keep her smelling like, well, nothing.
- Brush your cat. Lola takes care of most of her own grooming needs, but I supplement her efforts with The Furminator ($32). Brushing your cat prevents excessive shedding and helps remove dander. The Furminator is nice because it takes out the loose undercoat. Lola rolls around and meows while I brush her -- I imagine it must feel like a back scratch.
- Brush your cat's teeth. This advice is hypocritical because I am unable to brush my cat's teeth. If you've met Lola, you will understand. I give her tartar control treats, but she has icky teeth. At the tender young age of 7 years, had four teeth removed. Apparently orange tabbies are notorious for bad teeth, but if I could go back in time, I would tell twenty-one year old me to brush my new kitten Lola's teeth so that she would get used to it. But for now I'm just going to tell you instead.
So with that, I conclude the Definitive (Over)budget Pet Guide to De-stinking Your House and Home and wish you the merriest, least stinky holiday season yet.