Modern Medicine, Old-Fashioned Care

Sep 22, 2021 | General Health

How to Effectively Get Rid of That Wet Dog Smell

“Seeing your veterinarian is important if you notice your dog seems to be very stinky,” says Dr. Jerica Lugo, VMD, with Doylestown Veterinary Hospital.

The all-encompassing and infamous “wet dog smell” is frequently touted when our four-footed friends come in from the rain (or an impromptu dip in the creek), but mere dampness shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame, Dr. Lugo says.

“The most important thing with dog odor – sometimes it can be related to something other than the dog being wet,” she notes. “Sometimes we think, ‘Oh, my dog smells when he gets wet.’ But a dog being damp can bring out underlying odors.”

For some dogs, that olfactory offense may be an indication that there is a medical concern in need of attention.

“There may be an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria on the skin,” Dr. Lugo says. “If it seems like your dog’s odor is excessive when they get wet, there may be something else going on with them. You should schedule a visit with your veterinarian.”

Normal “wet dog smell” actually hails from your dog’s sweat glands, she continues.

Dogs do not have the same kinds of sweat glands that humans do. Their sweat glands are found on areas of the body without fur, notably their paws, which can also contribute to nasty odors from time to time.

Making certain you have a solid grooming routine is the key to keeping stinky smells away, she says.

“Regular grooming can include bathing at home or going to a professional,” she says. Just keep the following in mind:

  • Dogs with long, dense coats may need more frequent grooming. “Their hair will hold onto scent more,” says Dr. Lugo.
  • A gentle, mildly scented, or unscented cleanser is helpful for baths at home.
  • The biggest tip to remember, says Dr. Lugo, is to make certain you dry your dog thoroughly when they come indoors after it has rained, or when they’ve taken a dip in the pool or pond. “Be sure to keep the spaces between their toes nice and dry,” she says. “Dry behind their ears and any denser areas of fur.

“For some really dense-haired dogs, keeping the fur dry can be challenging. That wet dog smell may last longer because they simply stay wet longer. If your dog tolerates blow drying, you can try that too.”

And speaking of smells…


Ridding your pup of that telltale, sulfuric skunk odor is an entirely different issue, Dr. Lugo says.

The culprit is a skunk’s scent glands which express a highly concentrated, oily, and noxious liquid to ward off attackers.

“The problem is that plain water and soap is not going to get rid of skunk smell,” Dr. Lugo says.

Many recipes can be found online for deskunking your pet, but Dr. Lugo recommends those that cite vinegar, baking soda, and dish soap as their main ingredients.

“The reason dish soap is recommended is because it’s a little better for taking care of oils than regular hand soap,” she says. “Unscented dish soap like blue Dawn is really good. It’s gentle enough to be used on wildlife during oil spills, and it is also great for cutting through that greasy, oily scent.”

Pet owners should avoid shampoos that contain flea and tick medications, as well as any other medicated shampoos unless they have been recommended by a veterinarian.

“Often, deskunking your pet takes more than one bathing, which can get frustrating. And [even after you do], anytime your dog gets wet it can bring back a little of that skunk smell.”

A refresher bath a couple of weeks out from the initial deskunking may be necessary to make a larger dent in the scent. Still, “sometimes, skunk odor will last. The best thing you can do is get them in the bath right away when you know they have been sprayed.”

If Your Dog Has Been Sprayed in the Face

“Skunk odor can be extremely pungent and can cause your dog to vomit. It can cause severe irritation of the eyes. In some cases, it can cause an allergic reaction in a dog,” Dr. Lugo. “If your dog has been sprayed in the face and is having a severe reaction, it is critical to take them to the ER.”

A saline eyewash can also be used to rinse your dog’s eyes and flush out any irritants. But given the caustic nature of skunk spray, a visit to the vet is a good idea, as the irritation could potentially lead to other issues.



Do you have a slightly stinky dog? The specialists at Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care can help. Call 215-345-6000.