DEAR DR. FOX: I have an 11-year-old spayed female mix-breed dog. She has a musty odor that will not go away, even after a bath. I have changed her food to no avail.
Do you have any suggestions that might help? -- E.B., Archdale, N.C.
DEAR E.B.: Older dogs often develop a distinct odor, which can be quite penetrating when one is close to them or sharing the same room. The smell is usually associated with the kidneys and liver not working as well as they should in ridding the body of waste products and toxins.
A generic approach to this geriatric issue is a regimen of regular exercise, weight management and a weekly "dry bath" (rubbing in and brushing out baby powder to absorb and remove odors). You might try various natural herbal spray products like PetzLife Bath Eaze, a bathless shampoo and conditioner, and Odorz Off bedding odor remover.
Launder your dog's bedding weekly using detergent with natural fragrances. In many instances, a periodic shampoo with Selsun Blue and daily supplements of brewer's yeast and flaxseed oil (about 1 teaspoon of each) in the dog's food can be of great help.
My old dogs always seemed happier and livelier when they smelled better, and I am sure many dogs become depressed by their stink.
A change in body odor can also mean a change in activity and the content of the skin's oil. A full veterinary checkup would be worth the investment, if you trust your nose as a potential diagnostic tool. Some smelly old dogs, for example, have poor thyroid or adrenal gland function, and no amount of shampooing is going to address the cause.
DEAR DR. FOX: Are wood pellets safe for kitty litter? I know pine is not good for cats, but I heard some shelters use the pellets. I use World's Best, but it's expensive with five cats. -- S.P., Minnetonka, Minn.
DEAR S.P.: Wood pellets (and also cedar chips/shavings) may contain dioxins and other potentially toxic chemicals, especially if made from treated lumber, and their absorbency of cat urine may be poor. Recycled newspaper pellets, like Purina's Yesterday's News, is more absorbent and may be safer than wood pellets. I have tried various cat litters, including imported coconut fiber, which can be very messy. In spite of the expense, I use the corn-based World's Best cat litter.
Some cats are allergic to corn in their food. I know of one cat whose cystitis cleared up after she was given a corn-free diet, but came back when a corn-based litter was used.
As a note, clay-based litters can be dusty and contain silica and other particulate material. Also, I advise that you not use scented cat litter. Cats can become allergic or develop hypersensitivity to synthetic fragrances, including room air fresheners.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have an energetic and bored 5-year-old (rescued) cat -- a part flame, part Siamese named Ziggy. He's very bright and can open doors and respond to commands. I'd like to teach him more tricks, but I haven't found anything of interest. Is there a website you might suggest? -- B.D., Leland, N.C.
DEAR B.D.: I am glad to learn of your interest in making life more stimulating for Ziggy. My book "Supercat: How to Raise the Perfect Feline Companion" has a full section on providing environmental enrichment, games and challenging IQ tests for cats.
Don't forget the best provision for a single cat is a companion, since two cats living together are generally healthier and happier than those who live alone.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 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 DrFoxVet.com.)