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Vet tips

Is it okay to use perfumes on my pet?

While this seems like a straightforward question, the answer is more complex depending on why we would want to. We are all familiar with the 'wet dog' smell, when Fido has been romping around in the sprinklers and comes in to rub himself on the (expensive) carpet.

This is the natural smell of the dog's skin secretions, and is something we learn to live with (and gets better with the coat being dry). However, some skin odors can be much more problematic and can indicate a disease process. Have you ever smelled somebody the day after they have eaten a whole bunch of garlic? As in that example, our pets can have odors associated with their skin if there's something different in their systems that can cause a change in their body smell.

We may not pick up on what the change is exactly, but sometimes during an exam there can be a hint of something 'not quite right' that leads us to check more thoroughly — and can give us indication that an organ system is not working right.

The typical reason our pets don't 'smell right' is some sort of skin condition, which can present as a yeasty smell to the coat. If left untreated, it can develop into full-blown skin disease with rashes and bumps, which are pretty uncomfortable for the pet. Bathing can help with the smell (and can sometimes solve the smell problem) but too much bathing can strip the grease layer of the skin, leading to more skin problems. Also most perfumes are in an alcohol base, which can be irritating to the skin; and a lot of people have perfume sensitivities, making the pet not so much fun to be around.

So in short, can you put perfume on a pet? Well, the answer is a qualified 'yes'; however, there may well be a reason the pet does not smell right (tooth problems?), and it is worth checking them out before starting down that road.

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Grass Valley Veterinary Hospital's Mace Dekker, DVM, will answer questions regarding pets each month in the Vet Tips. Have a question? Submit it to, attention Dr. Dekker.

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