How to Eliminate Pet Odor and Make Your Dog a Magnet

Dahling, Be a Dear and Pick up Some More Perfume for Fifi

A recent ad for a natural pet deodorant got me thinking. Is a deodorant, even an all natural, essential oil based one, necessary for your dog to smell sweet and fresh and be a pleasure to pet?

That thought process was over in the microsecond it took for a neurotransmitter to leap the gap from one neuron to the next:

Nah. Something wrong with this picture of perfuming pet odor away.

I have patients who smell sweet and have luxurious coats that you just want to dig your fingers into and bury your nose in.

How did they get this way?

More importantly, how can you get your dog to become this sweet and this irresistible?

Read on, and I’ll share the path to this lovely state.

History Doesn’t Lie: My Own Dogs Stunk

Confession time. The heartbreak of pet odor lived in my house. I grew up with a number of dogs, one at a time, and they pretty much all smelled doggy. I guess maybe Stash, the first, a miniature poodle, wasn’t so bad, but that may have been more due to his breed’s way with coats.

But Loopy, the Bassett Hound who followed Stash into my boyhood? Whoa: he smelled.

We all loved Loopy, having fallen for him when he was just a cutie bundle of puppy, whose ears stretched well past the tip of his moist black nose.

He was a great guy, and when I was eleven, he’d pull me around the block on my skateboard, so it was easy to overlook his D.O. (B.O. for dogs, aka “pet odor”).

Our roughhousing was big and loud and, in the Winter at least, took place on the living room carpet. I’d crawl towards Loopy with an expression of evil intent on my face, and maybe a low growl. I was in a crouch, ready to spring, and Loopy would immediately rise to Threat Level 5 to ward off my predatory attack.

Snap! I’d snake out an arm from my lion-like carpet hugging pose, snatch a stubby foreleg, and the game was on!

Loopy launched into full on counter attack, biting my hand, pulling to get free, growling savagely, with me growling right back at him, in as menacing a voice as I could muster as a pre-pubescent boy.

I’d move in for the kill by scooping his entire body into my clutches, embracing his writhing, snapping, snarling ferocity and trying to stay clear of his now maniacally snapping jaws. Just when it looked like his life was over, in the service of a predator’s lunch,

“Billllll! Dinner! C’mon and wash up.”

“-Kay, Mom, be right there.”

Loopy and I quickly fell out of our predator-prey dynamic, reestablishing our true best buds relationship, and I was off to the sink to wash up. My hands and forearms were streaked with red where Loopy’s teeth and claws had grazed them, and the sink received the oil, dirt and smell that came off my hands with the help of good old Dial soap.

Pet odor dealt with, I was now ready to eat.

And, growing up with the next few dogs, I thought this was normal: dogs smell doggy. You’d want to get soap involved after play time before you got on to the next thing in life.

It wasn’t until I became a holistic vet, some eight years into doctoring, that I realized that D.O. was abnormal.

Pet odor was a man-made phenomenon.

Learning from Vital Animals

My patients really taught me as much or more about what real health looks like as any book or any lecture I’d ever sat through. They didn’t get on a pedestal or get preachy or say one thing and mean another.

The vital animals just radiated what they had to tell me.

When they were truly vital and healthy, they’d show me with:

  • Shiny coats, that actually reflected light.
  • Soft fur, the kind you couldn’t get enough of, your fingers digging into the luxury of it all.
  • Sweet scents, the kind that was real, natural, and not contrived by perfumes or essential oils.
  • Gleaming white teeth, with sweet breath you could get right up and close with.
  • Sparkling eyes, clear and dancing and not missing a trick.

Over time, I realized all of this glorious, magnetic attractiveness inevitably came about from attention to a few key things.

And the ignoring of these things creates pet odor.

Let’s look at the most significant one first.

Why Your Dog Stinks: The Main Reason

It’s getting harder to find the “bad guy ingredients” in pet food these days, as more information is rushing around the interwebs and people have ponied up for better quality dog food, but there are still a number of kibbles that will make your dog smell bad. Here’s a classic example.

Purina Dog Chow, fed to all my childhood dogs, has the following label:

Whole grain corn, meat and bone meal, corn gluten meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, soybean meal, poultry by-product meal, egg and chicken flavor, whole grain wheat, animal digest, salt, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, dicalcium phosphate, choline chloride, zinc sulfate, Yellow 6, Vitamin E supplement, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, ferrous sulfate, Yellow 5, Red 40, manganese sulfate, niacin, Blue 2, Vitamin A supplement, copper sulfate, calcium pantothenate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, Vitamin B–12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate, Vitamin D–3 supplement, riboflavin supplement, calcium iodate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.

Besides the obvious overuse of corn and its attendant sweetness, we find “meat and bone meal” (unnamed meat: is it beef? horse? dog? possum? all of the above?). Here’s the definition:

Meat and bone meal is the dried and rendered product from mammal tissues.

Mammals. That’s a relief.

Oh wait. I’m a mammal! Road kill is mammalian.

So are the 4D meats (dead, diseased, dying, or downer animals, unable to rise).

That’s a huge group now, isn’t it?

How about “poultry by-product meal?

Again, pretty generic term that you’d never find on a grocery store shelf or in a restaurant, right?

It, like the meat and bone meal, is rendered, meaning it’s been purposely overcooked to kill harmful bacteria, and then put through more heat and high pressure to make it into food like particles.

Voilà: kibble in a bag.

Animal digest?

Which animal? Healthy animals? Which parts? Were they 4D before they underwent “chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis?”

Is this an ingredient you’d consider for your next smoothie, to bump up your protein intake?

While a chemist can measure protein in these ingredients and put the numbers on a label, how much is actually useable to your dog who eats it?

If you compare that usability to that of raw meat and bone, you’d find a huge difference.

Then, in this same food example, we have four, count ‘em four, artificial colors.

Does your dog really care what color his food is? And these petroleum sourced chemicals have been long associated with cancer, hyperactivity, and allergies.

The bottom line: you’re feeding a load of toxic material when you choose a kibble.

Even a “premium” kibble. (I’ve long called Science Diet and the “prescription diets” expensive junk food!)

If you ever have visited a slaughter house or driven past a pet food company, you’ll know that characteristic smell that has you reaching for a hankie to cover your nose.

Those rendered ingredients are bad news.

Unfit for human consumption and unfit for any pets who’s family.

Start With the Low-Hanging Fruit

There are other things that contribute to pet odor, greasy coats, and fur that you’d rather not caress, but you’ll get the most bang for your buck by getting kibble out of the picture and focusing on feeding balanced raw food.

Other “bad guys” include repeated vaccinations, a practice lacking scientific validity according to the immunologists. And a practice highly associated with allergic skin conditions, the number one reason pets see vets.

And then there’s the various poisons you’re urged to splash on or give by flavored chewable, like Trifexis. Or the flea poisons.

Can you do better? Absolutely. Chemicals out, non-toxic flea control and drug-free heartworm prevention in.

In the dogs I grew up with, it was clearly diet causing all the D.O.

We weren’t vaccinating except for maybe an initial round, there were no fleas to worry about in Wisconsin, and heartworm had yet to make the news, so no poisons were being used there.

Pet odor came from the Checkerboard Square, now owned by Nestle.

Had we known, we’d have done better.

Make the Change, Forget the Perfume

Here’s what you can do to get that amazing coat that smells great and draws people in like a magnet to ask how in the world you did it.

  1. Toss the kibble and get raw food working for your homie carnivore.
  2. Make it yourself, following helpful books, or
  3. Buy it ready made. Sources include healthy pet shops or even home delivery.

How long till you see results? You’ll see some benefit within days, which seems impossible, but more than one client has told me this story:

“We ran out of raw, and had to switch briefly to (healthy) kibble. His coat got dull within a day, and got shiny again when we re-introduced the raw.”

You’ll see more steady improvement in coat luxuriousness and loss of odor within a couple of weeks, and it’ll be solid and lasting at a month or so, if you stay vigilant in feeding real food.

You’ve heard that beauty comes from within.

Well, so does sweet smelling skin. And that’s got to beat perfumery, right?

But don’t believe me. Let my readers tell you in their own words. That’s what the comments are for.

Are you ready to be inspired and stop washing your hands so often? Read on.

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  1. L on March 8, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    A dog smells like a dog. Certain breeds, especially hounds, have a distinctive body odor. Some people may find this offensive.
    BTW: How do you think you meat eaters and garlic lovers smell to a dog? lol

    • Paul Dalton on November 17, 2020 at 4:38 pm

      Enlighten us.

  2. Tricia on February 23, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    One thing that I’ve come to learn with one of my dogs, who is more anxious/nervous about life, is that he sheds, flakes and smells in comparison to my other dog. He has especially bad bouts after a bad day or event. So there is definitely an emotional connection as well as diet and clean living, in my experience.

  3. Jackie on February 23, 2015 at 11:45 am

    I follow your recommendations with my dogs who have been eating raw and have had no vaccines for the last 4 years. Also no heartworm meds for last 2 years. They get chiro and acupuncture a few times a year too! Oh, and we started seeing a homeopath last summer. So far the results have been great…I can see the vitality in them! I have a hard time keeping up and keeping them occupied. No more lazy winter evenings for us.
    I do wonder why my 8 y/o shihtzu seems to have a dull coat. After a bath he’s soft and shiny but within a few weeks his coat starts to lay flat and look dul. Baths are every other month. Any thoughts?

  4. Will Falconer, DVM on February 18, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Sure sign of healthy: “even when they get wet, they never smell bad!” Good work, Juliana. You’re making vital animals from the inside out.

  5. Juliana M Pavelka on February 18, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I have a 5-month old Irish wolfhound, and I love his “puppy smell”. His coat is shiny, clear eyes, and he’s full of energy. He never has bad breath either, neither does my senior wolfhound. My boys eat raw. I supplement with organic spirulina, alfalfa, green lip muscle, parsley, and with the fish (salmon) they have dill…. Even when they get wet, they never smell bad.
    In our family we eat whole foods. This is meat, with vegetables, and plenty herbs, so do our dogs. My senior wolfhound will be seven in May. The bones can slow him a bit, but he never misses his walk with junior, even in below zero winter weather No smell.

  6. Rachel on February 16, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    It’s true, it is possible to have an odor-free dog. I have a 3 yr. old Schnauzer/Beagle mix that was given to us as a puppy. He was vaccinated, kibble-fed and given the typical flea & heartworm preventions regularly. And he smelled like a dog. I didn’t think that was abnormal. But I also didn’t know any better back then.
    He had always been itchy too, for no apparent reason. He had a few bouts with fleas but even when the fleas were gone he still itched. Eventually he developed a foul odor, not just the usual doggy odor but something much worse, it was a sour-like odor that resembled really rotten cheese. His armpits were red & inflamed, as were his ears, and his belly began to develop a black pigment that wasn’t there before. The smell persisted, even after a bath.
    A trip to the vet revealed a yeast infection all over his body. We were given antibiotics & Prednisone pills and sent on our way. A few days after the last pills were taken, the infection was back again. This was the cycle for one year until I was finally fed up. I began doing my own research (and found Dr. Falconer’s website in the process) and realized that everything I was doing was causing this incessant itch.
    I began feeding him a prey-model raw diet, stopped all vaccinations (he’d already had at least one of every kind) and ditched all flea and heartworm pills too. Over the period of several weeks the itching subsided and the black pigment on his belly began to fade. He is now odor-free, itch-free and full of energy. And he LOVES his raw diet.
    There have been a few times when the itching has returned but I can always pinpoint the reason. There isn’t a nice way to put this but… he eats cat poop out of the cat litter box. Disgusting, I know. These are the times when the itching returns because our cat still eats kibble. I am in the process of transitioning the cat to a raw diet and hopefully it will stop this issue.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on February 16, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      Wow, nice work, Rachel! In this youngster’s case, as in many, it can take not only the raw food but stopping the poisons and vaccines. But you got a pretty fast resolution of a chronic condition with what you did.
      If you find, especially later in life, that this odor or itchiness returns, even with the avoidance you’re practicing and the excellent diet, then you’ll know it’s time to seek a homeopathic vet to truly cure the disease. He’s obviously still sensitive if those litter box tootsie rolls set him off!
      Thanks for sharing his inspiring story with us.

  7. L on February 16, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    If it was my dog, I would stop trying to diagnose the problem myself and take the dog to a specialist. Either a dermatologist or a endocrinologist……depending on what the veterinarian that has examined your pet recommends.

    • Dede on February 20, 2015 at 2:31 pm

      Been there and done that. Result? Our severely allergic dog was given 3 yrs of allergy shots and various toxic medications that didn’t do anything but empty our wallet and further destroy her health. Next thing this over-priced, know nothing about restoring health conventional vet specialist did was tell us she had to be on steroids for the rest of her life since nothing else worked. 3.5 yrs after the steroids began, she had cancer throughout her entire body and had to be euthanized euthanized as it was found in kidneys and liver along with other places.
      Dr. Falconer is 100% correct – allopathic medicine can never bring health. They take your money, cause more health problems for your animals and shorten their lives. Avoid all the nonsense and waste of your time, effort and money by having a consult with Dr. Falconer or another homeopath. If you’re wondering how successful homeopathy is, the 2 physicians who used it exclusively during the polio epidemic had 100% success in both keeping their patients from getting the disease and in having NO paralysis or permanent disability in their patients who contracted it. Nothing in conventional medicine has ever come close.

      • L on February 26, 2015 at 3:51 am

        It’s true, not all dogs respond to immunotherapy/desensitization, but my dog had excellent results after seeing a dermatologist and being tested. She hasn’t needed to see the regular vet in over 3 years and has not needed any prescription meds.
        Of course she is on a natural diet, fish oil and other supplements. No vaccinations.
        The raw bones didn’t work for her, she would eat the ground up bone material and it upset her stomach. X-ray showed calcified material in her stomach and colon, luckily it passed on it’s own. She likes Nutrisca dry as a base food.

  8. Monica on February 16, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I have two blue nose Pittie/Staffies (as Rescues I am not quite sure what the “truly” are. My female who is now 5 literally gleams in the sunlight with gorgeous highlights, has sparkling white teeth, and has that wonderful and faint puppy smell. About 2 years ago, my 4 year old boy (2yrs at the time) started losing the gleam to his coat and started having a slight odor in his mouth. Within a year, he started losing hair starting with the base of his skull and tail, and now his entire back and hind legs. I was mystified and slowly removed certain proteins from his diet thinking it was a food allergy of sorts. Nothing made a difference and so a year later I am back to rotating organic free range chicken, Alaskan salmon, and grass fed beef.
    My question is: Does anybody have any insight as to what could be causing this? He is NOT itchy, his hair is literally falling out and not growing back. I have been doing research and am leaning towards Cushings or a possible Thyroid imbalance, neither of which I have been able to convince to a vet – one vet told me I must be lying and am obviously feeding a grain based kibble (how dare he!) and the other brushed it off and said its “not a big deal” and sent me on my way. Cushings, in horses as well as dogs, typically does not present itself until the senior years, however, he has always been an obsessive drinker and pees for literally over a minute at a time (polyuria). I am about ready to make the 5 hour trek to San Diego to see a holistic vet that was recommended to me but would love if somebody could give me some other possible causes to his issue so I have a nice list of possible causes at the appt.
    Thank you for reading! 🙂

    • Wendy on February 16, 2015 at 3:36 pm

      Since you are your dogs advocate. I don’t know why you can’t just tell your vet to test for Cushings Disease. They have to do what you tell them to do. And if you want to test his thyroid, I would send it to Dr. Jean Dodds and her Hemolife Diagnostic testing. You get the blood drawn locally and mail it to her. A Thyroid 5 profile is reasonably priced through her.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on February 16, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      The most obvious thing is this: your dog is chronically ill. Losing hair sounds hormonal, but this isn’t do it yourself illness, like an injury or a poor diet fix. Allopaths cannot cure chronic disease. Drugs and surgery do not cure chronic disease. Homeopaths have a chance to, if they do careful work. I’d stop wasting time trying to diagnose it or find possible causes and get this youngster to a homeopath to get started on the road to cure.
      That’s what you’re after isn’t it?

      • Cheryl on September 27, 2015 at 1:34 pm

        Years ago I had this on my cat, scraping showed nothing, it started on a small area on her tail, and gradually was her entire back, (not sides or shoulders just slowly spread over her back, and down half her tail). No itching biting just normal looking bare skin.
        She was on kibble at the time, from the market, when I was ignorant of things, my others all did fine on grocery canned and dry…
        Vet had us try different foods, we progressed to premium foods rather then Kalkan and friskies, no results, tried elimination diets, finding cat foods with no beef, chicken turkey fish in them, that was next to impossible!
        No result, then suddenly as it started her hair loss stopped and started growing hair.
        She was just 3-4?? And passed just prior to her 19th birthday with a full coat of shining heathy coat, to a stroke we and the vet thinks. She was diabetic but her kidney function was great. She loved Stella and chewys freeze dried raw foods, hydrated of course!

    • Darci Michaels on February 17, 2015 at 7:17 am

      I started feeding rabbit and it helped my itchy dog.

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