Why Do Wet Dogs Smell?

Why Do Wet Dogs Smell?

Have you ever heard the saying, "there's nothing in the world friendlier than a wet dog"? While that may be true, the smell of a wet dog isn't so friendly to our noses. The actual quote is from American writer Ambrose Bierce, who said “the most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog.” That version may be more accurate, given the funk. But why do wet dogs smell? Find out here.

Why Do Wet Dogs Smell?

The short answer is that dogs smell when wet because they have a natural collection of microorganisms found on their body. When a dog is dry, these microorganisms are virtually unnoticeable. But when your dog gets wet, that alters the ecology of the skin and fur, causing changes with their microbiome.

The more complex answer is that this "microbiome" includes bacteria, fungus and yeast that produce waste in the form of chemical compounds. Water makes the microorganisms and their waste multiply, which produces that "wet dog" odor. It also loosens them from the skin and coat, accentuating the smell. To get scientific, the smell comes from moisture evaporation that carries those microorganisms and waste with it.

Why Do Some Wet Dogs Smell Worse?

Some dogs smell worse than others when wet. Here are a handful of factors that may exacerbate that wet dog odor.

  • Wrinkles and folds of skin
  • Spending a lot of time outdoors
  • Infrequent baths
  • Excessive drool or slobber
  • Allergies
  • Skin conditions, like yeast infections and dermatitis
  • Diet
  • Rolling on the ground

How To Stop Wet Dog Smell

There's no real way to completely eliminate wet dog odor because you can't get rid of the microorganisms on your dog. And you wouldn't want to - while it may sound gross, these microbiomes are healthy and normal, even for us. Dogs have approximately 350 to 16,500 bacteria per square centimeter and humans have around 100 trillion microbes on and in the body.

That being said, there are ways to minimize the funk. In terms of grooming:

  • Give your dog regular baths
  • Dry your dog as much as possible
  • Brush regularly to prevent trapped odor, dirt and debris
  • Keep fur trimmed to speed up drying and also prevent trapped odors
  • Wipe the folds of dogs with wrinkles

Things you can do to avoid wet dog odor when your pup is outside:

  • Avoid allowing your dog get too soaked
  • Stay inside when it's raining heavily
  • Don't let your dog go for a swim 
  • Stop any rolling on the ground

You can also use pet-friendly products (both over the counter and prescription) to reduce or mask the smell, such as:

  • Shampoos and conditioners
  • Sprays and dry shampoos
  • Prescription topical treatments
  • Grooming wipes

What you can do around the house:

  • Wipe away slobber and excessive drool
  • Keep dog beds and bedding clean
  • Wash harnesses and collars regularly

While it's not the most pleasant part of having a pup, wet dog smell is completely normal and natural. It's just one more thing that makes a dog, a dog.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.