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What causes wet dog smell? © Getty Images

What causes wet dog smell?

Asked by: Chris Mayhew

Mmm, the scent of wet dog: a heady aroma tinged with fruity and faecal notes. The distinctive odour comes not from the dog, but from the microorganisms (yeast and bacteria) that live in its fur.


These emit pungent volatile compounds, which are released into the air as the water evaporates. This increases the humidity in the air surrounding the dog, and because humid air holds more odour molecules, the delicious smell becomes magnified further. And… breathe out.

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Helen Pilcher
Helen PilcherScience writer, presenter and performer.

Helen Pilcher is a tea-drinking, biscuit-nibbling science and comedy writer, with a PhD in cell biology.


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