Why Do Dogs Smell So Bad When They're Wet?

No one is ever going to get rich marketing a scent called "Eau de Wet Dog," even if it's branded Eau de chien mouillé. Yes, there's a hint of musk, but there's also a hint of feces. As much as you love your dog, a wet canine is one bad odor. Unless your dog never gets wet, you can't prevent it, but you can combat that wet dog smell.

French bulldog running out of the ocean
Why Do Dogs Smell So Bad When They're Wet?
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That wet dog odor

The chemical components giving your dog that distinctive stink when he's wet are on his body all of the time. The American Kennel Club explains that bacteria and yeast, are always present on canines. These micro-organisms leave behind micro-excretions, which are volatile organic compounds. When the animal gets wet, the moisture evaporating from the dog has some of these compounds within it.

A British scientist who writes about different odors and how they evolve describes wet dog odor as a combination of almond, fruit, honey, and mushroom, which sounds like the aroma of wine or coffee rather than a smelly dog. He adds, however, that the compound also includes "feces and sulfur" among its scents, which is not something you'd want in a favorite beverage.

Preventing wet dog odor

The only way to truly prevent wet dog odor is by not allowing your pet to have water on her coat. Since that isn't realistic for most people, especially since most dogs go outdoors on rainy days for their constitutionals, the best way to attack wet dog odor is immediately after the dog comes back inside. I Heart Dog recommends toweling the dog right away but admits that isn't sufficient to eliminate wet dog smell. After toweling, the only way to keep the odor at bay is by blow drying your dog's hair.

Not every dog will cooperate with having hot air blown on them. Another way to reduce wet dog odor is by spraying the dog with a mixture of one part white vinegar to two parts water. White vinegar sports deodorizing properties and is safe to put on your pet. If your dog's scent has made the house smelly, sprinkling some baking soda in the affected areas and then vacuuming it up will eradicate the stench.

Regular grooming helps keep odor to a minimum, but don't overdo bathing. Frequent bathing can dry out your dog's skin, which can lead to flaking and more odors.

Breeds that smell particularly bad

When it comes to the wet dog odor, some breeds are going to smell worse than others. That's true of the hound group, as they have more sebum in their coats than other breeds. While sebum, an oil, protects the dog's skin from drying out by collecting on hair shafts, it also exacerbates the bad smell when oil and water start not mixing. Instead, the oil and water combo creates more bacteria to make the dog smell worse.

Long-haired breeds may smell worse when wet than shorter-haired dogs because they tend to collect more potentially stinky items in their coats. That includes poop around the rear end, and perhaps bits of food under the chin and on the chest. Clipping such dogs, especially in warm weather if they like to swim, may reduce wet dog odor. Clipping is not synonymous with shaving, which can affect the way dogs cool themselves in hot weather.

A dry dog smell

While it is normal for a wet dog to smell bad, that's not the case when your dog is dry. If your dog stinks when his coat is dry, something is wrong, and your vet should see him. Dry dogs with a bad odor may suffer from skin diseases or parasite infestations. A consistent bad smell may also mean the dog is dealing with liver or kidney disease.