Where Does 'Wet Dog Smell' Come From?
It is normal for dogs to have microorganisms living on their skin. These organisms, including yeast and bacteria, break down the natural oils in the dogs’ coats, generating organic acids as their waste products. For the most part, these acids don’t smell much when they’re dry – they just give your dog her usual musk.
When your dog gets wet, however, it’s a different story.
First, when your dog gets wet, these organic acids dissolve into the water. Then, as the water evaporates into the air, the now-stinky substances rise up into the air as well.
Just to compound the effect, warm, humid air holds on to smells more than cool, dry air, so you aren’t imagining that cloud of stench – there really is a bit of a fog effect.
Why do some dogs stink more than others?
Some breeds, particularly in the hound group, have more oils in their coats for the microorganisms to feast on, meaning there are more organic acids to become airborne when the dog gets wet.
No matter what you do, your dog is going to stink when she’s wet. But there are a few things you can do to help reduce the smell:
- Bathe your dog periodically with a gentle shampoo formulated for dogs. But don’t get carried away – stripping away all of the oils can leave your dog with dry, itchy skin!
- Brush her regularly to distribute the oils evenly – this helps avoid a build-up of bacteria in any given spot.
- Wash her bedding regularly – the oils and bacteria from her coat can accumulate on bedding, and they will happily breed there and get even more stinky.
And finally, remember that if your dog smells particularly foul, or smells more than usual when she’s dry, there could be something more going on. Infections in the ears, on the skin, in any glands – or anywhere else – can cause foul odors, so it might be time for a trip to the veterinarian.