How to Get Rid of That Dead Animal Smell

That smells really bad. Close up portrait of young funny dark-skinned man with afro hairstyle closing nose with fingers, feeling ad from disgusting smell from rubbish dump in city. Copy space.

There’s one sure sign an animal decided to select your home or yard to die — the bad smell. Regardless of whether it’s a decomposing rodent or a larger animal like a raccoon, the dead animal smell will fill the air with a lingering odor of putridness. Here’s how to get rid of that dead animal smell.

How to Get Rid of Dead Animal Smell

The first step to regaining fresh air is finding and removing the dead animal carcass.

After removing and disposing of the dead animal carcass, it’s time to get rid of the dead animal smell. You need to bring fresh air back again to the affected area. 

Pro Tip: Unless you remove the source of the problem — the dead animal and any bodily fluids — the bad smell can last for weeks or months. 

No matter how much air freshener or neutralizing spray you use, the dead animal odor lasts until the critter’s body totally decomposes and dries. 

After you’ve rid yourself of the dead animal carcass, you’ll need to clean the area. That’s especially true if body fluids seeped onto the surface. 

Step 1: Clean the Area

Gather a few materials:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Bleach or disinfectant
  • Mask or respirator
  • Long clothing and protective footwear

Indoors: Wear gloves so you can use a household disinfectant or bleach. If the animal died in your insulation and left a mess behind, you have an extra chore. You need to remove and replace the affected insulation. 

Outdoors: If the animal died outside your home, thoroughly flush the affected area with fresh water. Wash away any remaining fluids from the dead animal that seeped into the grass and soil. The bad smell should soon start to dissipate. If it persists, flush the location again with water. 

Be sure to increase ventilation inside the home to flush the dead animal smell from the house. You can do this by opening windows, turning on fans, or turning down the air conditioner.

Step 2: Treat the Smell

Odor-Eliminating Products: You can find odor-eliminating and odor-neutralizing products online or at your local home improvement store. These biological cleaners generally work by trapping the odor particles in granules. They don’t mask or cover up the dead-animal smell — they trap and eliminate it. 

These are the same type of products wildlife removal specialists use. Products available state they trap the dead animal smell, thus eliminating and neutralizing it. Some of these types of odor neutralizers and a few example brands include:

  • Granules: Smelleze 
  • Ready-to-use spray and concentrates: Epoleon 
  • Odor remover pouches: Earthcare and Smelleze

Follow product label precautions, as well as any mixing instructions.

Homemade Odor Elimination Solutions: Use a combination of natural ingredients to create DIY solutions for removing dead animal smells from your home.

  • Vinegar: Fill multiple cups full of vinegar and place in the area of the source of the odor.
  • Ground coffee: Place ground coffee filter packs or ground coffee in the area of the bad smell.
  • Baking soda: Mix baking soda in a spray bottle of water. Spray the source of the bad odor several times daily until it dissipates.
  • Charcoal briquettes: Place the briquettes around the area of the bad smell.
  • Gel air purifiers: Absorbs bad odors from the air. Leave one in the area after removing the carcass. 

The experts at Wildlife Removal of Cincinnati have found that the options above will help eliminate the stench without breaking the bank.

Step 3: Hire a Professional if Necessary

There are situations in which you might choose a professional for dead animal removal and cleanup over doing the job yourself. This is especially true if even the thought of removing the dead animal makes you gag. If it’s a big carcass in a hard-to-access location, a professional might be your best option. 

Professional wildlife removal specialists will find the smell’s source, remove the dead carcass, clean up body fluids, and treat with an odor remover and odor neutralizer. 

Additionally, many search out where the animals get in and repair the area, sealing the entry point. They do all the dirty and stinky work for you, but at a cost. On Point Wildlife Removal and Restoration of Melbourne, Florida, states that there are variables out of their control that affect pricing. They include:

  • Height, material, and pitch of the roof
  • Difficulty in getting to the area and how many openings require repair
  • Severity of the animal problem
  • How much mess is there to clean up

On Point charges $389 for one week of trapping any remaining live animals. They charge more for removing the dead carcass, cleaning the area, and making any repairs. 

You can probably estimate the base cost of hiring a professional company will be several hundred dollars. Expect to pay extra for more than one dead carcass or to trap additional live animals.

What Does a Dead Animal Smell Like?

The smell of death is hard to describe, but most people will recognize something bad is going on with one sniff of the disgusting and puke-worthy smell of a dead animal carcass. Unfortunately, you might not even notice you have a dead animal to deal with until its body begins to decay inside your home or out in the yard. 

Pro Tip: If you suddenly start smelling a musty odor, you don’t have a dead critter problem. Mold and moisture are the more-likely suspects. 

The scientific reason for the bad smell is the combination of chemicals including sulfur dioxide, benzene derivatives, methane, and multiple hydrocarbons manufactured as the dead animal starts decaying. 

Depending on the size of the animal and environmental conditions in the area of its death, the dead animal can create a lingering smell that can last for several days, weeks, or months. The horrific smell will linger until the animal carcass has completely dried out.

Factors Affecting the Smell

Photo Credit: Hunter Desportes / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The following factors play a key role in the strength of the dead animal odor:

  • Animal size: Larger animals produce more decaying flesh, which means the dead animal smell is stronger. A dead raccoon or opossum produces a stronger smell than a dead mouse.
  • Species: Odors associated with decaying animals are different from animal to animal. 
  • Dead carcass location: If the dead animal dies inside the home in a poorly ventilated area such as in the center of a wall, the bad smell is worse and lingers longer than if it died in a well-ventilated location.
  • Decomposition state: The lifecycle of the dead animal’s odor depends on the animal, its size, and the environmental conditions. It can take several days for decomposition to start. The odor is mild at first, but as decomposition continues, the odor grows stronger and then decreases as the body fluids dry up.

    As maggots start feasting on the body the smell starts to weaken, and once the body is completely dried out, the smell subsides.
  • Temperature and humidity: When temperatures inside the home or outside are warmer, decomposition of the dead animal is faster, thus leading to stronger smells. When conditions are humid, you have a better ability to smell the dead animal odor. 

    In addition, moist or wet conditions speed the process of decay.
  • Air flow: The flow of air in the home greatly affects the dead animal’s smell. For example, if the dead animal is in the attic, you may smell the odor more in the morning as the affected area cools at night and the air sinks into the home. 

On the other hand, the dead animal odor might not be as strong in the afternoon as the airflow heats up and rises.

Dead animals stink, and regardless of the strength of the dead animal’s odor, most people can’t stand to live with the smell too long.

How to Prevent Dead Animal Smell

Photo Credit: TomaszG / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The best way to prevent dead animal smell is to keep animals from getting in your home in the first place. Locate, repair, and seal their original entry points to prevent future problems,

Prevent dead animal smell outdoors: Use fencing or other barriers to keep animals from wandering into your yard.

Prevent dead animal smell indoors: Check the roof, openings around your home’s exterior, and greenery around the house if the animal died indoors.

  • Missing soffits often provide an open pathway. 
  • Plumbing or electrical fixtures — look around the house at every place and seal any openings. 
  • Trim bushes or trees planted around the home’s foundation. That way, animals can’t crawl onto the roof and get inside the home. 

Keep any entry points repaired and sealed and you will go a long way in preventing future problems. The last thing you want is another animal dying and filling your home with a horrid smell and a big mess. 

Dead Animal Concerns

Whether the animal died inside your home or out in the yard, the dead animal smell is the most offensive part of its death. However, the animal carcass can lead to other issues.

For your property:

  • Outside the dead animal can attract larger predators.
  • Inside the home can lead to a fly breeding ground and an infestation of insects, including maggots.
  • Damage from the body fluids seeping into ceilings, floors, walls, and insulation can result in costly and time-consuming home repairs.

For your health:

  • Water supply: The biggest problem with dead animals is that their decaying bodies can pollute the water supply, leading to health problems for those who drink it.
  • Lingering odors can result in headaches and nausea.
  • Contaminated air: Humans typically breathe in the infected spores by mowing over a dead animal’s body.  

For your pets:

  • Rabies: If your dog is unvaccinated and decides to play with or eat part of the dead animal like a raccoon, they too can then get the rabies virus.
  • Tularemia, aka “Rabbit Fever: This is transmitted by fleas and ticks. It can infect both animals and humans, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rabbits, hares, rats, and mice are especially susceptible to the disease. 

It’s important to locate the source of the odor and remove the dead animal as soon as possible. Therefore, one should never ingest a dead animal or handle one without wearing protection.

How to Locate a Dead Animal

Photo Credit: Goldflakes / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Whether the dead animal odor is coming from somewhere outside in the yard or inside the home, the first thing you will want to do in any situation is to find the source of the odor. Of course, dealing with a dead animal carcass located outdoors is usually easier and a bit more straightforward than if the animal carcass is somewhere indoors. 

Most dead animals you will find are those that you see frequently around the house and even make their homes there. Common types include:

  • Squirrels
  • Rats and mice
  • Raccoons
  • Opossums
  • Skunks
  • Armadillos
  • Stray dogs or cats

How to Locate an Animal Carcass Outdoors

If possible, an injured and dying animal will usually drag itself off to a private location so it can die in peace. Unless the dying animal left a trail of blood or some other sign of its impending death, your nose ends up being the best locator of the source of the odor and the dead animal carcass. 

However, depending on the size of the animal, you might also see carrion feeders like vultures circling the death site of the dead animal. If your house is raised the animal might crawl under there and decide to die. 

Under the house, crawl spaces are perfect private areas for dying animals to expire. If this happens, the bad smell of the decaying carcass can last for weeks and sometimes for several months.

How to Locate an Animal Carcass Indoors

Depending on where the animal died, locating and removing an indoor dead animal carcass can be a bit trickier and may require you to call in a pro. Some wildlife and pest-control experts have a subspecialty in dead animal removal. 

Animals often don’t bite the dust in the middle of your floor. Usually, a dying animal searches out water or will crawl back to a secluded nest or den to die. Once again, your nose is your best friend when it comes to locating the source of the smell. 

The time of day when the smell is strongest provides a clue, too. If during the heat of the day you notice the bad smell is stronger, the dead animal probably is not in the basement. It’s more likely in the attic. 

Areas where animals commonly die include:

  • Attics
  • Inside walls
  • Wall voids 
  • Inside the chimney

If the animal died in your insulation and now its body fluids have drained into the material, you will have to replace the affected area. 

If the animal decided to die in your walls, you may have to cut open a section to get to the dead carcass. This takes DIY handyman repair expertise and additional costs.

How to Remove a Dead Animal

Photo Credit: Gilles San Martin / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

If you decide to remove the dead animal carcass yourself, take steps to stay safe from potential health hazards. Only after you remove the dead animal can you think about getting rid of the bad smell.

Depending on the size of the dead animal and where it’s located, you’ll need to wear: 

  • Gloves
  • Mask, sometimes a gas mask
  • Protective clothing like a long sleeve shirt and long pants

After you locate the dead carcass, don’t just bury it in the yard where your dog might dig it up. 

  • Wrap the body in newspaper
  • Enclose it tightly in a plastic bag
  • Discard the bag in a location where other animals cannot get to it. For small animals, it’s often sufficient to double bag the carcass and place it in your weekly trash pickup. (Ask local wildlife authorities for the laws and best practices in your area.)

If picking up the dead animal in your gloved hands isn’t your cup of tea, you can always use a shovel to scoop up the dead body to place in the plastic bag. 

Your arsenal of lawn tools probably includes something that can grab, pull or scoop. Just be sure to disinfect the tools thoroughly after you dispose of the carcass.

FAQ About Dead Animal Smells

How Long Does a Dead Animal Smell Last?

Dead animal smell lasts from a few days to a few months, or as long as it takes for the animal to decompose fully. The flesh-decomposing microbes that do the work of breaking down the carcass produce the awful smell. Once their job is done, the smell will subside. 

Factors such as the size of the animal and the environment influence how long this process takes. For example, a raccoon carcass found in a South Florida forest took slightly more than one week to decompose out in the open, thanks to soldier flies and other larvae. 

If the raccoon were in an attic during the winter (and not within reach of other animals that speed the process), the process would likely take over a month given the cold conditions and size of the animal.

Can You Get Sick From Breathing in Dead Animal Smell?

No, the odor itself won’t hurt you, but the smell can make you feel sick.

Are Dead Animals a Health Hazard?

Yes, dead animals are a health hazard because they can release disease-causing bacteria as they decompose, which can be harmful to humans. Dead wildlife can transmit anthrax, tularemia, rabies (although transmission by a dead animal is rare), and other diseases from biting insects, such as ticks and fleas. 

Other dead animals, such as livestock, have the potential to spread diseases, such as Salmonellosis and Campylobacter, among others. For these reasons, it’s best to hire a trained professional to remove dead animals from outside or inside your house ASAP

What Gets Rid of Dead Animal Smell?

Vinegar, ground coffee, baking soda, and charcoal briquettes are some household items that work to fight bad odors.

When to Call a Professional

If you can’t find the source of the smell or the idea of touching a dead animal is an experience you wish to avoid, you may want to hire a wildlife removal professional to clear the air.

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Joyce Starr

Joyce Starr has been writing on horticultural and landscaping topics for over 15 years. In addition, for the past 20 years she’s owned and operated a landscaping and design business. She shares her experience and passion for all things green through her writing.