The Science of Wet Dog Smell

Things That Make You Go Hmmm…The Science of Wet Dog Smelly

It is a truth universally acknowledged that wet dogs are pretty stinky. In this newsletter, you can learn all about the science behind that stink.

You smell your dog (or anything, for that matter) when different molecules hit the olfactory sensory neurons in your nasal cavity. Dog smell – the funky kind – comes from waste products from yeast and bacteria that take up residence in your dog’s fur and on the skin. Bathing your dog might make her cleaner, but it also unleashes the smelliness of whatever is living on her.

So what’s water got to do with it? When dry, these microscopic pieces of excrement don’t emit a scent. H2O breaks down the chemical bonds that hold the micro-excreta together, releasing a fog of musty molecules into the air. As water evaporates, it also raises the relative humidity in the air surrounding your dog. Humid air can hold more molecules (warm air does this too, and together heat and humidity can have a compounding effect on smell). The higher concentration of molecules in the air means more can make their way into your nasal cavity to assault your olfactory receptor neurons.

So the next time you let your pup run through the sprinkler, just imagine all the itty bitty chemicals from yeast and bacteria shooting into your nose creating that “wet dog smell”.

As the American Chemical Society points out, wet hair isn’t the only nasty dog-related smell. Dog food is also pretty gnarly. That’s because dogs are into the smell of molecules, such as putrescine and cadaverine – so named for their distinct dead body smell. Your dog would like her kibble to smell like a rotting corpse, you’d like it to smell like filet mignon, and dog food flavor chemists have to come up with something that makes everyone happy!


Many kennels and doggie day cares will be requiring Canine Flu vaccines this summer. The two strains of Canine Flu in the US are novel viruses that ALL DOGS WHO CONTACT IT WILL CONTRACT.

Social dogs who frequently go to day care, dog parks, or kennels should be immunized twice the first year, then annually. Many of our local doggie daycares and kennels have imposed a time deadline by which your dog must be immunized. To assist our clients’ compliance, if your pet has had a wellness exam within the past six months and is not obviously ill, a technician visit can be scheduled for the initial immunization and boost 2-4 weeks later.

Call our receptionists to set up a flu vaccine appointment.

Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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