Thursday, April 19, 2007

Labrador Retriever with Metallic Smell

Readers E-mail - Troy Writes:

I have a 5 year old lab in very good shape but lately I have notices he licks himself a lot (mostly paws and belly) and he has a very metallic smell. Has anyone else smelled this before. It is not a natural wet dog, dirty dog smell. Any ideas?

Thanks... Troy


Hi Troy, thanks for writing.

I had a couple of questions I need you to answer to get a better understanding of the problem.

Do you notice anything unusual at the locations he licks (redness, pimple like bumps, rash, inflamed, hair loss)?

Any kind of reoccurring ear, eye, or urinary infections?

Do you notice the metallic smell when he goes to the bathroom, in his stool?

What is he eating?

Have you notice him "scooting" (dragging the rear on the ground)?

Is there excessive licking in the rectal area?

When you walk him, is it always the same area, or have you recently taken him to new locations?

There could be a couple of different problems Troy. Please answer the questions and get back to me as soon as possible.

Continue Reading...

Reader’s Response (Troy):

Thanks for getting back to me. I have narrowed the smell down to his butt. If I smell him (neck back etc,) he smells like dog but there is a metallic small come from the rear. His stool smells normal and he does not scoot at all but does try to lick his bum occasionally. As far as walking, we go all over and the smell has been here for a while. As far as licking, it usually is his paws and belly but not to the point of inflamming them. He does get eye infections occasionally and the vet has given him eye drops but this winter has been pretty good and no eye problems at all. Oh and his name is Rothko. THANK YOU!


Its sounds as though Rothko might have a problem with his anal glands. Anal glands (“anal sacs", "scent glands”) are two small oval shaped glands, located just under the skin, one on each side of the anus at the 4 and 8 o’clock positions.

The glands produce a substance (olive oil like liquid ,brownish-yellow to a light gray color ) that is secreted through ducts just inside the rectum, and are normally expressed (emptied) during his normal bowel movements, when he is frightened, scared or marking his territory. This substance produced has a very strong odor which is very unpleasant to us humans.

What happens in some dogs, is that they not able to empty the sacs properly and become susceptible to anal sac disease. The liquid accumulates and thickens, causing difficulty in the emptying of the anal sacs. Your Labrador Retriever could also develop an infection, and if not treated, progress into an abscess. This abscess can then rupture through the skin, leading to further complications for your Labrador.

The anal glands should be checked regularly and expressed when necessary, to help empty the build up of secretions from the gland.

You can express these glands yourself, and I do know of many owners that do, but I do advise to take Rothko to your veterinarian, as he/she can make sure this is his problem and can show you how to properly check and empty the anal sacs at home. Plus you can do further harm if you do it wrong.

Here are some signs to look for that your Labrador Retriever might be having a problem with his anal glands: scooting its rear end along the ground, sitting uncomfortably, licking/biting/chewing at the anus, and chasing its own tail.

As far as the licking the paws and belly, there is possibility that Rothko may have allergies. Certain foods or airborne particles like pollen and house dust can be causing the licking. Tree pollens, grass pollens, and weed pollens can also cause the itching and licking. With you traveling around so much, and Rothko being walked in different places, chances are good he has come in contact with something causing the itching, which leads to the licking of his legs and belly.

You didn't answer my "What is he eating" question, but a changing in his food, different types of food can also be the problem, as Rothko could have a food allergy. This will also cause the itching and licking.

Food can also play a part with the anal gland problem. Poor diet and low quality commercial pet food can cause soft stools, not putting pressure on the anal glands to express them when he defecates. You can discuss a change in his diet with your veterinarian.

Here are some other things you can do to help with his itching:

A nice cool bath can be helpful, since the water will assist in relieving the itching. You can add a little colloidal oatmeal (Aveeno) to the bathwater, which will help soothe the foot or your veterinarian can prescribe an antiseptic shampoo. Make sure you rinse Rothko's foot thoroughly after the bath, since any remaining soap that remains can make the itching worse.

You can just soak his foot for five minutes, four times a day, in cool water. Add a sprinkle of Epsom salts to the water as it will also help soothe the foot. A compress applied the paw for approximately five minutes will accomplish the same.

Another method that you can try is Aloe Vera applied to the paw. Make sure its 100% Aloe Vera not the mixture. This will not hurt Rothko if he is to lick it off.

Tea Tree oil, which you can obtain in a health food store is an antibacterial and anti fungal agent that can also be used.

I had another reader that had a problem with an itching paw on her Labrador Retriever that I recommended the above things to, and she had success using the Aloe Vera. See Labrador Paw Problem Update

I hope this helps you out some Troy. Please keep me advised of Rothko's condition and what the veterinarian tells you as it will be of great help for the readers of this blog. Should you have any other problems or questions, don't hesitate to write me.

Take care of yourself and Rothko,

** Just a quick thing I would like to add to this post is that recently I have found some information on using Tea Tree oil on our dogs, which states cautions when using it

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