What's That Dreadful Smell? Do This and Banish It for Good

Story at-a-glance -

  • Large or small, these wrinkly pups may be snuggly, but before you decide this is the type of dog you’d like to take home with you, be aware that between all those folds, bacteria are hiding that needs to be bathed with special consideration
  • Besides all the wrinkles, many of these dogs have health problems that stem from having a flat face, as their facial bones and tissues are so compressed it can obstruct their ability to breathe properly
  • Many of the dogs with extra wrinkles have similar problems, such as a propensity to snore and an eye condition that causes their eyelids to roll outward, called ectropion, or inward (entropion)
  • The flat-faced nature of dogs who are brachycephalic means they have trouble regulating their body temperature, so they should avoid overexertion in hot, humid weather

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Most people will tell you that wrinkles are for the dogs, but it's more than just an expression. There really are some dogs out there with an adorable plethora of soft folds of velvety skin, often from their noses to their toes. What is it about wrinkles on a dog that would be so lovable? Large or small, these wrinkly pups may be snuggly, but before you decide this is the type of dog you'd like to take home with you, there are a few things to consider.

Perhaps the most important is being careful to bathe dogs who come with more than the average number of folds, as they can collect bacterial growth that could lead to an infection. A soft, damp cloth or natural baby wipe should do the trick, followed up with a towel so the pup comes away both clean and dry. Here's a list of the wrinkliest breeds,1 in no particular order of folds or cuteness.

French Bulldog

Wrinkles aren't the only hallmark of this distinctive dog. They also sport "bat" ears, a bow-legged stance and a flat face, which makes them a brachycephalic dog. This means they may have trouble regulating their body temperature, so they do best in a temperature-controlled environment.

That also means they shouldn't overexert themselves during exercise, which makes them a breed many city dwellers enjoy; they don't require a big backyard to run around in like many more energetic breeds. A 20-minute walk every day works fine for them.

These guys generally stand no taller than 12 inches high at the shoulder, weigh, at most, about 28 pounds (aka portable) and have a typical lifespan of 9 to 11 years. They're great for people living in apartments, too, because they don't bark much, and they're "social butterflies" that are comfortable around strangers.

Health concerns for French bulldogs may stem from having a flat face, as their facial bones and tissues are so compressed it can obstruct their ability to breathe properly (so they sometimes make snorting noises). VetStreet adds:

"In addition, Frenchies can suffer from spinal malformations and a spinal condition called intervertebral disc disease. Reproductive problems are the norm, not the exception. They may also develop eye problems, such as cataracts, and intestinal malabsorption disorders."2

Chinese Shar-Pei

These dogs may take the prize in the wrinkles department, especially as puppies. As huggable as they may seem, they're quite dignified, however, and prefer to be the one to choose whether cuddles are in order. Far from being stand-offish, though, the shar-pei makes a devoted and affectionate family dog. That temperament comes in handy if you'd like to see some watchdog tendencies, as they may be overly protective (read: not always stranger friendly).

But early training and frequent socialization will help them learn what's an actual threat and what isn't. While housetraining is easy with this breed because they're smart, you may also detect a stubborn streak. Height-wise, the shar-pei generally grows no taller than 20 inches at the shoulder, weighs between 45 and 60 pounds and lives for around 10 years. Their short, rough coat, unique among dogs, needs special cleaning under their many folds.

Special health considerations, which unfortunately are many, may include hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism and issues with their eyes, including entropion, retinal dysplasia and glaucoma. Something called "shar-pei fever" may cause periodic fevers and swollen hock joints, with shallow breathing, high temperature, lethargy, diarrhea and vomiting, but there are treatments for it.

Bloodhound

Just one look at the bloodhound's patient demeanor and sorrowful eyes makes you want to cheer them up, but that's just an appearance. Notably easy to get along with, affectionate and good with children, strangers, cats and other dogs, they can also be quite stubborn and resistant to training.

Like a wise old friend, bloodhounds have real character and maybe even a sense of humor. That may come from their ancestry, based in the "blooded" aristocracy known for their trailing prowess.

After all that history of keeping track of people and game, that doesn't make them an outdoor dog. Movie scripts calling for a hound sleeping on the porch may have had this type in mind. As a great family dog and couch potato, beware of the drool that goes flying whenever they shake their heads, whether they're in the living room, bedroom or kitchen.

While you're cleaning, pay special attention to between their folds, because if the drool isn't off-putting enough, the smell they can emit from bacterial build-up can be overpowering.

These are anything but small dogs, weighing in at 80 to 110 pounds and standing as high as 27 inches at the shoulder. They generally live 8 to 10 years. Hip and elbow dysplasia, aka malformed hips and elbows, may be the biggest health problem to be aware of.

Bloodhounds may also have an eye condition that causes their eyelids to roll outward, called ectropion, or inward (entropion) or dry eye (keratoconjuntivitis sicca). Hypothyroidism also may show up in bloodhounds.

Dogue de Bordeaux

This handsome dog has the interesting feature of a wrinkled face and much smoother body in comparison. That means their body is relatively easy to care for, but that face requires extra care to keep dirt and grime from causing bacterial infections. Because they grow up to be a large, powerful dog, make sure you provide early, loving and consistent training and socialization to rein in their inherently stubborn nature.

Firm leadership requires consistent training, as these dogs are described as being "impossible to handle by an inexperienced owner."3 Related to the mastiff, the Dogue de Bordeaux has a history as a fighter but is known to be a courageous watchdog, very affectionate and people oriented, particularly with family members. That said, they're also territorial and may become aggressive with other dogs (and strangers) unless they were raised with them.

This breed is also brachycephalic, having a short nose and accompanying anatomical deformities, so panting to keep cool like other dogs does not work for them. Air conditioning in the summer is required as they can overheat and die quickly if left outdoors or exercised on a hot day.

In addition, heart problems such as dilated cardiomyopathy, aortic stenosis and/or footpad hyperkeratosis may become an issue. Pet Care Rx4 explains thickened skin on their toes can harden, crack and become susceptible to infection, not to mention be painful. Measuring 23 to 27 inches high at the shoulder and weighing in at 90 to 160 pounds, the "DDB's" lifespan is from 5 to 10 years.

Pug

Undeniably adorable, the pug has a face that's hard to say "no" to. Due to their more than the average number of wrinkles, again, special care will be in order. Beyond that, one thing you can expect with this pup, right up front, is a snoring issue due to the pushed-in face. This causes the breathing and overheating problems that go with it. However, you can expect a lifespan of 12 to 14 years.

Bred in China to be a companion dog, your experience when you make a pug your family dog is likely to be a lot of affection and a sanguine personality that doesn't know a stranger. They play equally well with cats or dogs and love to both entertain and be entertained. However much you can play and get rowdy with these pups (outside), they don't do well on long hiking trails or in hot sun, even in moderately warm temperatures.

Another thing to be careful of is not to feed them too much because obesity is one of their (owners') biggest failings. Be aware that some breeders have focused on creating ever smaller, wrinklier and even more flat-faced pugs ("toy" pugs), which makes them that much less healthy.

Give all pugs daily exercise (lots of moderately paced walks in comfortable temperatures), but not excessive. Offer opportunities for play, as well, to keep them from being bored and lonely.

Neapolitan Mastiff

Another large, lovable drooler (following them around with a towel might be in order), neapolitan mastiffs can reach 150 pounds and more, with loosely draped skin and deep facial wrinkles. They can be chewers and leave unimaginable damage in their wake if not properly supervised before their training is complete (which is a little easier than a regular mastiff), and boredom doubles the prospects.

While neapolitan mastiffs can develop a close, loving and protective bond with their family members, they can be highly suspicious of and therefore aggressive toward strangers, so early and firm but loving training is a prerequisite. Not as energetic when they're young as most puppies are, they still need regular activity to keep them fit as they grow. As VetStreet explains:

"Avoid taking him to dog parks since he may be aggressive toward dogs he doesn't know. He is best suited to a home with a large yard surrounded by a solid fence that is at least [5] or [6] feet high. This is a territorial breed, and he must learn his boundaries.

Do not rely on an underground electronic fence to keep him contained. The shock it provides may not deter him from leaving the yard if that's what he wants to do."5

I disagree with this statement. I believe all dogs can learn to be well mannered with appropriate early socialization and life long, positive training. I have found some breeds need more consistent training and boundary reinforcement than others, including this one, but that doesn't mean they can't enjoy life outside the backyard.

Things to be aware of health-wise are potential genetic predispositions, including hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism and eye conditions including entropion, ectropion and progressive retinal atrophy. Cherry eye, evidenced by a pink mass protruding from the animal's eyelid due to a prolapsed gland, should be treated early to prevent later problems.

English Bulldog

Besides all the wrinkles on the face and bodies of these sweet dogs, there's another area to be aware of that also needs special care: they have a small indentation above their tail that also needs cleaning on occasion. Different than other types, this is the original, weighing up to 60 pounds and having a sturdy, stocky build. Besides the pushed-in face, bulldogs have an underbite, which may be cute but contributes to breathing problems.

Air conditioning in the summer is a necessary part of life for these pups, as anything above temperate is a potential threat, especially if too much activity, stress or humidity are also factors.

As good-natured as any dog you're likely to meet, they're the quintessential family dog, great with kids, lovable, sometimes goofy and very smart. Loyalty and companionship are their strong points, and they even make good watchdogs. They're also easily adaptable, equally accepting of other pets and strangers.

Unfortunately, these pups have a number of potentially serious health issues you should be aware of. Brachycephalic airway syndrome is a common problem, and because of a tendency toward hip and spine developmental problems, they can be malformed and prone to injuries. Other issues may include inverted eyelids, cataracts, cherry eye and dry eye, allergies and skin problems, which makes careful cleaning under their deep folds crucial for health.

Difficulty when having puppies, bladder stones and cancer may also occur. Let their companionable and restful natures win you over, though, because these guys make wonderful family members for any age, and once their training is complete, they remember it. You can expect these devoted dogs to live 8 to 10 years.

English Mastiff

How do English mastiffs differ from the neapolitan variety? You'll likely need a little more training for this original version of a powerful but lovable dog to get them to quickly and cheerfully obey. It's a good thing, too, because this giant can reach the massive weight of between 120 and 230 pounds and stand 30 inches high at the shoulder. They live to be 8 to 10 years of age. While peaceable at heart, they're also protective of family members. VetStreet notes:

"Mastiffs are known as 'gentle giants,' big dogs' main weapons are their size, reputation, and instinctive understanding of what is and isn't a threat. A well-bred, well-socialized Mastiff will protect his human family as part of his nature, without any special training beyond simply making him a well-behaved member of the family."6

Pet Breeds7 observes that "Owners will need more patience and perseverance to train the Mastiff and might need to seek out obedience schools." Additionally, English mastiffs may be better pets for children than neapolitan mastiffs. You may find them to be highly adaptable to new situations, as well. They're surprisingly quiet, easy to get along with and very affectionate.

While they may have selective hearing rather than being intentionally disobedient, this is where patient, early training and socialization comes in handy to make them the amiable dog they really want to be. That said, these dogs are big and could quite unintentionally hurt or at least scare children, as well as adults. Health conditions you should be aware of include joint problems due to their massive size.

Moderate but consistent exercise is critical for this breed to maintain their muscle tone, and lifelong caloric control is a must, especially as they grow older. Hip and elbow dysplasia could become issues, causing future cartilage problems.

As with other large breeds, gastric torsion or bloat should be kept in mind if symptoms like vomiting, pale gums, lip licking, restlessness and pacing become noticeable. It can come on suddenly and be fatal, so a veterinarian's intervention is crucial as soon as possible. Also, cystinuria is a genetic kidney defect that sometimes leads to bladder stones requiring surgery.

Tips for Keeping Wrinkles Cute and Clean

Wrinkly dogs are cute and a definite conversation starter, but make sure you understand before you take home your wriggly little pup home that special consideration is definitely something to contend with. As Pet Guide reiterates:

"Get into all of those nooks and crannies! Your dog's wrinkles are hosting moisture that can lead to nasty infections … When your dog gets wet, the moisture soaks into his fur and his skin. In many cases, it doesn't take your dog long to dry out but sometimes moisture can become trapped in the folds of his skin. That moisture then becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and can lead to infection and a condition known as 'fold dermatitis.'"8

I have found genetics and diet play a big role in wrinkle maintenance over time. In my opinion, well-bred, well-fed dogs have significantly less wrinkle build up (yeast and bacteria) and therefore are not only less stinky, but less maintenance.

I recommend feeding dogs a biologically appropriate diet that is devoid of grains, legumes and potatoes (carbohydrates, an unnecessary food for dogs) to help control yeast. Yeast are a normal inhabitant of all mammals' skin but grow excessively in warm, moist environments (skin folds).

Reality is wrinkly skin folds will be higher maintenance than smooth-skinned, nonwrinkly dogs, but don't let this deter you from loving these adorable breeds. Here is my two-step easy and effective suggestion for keeping those crevices clean:

  1. Moisten a clean washcloth with water, apply a few drops of dilute povidone iodine (found at your local pharmacy) and gently disinfect skin folds.
  2. After disinfecting, pat dry and apply colloidal silver solution to folds with a cotton ball.

If significant infection or build up is present, repeat twice daily until the folds are healthy, then repeat two to three times weeks, or as often as necessary to keep wrinkles dry and healthy.

If you have a puppy I recommend beginning this protocol from day one: don't wait until the skin becomes red, inflamed or infected; use this protocol as needed (for some dogs this will be daily) to prevent irritation from developing. Your dog will be much more comfortable and healthy (and less stinky) if you wipe out the creases and folds, especially on their face, on a consistent basis.

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