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Why Do Dogs Smell Bad When Wet? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Written by: Elizabeth Gray

Last Updated on May 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

wet border collie dog in the woods

Why Do Dogs Smell Bad When Wet? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

VET APPROVED

Dr. Amanda Charles Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

If your dog loves to run in the rain or swim in every body of water they encounter, you are familiar with the odor of a wet pup. Even a post-bath dog who should be at their cleanest can’t escape the odor, but have you ever wondered why wet dogs smell? This distinctive smell actually comes from the bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms on their skin, rather than the dogs themselves.

Keep reading to learn how water brings out your dog’s bad smells and whether you can do anything about it. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about smelly dogs. Hold your nose and dive in!

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Why Do Wet Dogs Smell?

No matter how clean they seem, every dog carries a certain number of microscopic organisms on their skin. These bacteria and yeast that live naturally on your dog’s skin produce volatile organic compounds (VOC), but when they are dry, they emit little to no odor.

However, when your dog’s skin and fur get wet, these pungent volatile compounds are released into the air as the water evaporates, making them easier to smell and causing the wet dog odor that we all know and love (hate).

As the moisture continues to evaporate, the smell of a wet dog hangs heavy in the air. No dog can completely escape this odor, but there are ways to minimize it, which we will cover in the next section.

wet dog raising its paw
Image Credit: David_Pastyka, Shutterstock

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Frequently Asked Questions:

How Can I Minimize the Wet Dog Smell?

Keeping your dog groomed and bathed regularly will reduce the wet dog smell. Choose a shampoo formulated for dogs. For dogs with skin folds and wrinkles, like French Bulldogs and Pugs, pay particular attention to keeping these flaps clean as they can retain moisture, contribute to the smell, and are prone to infections. Collars and harnesses should be washed regularly as they can also retain odors.

Try not to let your dog roll in mud, manure, or dead animals since this can significantly exacerbate the stinky wet dog smell. If they do, bathe them as soon as you can.

Brushing your dog regularly helps remove dead hair and may help them dry out faster when they get wet.

Thoroughly dry your dog as soon as possible after they’ve got wet, to prevent dirt and odors from becoming trapped.

If you are looking for a product that eliminates dog odors without masking them, the Hepper Deep Clean Shampoo is our favorite product. It works by neutralizing any smells lingering in your pet's coat, leaving them refreshed and scentless once dry. You can also combat static, tangles, and restore moisture with the Hepper Pet Conditioner. Both products are all-natural, pH-balanced, and free of harsh chemicals and additives. Learn more about each below. 

Hepper Deep Clean Pet Shampoo for Smelly Pets:...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
Hepper Deep Clean Pet Shampoo for Smelly Pets:...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
pH balanced
Deep cleans coat & skin
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harsh chemicals
Combats tangles & static
Scentless
Hepper Deep Clean Pet Shampoo for Smelly Pets:...
Hepper Deep Clean Pet Shampoo for Smelly Pets:...
pH balanced
Deep cleans coat & skin
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harsh chemicals
Combats tangles & static
Scentless
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
pH balanced
Deep cleans coat & skin
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harsh chemicals
Combats tangles & static
Scentless

At Dogster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years, and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding products of this cool pet company!

My Dog Is Dry and Still Smells…Why?

 The classic wet dog smell only occurs when your pup is wet. If your dog is dry and still smells, several medical causes could be responsible:

  • Ear infection
  • Skin infection
  • Full anal glands
  • Dental disease
  • Bladder infection
  • Gas

Your dog could also have rolled in something smelly or been sprayed by a skunk. You’ll need to look for other signs to figure out what’s going on. For example, if your dog has an ear infection, you might see them scratching their ears or shaking their head. If their anal glands are full, you might spot them scooting their rear on the ground.

If your dog smells and you notice other unusual signs or behavior, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

veterinarian checking the ear of the dog
Image Credit: SeventyFour, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

As you learned in this article, the wet dog smell is unavoidable no matter how clean you keep your pet. You can’t, nor should you, remove all the microorganisms on your dog’s skin that cause the odor when they get wet.

The wet dog smell is likely not causing your dog any problems, however, you can reduce it with regular grooming, bathing, and thorough drying. If your dog carries a consistent abnormal odor even when they’re dry, there could be something more serious going on, and you should have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian.


Featured Image Credit: Morlet ophelie, Shutterstock

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