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Why Do Dogs Stink After a Bath?

 

Why Do Dogs Stink After a Bath? After you take a bath your skin and hair smell very good, but the same cannot be said about dogs. Despite using doggy shampoo, your dog still stinks terribly after a bath, what gives? And yes, you used a nice smelling shampoo, you made sure you worked it in well into your dog’s coat and you carefully rinsed it off. With all these measures in place, you would expect your dog to smell fresh as roses. Turns out, there is a reason behind that famous wet dog smell many dog owners complain about.

A Matter of Molecules

Dogs aren’t the only creatures blessed with powerful sniffers, humans can also sense smells quite decently. Of course, we will never be able to compete against dogs, but we can’t complain about our sense of olfaction either. When we sense an odor, it’s because of microscopic chemical molecules floating in the air. These volatile molecules enter our noses and reach the olfactory epithelium, a special membrane that houses special olfactory receptors which send messages to the brain. Once the messages are received, the brain decodes the smell, and in the case of wet dog, it’s often perceived as unpleasant, but what causes that bad wet dog smell in the first place?

The Power of H2O

Wet fur emphasizes odors
Wet fur emphasizes odors

It’s a well known fact that humidity and moisture work better at transmitting smells compared to dry air. According to Live Science “the more likely substances dissolve in water, the heftier their odor. This is why you sense a distinctive smell after the first rains and why people use warm, steaming water to carry the scent from dried potpourri into the air of their homes. On a stinkier note, a pile of trash is also more likely to stink on a hot and humid day.  In a similar fashion, when a dog’s coat gets wet, the water frees volatile molecules from the surface of the dog’s coat, and of course, these molecules end up all the way up inside our noses. What makes the smell unpleasant though?




Wet dog smell? Not my fault..
Wet dog smell? Not my fault..

Microorganisms at Play

This may sound gross, but that wet dog odor actually stems from the presence of microorganisms living on the dog’s skin. The dog’s coat is normally populated by yeast and bacteria and when the dog’s coat gets wet, these organisms excrete stinky volatile compounds (for science junkies, here’s a list of compounds that contribute to wet dog smell). These molecules are then liberated from the dog’s fur and travel all the way up to our noses. If you think that your dog’s coat is free of microorganisms, think again. According to Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, a small number of yeast and bacteria are considered normal flora of the dog’s’ skin.

When Things Get Out of Hand

Doggy odor? It'snot from me!
Doggy odor? It’s not from me!

While it’s quite normal for a dog to smell more after a bath,  doggy odor that gets overwhelmingly stenchy can be a symptom of a skin condition requiring veterinary attention. This occurs when the numbers of yeast and bacteria  are no longer effectively kept under control by the immune system. When the dog’s immune system is suppressed, the numbers of bacteria and fungi  increase which can lead to skin infections, explains veterinarian Dr. Ernest Ward. These infections are often categorized as “opportunistic infections” and may cause a strong musty skin odor along with other symptoms such as redness, itchiness and crusty, flaky skin.

Removing Wet Dog Smell

Your dog will likely smell less bad once his coat has dried, especially if you blow dry his coat, but what about your carpet, rugs  and upholstery? If your dog likes to roll on the carpet or rub against furniture to expedite the drying process, these surfaces will likely absorb that wet dog smell and they may end up stinking. There are some strategies to remove wet dog smell. You can steam clean these surfaces and then you can fill a bowl with white distilled vinegar and place it right in front of your air-conditioning filter, allowing the fumes from the vinegar to evaporate and purify the air circulating around your home.

What's that hound smell?
What’s that hound smell?

Did you know? Dogs that belong to the hound category, such as the beagle, foxhound, bloodhound and coonhound, are known for having a strong, musky coat odor compared to other dogs. According to Beagle Pro, this houndy smell is believed to stem from the fact that hounds work in packs and have a need for being aware of each member’s whereabouts throughout the fields. There are therefore chances that throughout the many years of selective breeding,  this breed developed a stronger than average level of chemical emitters.