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Why Do Dogs Smell Bad When Wet? 10 Common Reasons & What To Do

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By Nicole Cosgrove

dogs having bad odor

It’s no secret that dogs can have a distinct smell, especially when they’re wet. You may have noticed this smell after giving your dog a bath, taking them for a swim, or even just walking them in the rain!

But what causes this smell? And is there anything you can do to prevent it? In this article, we’ll explore 10 common reasons why dogs smell bad when wet and provide some tips on how to prevent or stop the wet dog smell!

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What Is “Wet Dog Smell”?

The wet dog smell is a distinctive odor that many dog owners are familiar with. It’s usually described as a musty, sour, or damp odor that becomes more intense when a dog’s coat is wet. This odor is caused by a combination of factors that we will later explore, including natural oils, bacteria, and dead skin cells.

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The 10 Reasons Dogs Smell Bad When Wet

1. Natural Oils

Like us humans, dogs have natural oils in their skin that help protect their fur and keep it healthy. When a dog’s coat is wet, these oils are released, and they can give off a bad smell. The oils mix with water and create a damp, musty odor that can linger even after the dog has dried off.

German shepherd dog takes a bath
Image Credit: Korneeva Kristina, Shutterstock

2. Bacteria

When a dog’s coat is wet, it becomes an ideal environment for bacteria to grow. Bacteria can cause bad odors that are difficult to get rid of. The bacteria can also cause skin infections and other health issues if left untreated.

Whether clean or dirty, it is normal for bacteria to be present on your dog’s skin. What’s important is that we don’t provide them with the proper environment to grow and potentially cause harm, making it important to observe good pet hygiene!

3. Dead Skin Cells

Dogs naturally shed skin cells, and when these cells mix with water, they can create a sour, musty odor. Wet fur can trap dead skin cells, which can contribute to bad smells.

skin disease of golden retriever dog
Image Credit: Artur_eM, Shutterstock

4. Anal Glands

Dogs have two small sacs located on either side of their anus that produce a strong-smelling liquid. When a dog is wet, this liquid can become more concentrated and produce a stronger odor.

Some dogs may even release this liquid when they’re scared or anxious, which can contribute to a strong odor.

5. Swimming

Dogs that swim in ponds, lakes, or rivers may come into contact with algae, bacteria, or other substances that can cause a bad odor. If your dog loves to swim, it’s important to rinse them off with clean water after they’re done to remove any potential sources of odor.

dachshund dog swimming in the river
Image Credit: fuertefoto, Pixabay

6. Damp Fur

When a dog’s fur is wet and not properly dried, it can become damp. Damp fur can create an ideal environment for bacteria and fungi to grow, which can lead to unpleasant odors.

7. Diet

Aside from skin factors, Did you know that a dog’s diet can also affect their odor?

Dogs that eat a lot of fish or other strong-smelling foods may have a stronger odor when wet. It’s important to feed your dog a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs to help reduce odors.

senior beagle dog eating food from the bowl
Image Credit: Przemek Iciak, Shutterstock

8. Fungal Infections

Similar to bacteria, wet conditions can also encourage the growth of fungi that can cause infections and unpleasant odors. Fungal infections can be particularly common in dogs with thick, double coats or those that spend a lot of time in damp environments.

Like bacteria, proper hygiene and drying are key to preventing any fungal complications.

9. Poor Hygiene

Dogs that are not regularly groomed or bathed may have a stronger odor when they get wet. Regular grooming, including brushing and bathing, can help reduce odors and keep your dog’s coat healthy and clean. Aside from the odor prevention, proper hygiene and grooming can ensure that your dog will feel fresher and more comfortable!

10. Your Breed Is Known to Smell

Some dog breeds are simply more prone to having a stronger odor than others. Breeds with naturally oily skin or thick, dense coats may be more likely to develop a wet dog smell.

Additionally, dogs with skin folds or wrinkles, such as Bulldogs and Pugs, may be more prone to developing bacterial or fungal infections that can cause odors.

wet dog rolling in the grass
Image Credit: Foxxy63, Shutterstock

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What Other Breeds Smell Worse Than Others?

While all dogs can develop a wet dog smell, some breeds are more prone to it than others. As we all know, different breeds have different physical characteristics, particularly in their skin and coat!

Dogs with thick, double coats, such as Retrievers and Huskies, are more likely to develop a strong odor when wet. Breeds with wrinkled skin, such as Bulldogs and Shar-peis, can also be prone to developing bad odors due to trapped moisture and bacteria.

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Top 5 Tips on How to Prevent or Stop Wet Dog Smell

While you can’t completely eliminate the wet dog smell, there are several things you can do to prevent or reduce it!

1. Regular Grooming and Good Hygiene

Regular grooming can help remove dead skin cells, excess oils, and dirt that can contribute to a bad odor. Brushing your dog’s coat regularly can also help distribute natural oils throughout their fur, keeping it healthy and clean.

Bathing your dog regularly can help remove dirt, bacteria, and other substances that can contribute to bad odors. However, it’s important not to over-bathe your dog, as this can strip their coat of natural oils, leading to dry, itchy skin.

For proper grooming and hygiene advice, consult with your veterinarian for the best approach to take!

2. Use of Pet-Friendly Shampoo

When bathing your dog, make sure to use a pet-friendly shampoo that won’t irritate their skin or strip their coat of natural oils. Look for a shampoo that is specifically designed to neutralize odors.

Some dogs may also have sensitive skin, so be sure to choose the best, high quality shampoo for your furry friend!

pomeranian dog taking a bath
Image Credit; Roman Chazov, Shutterstock

3. Thoroughly Dry Your Dog

Seeing that bacteria, fungi, and damp fur can cause a wet dog smell, it’s important to dry them thoroughly to prevent a damp, musty odor.

Use a towel to remove as much moisture as possible, and then use a blow dryer on a low setting to dry their coat completely.

4. Address Skin Infections

If your dog has a skin infection or other health issue that is causing a bad odor, it’s important to address it promptly. Work with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that can help eliminate the infection and reduce odors!

5. Feed Your Dog a Healthy and Balanced Diet

A healthy and balanced diet with proper exercise can help keep your dog fit and healthy. Aside from their overall health, a nutritious diet can also promote skin health that can potentially reduce any unwanted wet dog smell.

woman feeding her dog
Image Credit: RossHelen, Shutterstock

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The wet dog smell can be unpleasant, but it’s a natural part of having a dog. By understanding the common causes of this odor and taking steps to prevent it, you can keep your dog smelling fresh and clean.

By working with your veterinarian and taking good care of your dog’s skin and coat, you can help prevent infections and other health issues that can contribute to bad odors. With a little effort, you can keep your dog smelling great and enjoying all the activities they love, even when they get wet.

Featured Image Credit: Krakenimages.com, Shutterstock

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