What to do about pet odors in the home

You wash your dog weekly, you vacuum daily and mop at least a couple of times a week, but you can’t seem to get rid of that pervasive doggie odor in your house.

Well, suck it up, you’re the proud companion to a smelly beast!

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image ‘a smelly dog’ by land3

Actually, there are a few ways you can minimize the odor without banning your furbeast to the garden.

  1. Bathe the dog less frequently. Okay, this goes against your natural inclination to keep your house clean and smelling fresh. But bathing your dog weekly can increase pet odors. Your dog’s coats natural oils will help protect his coat and skin and should, if left to their own devices, keep the house from smelling too much like dog. Additionally, frequent shampooing can lead to dry, flaky skin which will add to the scents in your home. Much of the ‘pet odor’ comes from dander (flaked off skin particles) and so over-washing may actually increase the amount of dander shed by your dog. Depending on the breed, you should usually only be washing them between once a month and once every three months. Ask your vet or professional groomer about your specific breed.
  2. Use a proprietary shampoo. That is, use a shampoo for dogs. Using people shampoo, baby shampoo, bar soap or shower gel can mess with the pH balance of your dog’s skin, leading again to dry, flaky skin, and increased household odor.
  3. Brush more often. Brushing daily or every other day will help distribute those oils, remove dry skin and hair, dislodge dirt, grass, and other such things your dog’s coat has picked up on the daily walk. Brushing for just 5 – 10 minutes per day will keep it low stress for both of you. You can rotate areas on your dog’s body if you can’t get the whole thing done in that time. If your dog has gotten mucky, allow him to air-dry then brush off the mud/dirt/fox poo and then spot-clean any smelly bits with water wipes or dry shampoo for dogs. Brush outside or on a towel or old sheet to minimize the spread of shed hair and skin.
  4. Deodorize. You can get doggie deodorant from most pet shops, some vets and TK Maxx or other pet departments. These will merely mask odor and will not clean your dog or treat underlying conditions.
  5. Look at diet. If you notice a yeasty smell or your dog smells particularly bad, you might look at what you are feeding. Some dogs do not tolerate grains well or may have allergies to certain foods and this can be reflected in their skin.
  6. Talk to your vet. If you dog’s skin is red, flaky, peeling or has a yeasty odor, talk to your vet. Your dog may have a yeast infection which will require medical treatment. Mucky or infected ears may add to unwanted odors on your pet and again, should be checked regularly and treated appropriately. Gum disease and liver problems may lead to bad breath or other odd smells and again, need to be diagnosed and treated by your veterinarian.
  7. Change how you clean. I vacuumed yesterday. Today, I dampened my carpet with Febreeze(tm) and then with water in a spray bottle. If you prefer a more natural approach, you can use diluted white vinegar instead, or just plain water. I then took a standard window squeegee (although you can use something like the Vileda rubber brush/squeegee shown in the photo) to the carpet and you can see the results in the picture. There was still quite a lot of hair stuck to the carpet. Even with regular vacuuming with a good vacuum, you may not be getting up all the hair and dander. I would suggest squeegeeing around once a month to keep your carpets clear of hair (more if your dog is a heavy shedder).IMG_0703
  8. Change your cleaning products. Before expecting visitors, I sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on all carpeted areas, leave for 2 hours (or overnight), then vacuum. This removes most of the lingering odors.  Steam cleaners can also help get the carpets that little bit cleaner which results in fewer smells.  If you have a young puppy or an older dog who may have incontinence problems, you can remove potty odors with biological laundry soap. Simply pour liquid straight from the bottle onto the stain or make up a thin paste of bio powder and water. Leave soak for at least 15 minutes before blotting and rinsing. Don’t use bleach or other disinfectants to clean potty messes as this may not remove the scent for the dog. Adding a capful of bio or white vinegar to your mop bucket may help with general pet odors too.
  9. Use scent destroying/masking products. I personally don’t like electric plug in air fresheners for safety reasons, but the gel-pack ones can be placed anywhere. Look on the packaging for one that claims to destroy rather than cover up odors or just pick a scented candle you like (good ones give off scent even when not lit). Oil burners, sachets of lavender or other herbs, or bowls with bicarbonate of soda left in inconspicuous spots all may help mask or eliminate household owners. Anything involving fire needs to be kept well out of reach of curious noses, paws and waggy tails!
  10. Live with it! Once you know your pets and your house are clean (enough), don’t stress too much about your pet odors. It’s probably not as pronounced as you think. And, trust me, your house doesn’t just smell like pets. It smells like you, your family, and what you ate and drank in the last few days. If someone cannot bear to be in your home because you have pets, then you can go visit them instead.

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