Dr. Michael Fox, Animal Doctor
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a question about our dog. We are stumped.
He is a healthy 5-year-old neutered male. He has had his teeth cleaned, and has routine vet appointments. He has no smell on him per se, but his dog bed has to be routinely washed because of a rather nasty smell. It is a sweet but "rotting" smell, and he leaves brown stains where he licks. The licking is mostly in a normal grooming manner. His breath is terrible, but it's not the same smell.
Do you have any ideas? The smell gets so strong you can smell it throughout the room, sometimes until the bed is washed. We are currently feeding him Purina Pro Plan Focus Lamb or Chicken and rice. Is there a better dog food we should feed him? His breath is fishy and foul, but his bedding is just gross. — D.H., Kalispell, Montana
DEAR D.H.: Healthy dogs do not have a bad smell.
Many people with stinky dogs repeatedly bathe them under the erroneous belief that will help. This can often disrupt the healthy microbiome on the skin and lead to secondary dermatological problems.
Feeding dogs a diet of only dry kibble is ill-advised, regardless of what some veterinarians and advertisements might proclaim. For details, read my article "Dog Food and Feeding Issues" on my website (drfoxonehealth.com). Also consider making your own dog food, as per my posted recipe.
Some of the ingredients in what you are currently feeding your dog, such as "animal digest," I would never give to a dog. For verification, check out the book "Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat and Dog Food," which I co-authored with two other veterinarians. Your dog's "fishy and foul" breath is from the fish in this manufactured material. Such kibble, with all the cereal glutens in it, tends to linger between the teeth like glue.
At the very least, feed your dog some good-quality canned dog food or freeze-dried food with some grains, such as The Honest Kitchen's line of dog foods. And be prepared to spend more, since good nutrition is the best medicine for us and our animal companions alike.
DEAR DR. FOX: In one of your recent columns, a reader had a dog with a barking problem.
I have successfully stopped my fur baby's barking by using either a squirt bottle of plain water or a pop can/plastic bottle filled with a few pennies. The squirt of water or the rattling noise seems to distract the culprit, and helps them learn to stop the habitual barking.
I would never use chemicals, and I consider shock collars inhumane and would like to see them banned.
We recently adopted a 3-year-old female rescue Chihuahua, who knows that one bark at the sound of the doorbell is all that is necessary. — M.H., Tulsa, Oklahoma
DEAR M.H.: Many thanks for the reminder for all dog owners about how quickly and easily dogs will learn to stop barking using the simple aversion conditioning of a sudden noise or squirt of water. Throwing a bunch of keys toward them also works well. But it is best to first give the warning signal of a verbal command, such as "No! Quiet" before shaking the can of coins or pebbles, or using a spray bottle. This is called conditioning, and eventually you only have to give the verbal command and can abandon the aversive stimulus.
I was in shock the other day, when purchasing birdseed at the local hardware store, to see a whole shelf of electronic devices to go on dogs' necks and deliver shocks to stop barking. It seems we are on the threshold of turning our dogs, as well as our children, into virtual zombies with all these electronic devices in our homes.
Stopping a dog from barking when you are not there to control the dog is a common problem and, as I stress in my book "Dog Body, Dog Mind: Exploring Your Dog's Consciousness and Total Well-Being," snipping dogs' vocal cords is an ethically unacceptable veterinary service when other measures are not taken.
Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.