How to Get Rid of Wet Dog Smell

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. March 27, 2018
How to Get Rid of Wet Dog Smell

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If you have taken your dog for a walk in the rain, been to the beach or just given your dog a bath, then you may be familiar with the infamous ‘wet dog smell’. If you have a large dog or more than one dog in a household, a dog's smell can be particularly noticeable to outsiders. One of the most common reasons people will not let their dog in the house or even be a dog owner in the first place is their propensity to smell. When a dog is wet their sometimes foul odor becomes more exacerbated and pungent.

This is why it is understandable you will be on the lookout for effective tips on how to get rid of wet dog smell. AnimalWised explains why dogs smell bad in the first place as well as providing effective methods of eliminating wet dog smell. This way you can live in harmony with your pooch without having to hose down the couch cushions and spend a fortune on dry cleaning bills. We do this with helpful tips and home remedies to smell so fresh and so clean.

You may also be interested in: How to Get a Cat to Drink Water

Why do dogs smell bad when they get wet?

Do you ever wonder why dogs smell bad when they get wet? It is something inherent in a dog's genetic makeup and it bears a natural and worthy purpose for the dog. We can, therefore, reduce the intensity of the smell and eliminate its harshness. We cannot, however, eliminate the cause of the smell completely. If we did, we would remove the helpful elements present in a dog's coat which are necessary for it to maintain its health.

This necessary element is made up a combination of glandular secretions and beneficial bacteria on the dog's coat. The glandular secretions are most prominent from the ears and paws where these secretions come from. They release pheromones and other smells to communicate with other dogs, animals and even us humans. These may increase and decrease at certain times, especially if the dog is in heat or undergoing some sort of bodily change. Dogs only sweat on parts of their body not covered by fur, such as their paw pads. However, each hair follicle also has a gland called the apocrine gland which is not well understood, but may also release secretions.

Bacteria molecules on the dogs coat are what cause the majority of a dog's smell. These molecules are often positive bacteria which exist to ensure the health of a dog's fur. They come from fats breaking down into volatile organic acids on the coat. Dogs have mainly Staphyloccal bacteria which don't have much of a natural smell, but become worse when they are wet[1]. While it is not well understood, the reason for this is believed to be because becoming wet makes these water soluble organic acids evaporate more. This makes the smell more concentrated.

Humans have developed an aversion to these smells because they prevent us from eating food which has gone bad due to the presence of bacteria. When we smell this, evolution has made us become disgusted so that we find it unpalatable and we stay away. Unfortunately, the same process happens with bacteria on a dog's coat and we sense a similar aversion. We cannot get rid of this bacteria completely as it will be bad for the dog. Nor can we simply turn off our evolutionary instincts and stop finding this smell off-putting. So, how can we get rid of wet dog smell?

Home remedies for wet dog smell

The best way of getting rid of wet dog smell is to avoid it in the first place. However, if your dog is prone to this type of foul odor, then you should find a way to help mask it. This doesn't mean getting rid of the healthy bacteria we discussed before. However you can use the following home remedies to combat odors:

  • Apple cider vinegar: although white vinegar will also work, apple cider vinegar is perhaps better as its antiseptic properties are improved thanks to the presence of ‘mother of vinegar’[2]. It is one of the most commonly used household remedies for a variety of cleaning and cosmetic purposes. Simply add some apple cider vinegar to your dog's usual shampoo and bathe as normal. Alternatively, you can make your own homemade dog shampoo and use apple cider vinegar as an ingredient. The recommended ratio is 1 cup of vinegar per liter of shampoo. We shouldn't use any more as acidifying the skin of a dog can cause irritation problems. It can also unbalance the population of healthy bacteria on the coat. Also, even if your dog is prone to wet dog smell, do not over-bathe them and allow at least 7 days between washes.
  • Rosemary: an aromatics herb, rosemary can be used as a water or oil infusion treatments. Rosemary water is also sometimes used to treat wounds on a dog's skin. Rosemary oil is a natural antibacterial and it's pleasant smell for humans also repels mosquitos. You can simply add a few drops of rosemary oil to your dog's shampoo to help get rid of bad smells.
  • Coconut oil: offering several benefits to the health of our dogs, coconut oil can be great at hiding bad smells. It is sometimes used as a dietary supplement in dogs and is a great moisturizer for their skin. To avoid wet dog smell after you bathe them, you can make a homemade dog conditioner which is based on both coconut and rosemary oil (a double whammy of odor elimination). To prepare it, mix 50 ml of coconut oil with about 10 drops of rosemary oil. Apply as a conditioner after shampooing your dog and rinse well.
  • Homemade perfume: you should never use human perfumes or odor eliminators on your dog. They contain different substances which can cause serious agitation for your dogs, alcohol not being the least of them. They can cause allergic reactions and irritate the mucous membranes of dogs. Fortunately, we can show you how to make your own homemade perfume for dogs to help with their bad smell using our easy to follow formula.
How to Get Rid of Wet Dog Smell - Home remedies for wet dog smell

Tips to prevent wet dog hair

As getting your dog's hair wet in the first place can exacerbate bad smells, avoiding getting wet will be the best way to prevent them from reaching your nostrils. Here are some extra tips to do just that:

  • Don't over do it: having a sanitary home often means having a sanitary dog and washing your dog in the bath only reproduces wild behavior our canine's ancestry exhibited when washing in stream and lakes. However, bathing in excess is not healthy for our dogs. You can eliminate their natural oiliness (in the form os sebum) which keeps their coat's healthy. Worse, they lose their natural protectiveness and can become even more prone to certain diseases and infections. You should only bathe your dog when necessary, ideally once a moth, but not more than every seven days.
  • Remember to dry: drying your dog is an important part of the grooming process. Accumulation of moisture on the skin leads to greater acidic evaporation and a worse smell. It also favors the proliferation of certain pathogens, again putting their overall health at risk. Dry them well and give them a quick towel when you return from rainy day walks.
  • Brush regularly: depending on the breed of the dog, some will need brushed more regularly than others. However, when it comes to smell, dead hairs which linger in the coat can help accumulate impurities and increase a bad smell. Not brushing will also lead to a lusterless coat which doesn't look great, so brush at least once a week, but more if they are a breed which needs it.
  • Clean dog's teeth: glands and wet fur are not the only reasons a dog may smell. Halitosis is very common in dogs which is why many humans might say another person has ‘dog breath’ when they smell. This is most commonly due to poor dental hygiene and bacteria in the mouth. if you regularly brush your dog's teeth you will reduce this smell and make your dog smell better wet or dry. If the smell doesn't improve, it can be due to tartar which needs to be removed by a veterinarian or similar specialist.

Don't forget that the care and hygiene of your home will also have a bearing on avoiding wet dog smell. If you want to know more about eliminating this smell from your home, check out this article over on oneHOWTO of how to get rid of dog smell from your home.

Does your dog always smell bad?

Dogs can give off an unpleasant aroma for a variety of reasons. It's important not to confuse them with a natural wet dog smell which will exist in every dog to some degree. Often the unpleasant odor will arise from their skin, but it can also be emitted from their anus, legs or ears. These smells can often be symptoms of some imbalance in the health of the dog.

Bad smells in dogs can often derive from an illness. If your dog continues to smell excessively, even after bathing and using our home remedies to get rid of wet dog smell, it may be advisable to go to a veterinarian. They will be able to rule out if this bad smell is due to a health problem, if they need treatment or if they are an otherwise healthy dog.

Some dogs may also suffer from flatulence, but this will be due to some reason or another. Whether it is because of an intolerance, food allergy or problem somewhere along the digestive tract, finding the cause is the best way to prevent it happening again.

Also, ensuring your dog has adequate preventative methods enforced to allow for your dog's overall health. This will reduce the chances of being infected by other dogs as well as avoiding certain skin irritation diseases which can exacerbate wet dog smell. Visiting the vet every 6 months to a year (sometimes more for working dogs), keeping to vaccination and deworming schedules and a balanced diet with appropriate nutrition will not only give them the best opportunity for good health, but they can prevent bad smells.

How to Get Rid of Wet Dog Smell - Does your dog always smell bad?

If you want to read similar articles to How to Get Rid of Wet Dog Smell, we recommend you visit our Extra care category.


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