My husband calls me a canary in a coal mine. I can walk into a room and, if there is any trace of a scent of a chemical nature, I will immediately smell it and react. Send me in first and save yourself! Not only can I detect these scents, but I am hyper-sensitive to them to the point that my eyes will burn, my throat will begin to close up, I will have an instant crushing headache, and worse. We have had to switch all of our cleaning products to natural, non-chemical versions as well as making other adjustments in the house.
Now consider your dog’s sense of smell. I may be sensitive, but I still can’t smell a substance in a sealed plastic bag buried under a pile of snow. Your dog, however, can. Think about all of the typical household culprits that are offensive to a very sensitive nose, a nose that is attached to a being that has no way of letting us know that the scent is bothersome or even makes him feel ill.
We’ve known for years that cigarette smoke, even and perhaps especially in second-hand form, is harmful. Even people who don’t think much about it know enough not to smoke around infants. And yet, those very same people will smoke around dogs without giving it a second thought. So not only is the dog having to deal with the offensive odor, it’s actually having a negative impact on his health.
When I walk through a mall department store (which happens as little as possible), I am assaulted by the many strains of toxic, offensive odors—sorry, I mean perfumes. Yes, I can see the allure, but to me it’s nothing but an assault on my senses. And guess what, it’s the same for dogs. Dogs are sensitive to perfumes, cleaning products, and so much more. In the home, air fresheners, dish detergents, hand sanitizer, scented beauty products, scented candles, that horrible chemical smell that comes with certain new products like mattresses and other furniture—it’s all all a lot for a dog to deal with. What if those molecules of scent, being constantly inhaled, were giving your dog a constant headache? How would you ever know? I often wonder how much of dog behavior issues such as aggression have a link to feeling unwell from environmental factors.
So what’s the answer? Do you de-chemicalize your home? Well, it’s not a bad idea for everyone’s health. But at the least, if you smoke, do it outside, away from your dog. Switch to kinder, gentler products in the house, such as unscented dryer sheets, candles, cleaning products, and beauty products. Don’t worry, you won’t miss the scent. Besides, thinking about your dog’s feelings and health? That’s truly beautiful.
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