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How to Get Rid of Wet Dog Smell

Eduarda Piamore
By Eduarda Piamore, Expert in canine and feline psychology, education and training.. January 29, 2024
How to Get Rid of Wet Dog Smell

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Wet dog smell is a unique odor which often has the uncanny ability to linger for a long time. It is instantly recognizable and can infuse itself into soft furnishings as if they were the dog's own coat. Peculiar and unattractive, it is a smell that can also work its way into the fabric of our clothes and provide some awkwardness when we meet other people. It is also a smell exacerbated by wet days, something which can make fall and winter particularly smelly seasons.

At AnimalWised, we explain the best methods for how to get rid of wet dog smell. These techniques can be applied directly to the dog, to people or even the furnishings of your home.

You may also be interested in: How to Get a Cat to Drink Water
  1. Why do wet dogs smell?
  2. Home remedies to avoid wet dog smell
  3. Tips to prevent wet dog smell
  4. Does your dog constantly give off a bad smell?

Why do wet dogs smell?

To best prevent wet dog smell, we should know why wet dogs smell in the first place. The reason is something inherent in the organism of canines. Although we can reduce the intensity of this odor or remove it from ourselves, we should not eliminate it completely from the dog. This is because it is part of a vital characteristics of a dog's skin and coat. For this reason, we should expect to put up with a certain amount of wet dog smell.

Numerous beneficial bacteria and fungi live on the surface of a dog's body. These microorganisms feed on waste from the skin and hair, producing organic acids as a result of their metabolism. These acids form a protective layer that covers the entire body of canines. When our dog gets wet, these organic compounds evaporate and spread rapidly through the air. The wet dog smell is due to these acidic molecules being suspended in the environment.

We also need to point out that wet dog smell is partly perception. Other dogs don't run away in disgust when they meet a smelly dog. To canines, this is a normal smell which does not cause offense. This happens even though a dog's sense of smell is thousands of times more acute than our own. People sense the acid molecules as being sour, but even many humans simply get used to the smell and don't find it unpleasant.

It is fair to say that most people experience a natural rejection of wet dog smell. It is an evolutionary adaptation which humans have developed to avoid harmful substances such as spoiled foods. For this reason, wet dog smell often reminds us of fetid garbage or decomposing remains. It is our instinct for self-preservation which causes us to be repelled by the smell of a wet dog, a waste produce from the metabolism of bacteria and yeast.

Home remedies to avoid wet dog smell

There are various commercial cleansers you can buy which are designed to eliminate the smell of wet dogs from people, furniture or the dog themselves. While these may be fine for use, they are not always controlled as strictly as products for humans. For this reason, you will need to research which products are best or ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Alternatively, you can try to use the following home remedies to get rid of wet dog smell:

  • Apple cider vinegar: apple cider vinegar is one of the most used products in home treatments for dogs, thanks to its antiseptic properties. To reduce the bad smell your dog gives off when wet, you can add apple cider vinegar to the shampoo you usually use to bathe them. Another option is to make your own homemade shampoo or conditioner for dogs and add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. The recommended proportion is 1 cup of vinegar for every 1 liter of shampoo. Remember that, by acidifying the dog's skin too much, we can cause allergic reactions and unbalance the population of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that help protect its body. This can leave them more vulnerable to numerous diseases. Do not bathe your dog excessively, allowing a minimum of 7 days to pass between baths.

  • Rosemary: rosemary is an aromatic herb that can be used as water or oil in natural treatments. Rosemary water is very beneficial in helping heal wounds in dogs. Rosemary oil provides a pleasant smell and a few drops to their shampoo may repel dog pests like mosquitos. However, essential oils can be toxic in large amounts, so you need to be sparing.

  • Coconut oil: coconut oil can provide a good home remedy for wet dog smell. It can also help to naturally moisturize their skin and keep their hair conditioned. You could try making a homemade hair conditioner for dogs that uses coconut oil and a few drops of rosemary oil. Apply as a conditioner after you bathe the dog, but ensure you rinse them very well afterwards.

  • Homemade perfume: if you want to improve your dog's smell, you cannot use commercial perfumes intended for human use. These are not designed for a dog's skin and can cause serious allergic reactions in some cases. You can use infusions of lavender, citrus or even herbs such as mint. However, you need to be sparing as odors that are too strong can irritate the dog.

If you are faced with an emergency and do not have time to bathe your dog to get rid of wet dog smell, you still have options. Check out our related article on how to clean a dog without bathing them to learn more.

How to Get Rid of Wet Dog Smell - Home remedies to avoid wet dog smell

Tips to prevent wet dog smell

Although we have previously mentioned some home and natural remedies to avoid bad odor in dogs, below we give you some extra tips that are also very useful to avoid bad odors:

  • Don't overdo it in baths: although baths are important to cleanse your dog and control bad odor, excessive bathing can be harmful to their health. If you bathe your dog too frequently, you will eliminate the natural oils on their coat that are produced by sebum. This removes a protective barrier on their skin, making them more vulnerable to elemental conditions, parasites, UV rays and pathogens which can attack the skin.

  • Remember to dry your dog well: the accumulation of moisture on the skin and hair of our dogs causes the wet dog smell. It can also create a proliferation of pathogens such as bacteria and make them more vulnerable to the cold. Dry them well after bathing and when they come in from a wet environment.

  • Brush your dog periodically: a dog can smell bad from accumulating impurities and dead hairs on their coat. If you want to prevent this bad odor and make your dog have healthy, shiny hair, you should provide them with weekly or daily brushing, depending on their coat type and care needs.

  • Regularly clean your dog's teeth: halitosis is very common in dogs that do not receive adequate oral hygiene and accumulate a lot of food residue on their teeth and gums. If you regularly brush your dog's teeth, you will notice bad breath will be considerably reduced. If the bad smell still persists, you may need to visit a veterinarian in case they have an oral health problem such as periodontitis in dogs.

Not all dogs are the same when it comes to odor. While it will depend on the individual and their health, there are certain dog breeds which smell worse than others. We will need to be especially vigilant against wet dog smell in these particular breeds.

How to Get Rid of Wet Dog Smell - Tips to prevent wet dog smell

Does your dog constantly give off a bad smell?

Dogs can give off other unpleasant aromas for various reasons. It is very important not to confuse natural wet dog smell with an odor which indicates a health problem. We also need to ensure we distinguish between the smell of wet dog fur and other malodorous areas such as the dog having bad breath or a fishy smell from the dog's anus. Locating these smells can help diagnose the problem when we take them to a veterinarian.

Bad odor in dogs can be due to illnesses such as skin diseases, parasitical infestations or even systemic infections which lead to systemic failures. A dog's coat condition is an indicator of their overall health, something which can be see when it loses shine, becomes brittle or starts to smell. Some dogs are more prone to problems than others, such as skin diseases in Shar Pei dogs which are exacerbated by skin folds.

Dogs that suffer from flatulence in their digestive tract may release smelly gases as a symptom of some food intolerance or allergy. It could also be another gastrointestinal pathology. If your dog has a lot of gas, do not hesitate to go to your trusted veterinarian to establish an appropriate treatment. Learn more about what to do when your dog farts all the time.

Remember that providing adequate preventive medicine to your dog is essential to maintain overall health. This means regular veterinary checkups every 6-12 months, establishing a suitable vaccination schedule and ensuring the dog is routinely dewormed. Provide a balanced diet indicated for their individual needs, ensure they receive the right level of exercise and provide lots of positive reinforcement and affection.

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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How to Get Rid of Wet Dog Smell