why do wet dogs smell so bad

We ve all had this experience a summer day, a drive to the lake, and a refreshing dip for your and your four-footed pal in the clear cool water. Then there s the agonizing drive home, as you try to keep your eyes on the road, even as you are about to pass out from the smell of wet dog. Ever wonder what the recipe is for this particularly pungent scent? Scientists did too, and some have started sniffing around for the chemical components that raise this unique stink. Andy Brunning, a British chemistry teacher, has distilled the essence of the complex molecular reactions into an infographic posted on his blog,. This is just one in his series of infographics offering scientific explanations for odors that greet or assault our nostrils on a typical day, like new car, toilets, coffee, fresh cut grass, and bacon, for example. Aroma of wet dog, Brunning explains in an article accompanying his graphic, starts with a cast of tiny critters yeasts and bacteria that take up residence on your pet. When you re taking your dog for a walk, he says, you re actually taking a whole host of microorganisms for a stroll, too. In the process of going about their lives, they leave behind micro excreta in the form of volatile organic compounds. The smell of wet-dog, Brunning says, comes from moisture evaporation that carries some of those compounds with it.


Brunning characterizes the signature odor as a mixture of scents, including almond, fruit, honey, and mushroom, with hints of sulfur and feces. He notes that there haven t been millions of dollars dedicated to the study of this problem, and there s much more to learn. But he ends with a call to action. [We] at least know that it s not the dogs themselves we should be blaming for the smelling terrible, but rather the microorganisms they carry. Learn how to tackle that wet-dog smell with our free e-book on. * Infographic by Andy Brunning of Compound Interest.
There are few things more joyful than watching a dog play in a puddle or splash around in a pool on a hot summer day. But the smellthat stinky, wet dog smellis not quite so pleasant for the majority of pet parents. On their own, water and dogs dont smell bad. Dogs have a distinct musk thats not unpleasant to those of us that love them, and (clean) water doesnt smell like much of anything. So why does the combination of the two lead to such an awful stench? All of us, including our dogs, have a population of microbes (bacteria, fungal organisms like yeast) that are found on the surface of our skin, as well as in other places like the gastrointestinal tract, says Dr. Christine Cain, a veterinarian and assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.


This collection of microorganisms is known as the microbiome, and its the source of the stink. As they go about their lives, the microorganisms that live on a dogs skin and hair produce waste in the form of various chemical compounds. Some of these smell bad on their own, while others arent offensive, but generally none of them are very noticeable when a dog is dry. But, as Dr. William Miller, a veterinarian and professor at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, says, Anything that changes the ecology of the skin can encourage these organisms to grow beyond their normal numbers. Add water, and some of these little critters numbers will boom, and so will those of the compounds they create. Water also liberates these compounds from a dogs skin and hair and accentuates the odor, Cain says. You cant evict your dogs tiny tenants, and you wouldnt want to. The normal resident population [of microbes] of the skin is part of what keeps it healthy, Cain says. You can do a little bit to prevent them from creating a stink, though. Bacteria and yeast do not thrive in dry environments, so the degree of wetness and the speed of drying are important considerations, says Miller. Dogs who dry quickly or dont get soaking wet usually dont develop that marked body odor.


He recommends trying to keep your dog from getting too wet by keeping him inside when it rains and not letting them go swimming. If thats a non-starter for a pooch who loves to paddle or really has to go to the bathroom during a storm, Miller suggests keeping their hair short so it dries quickly. Cain points out there are also products that can help lessen or mask the smell, like scented dog-friendly shampoos, conditioners and sprays. While wet dog smell is unpleasant, it wont do you or your pup any harm. However, there are doggy odors that pet owners should be more worried about. Different skin diseases and infections can cause bad smells that are noticeably different than the wet dog smell, says Miller. Other illnesses can make themselves known through bad breath and excessive flatulence. If your pooch smells funny and its not that classic wet dog funk, then you may want to talk to your vet. Before you do, though, check your dogs collar. We have had a couple of patients present to the dermatology service for work-up of a foul odor of unknown origin and it has turned out to be an old stinky collar, Cain says. Its important to remember that collars and harnesses should be cleaned and should be disposed of if they are old and soiled!

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