Why does my dog smell like fish?
I asked this question to my vet during one routine checkup of my dog – an 8 year old Boxer. Turns out my dog had impacted anal glands. After cleaning its glands, he no longer smelled like fish! From then on, I pledged to be regular in cleaning my pet’s anal sacs.
However, a dog’s fishy smell is not always due to anal gland impaction. This foul odor can also stem from other causes. And that is the topic of today’s guide.
Read on to find out: Why does my dog smell like fish?
Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?
Your dog smell like fish because of it’s impacted anal glands. Anal glands or sacs are present on either side of the dog’s anus. They have secretions that can be described as having a fish-like smell. Dogs also release this fishy smell when scared. In smelly female dogs, there could be a yeast infection or Urinary infection.
In the next section, we will dive deeper into the answers for ‘Why does my dog smell like fish?
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Here are different factors responsible for dog’s fishy smell:
1. Why Does My Dog’s Butt Smell Like Fish?
The fishy smell comes from your dog’s anal glands. Anal glands are sweat glands that sits on the left and right side of your dog’s anus and they secrete a smelly odor. Other reasons why your dog’s butt smell like fish could be due to anal gland tumors or infections.
1.1) Anal Gland Impaction
If you are wondering why does my dog’s butt smell like fish, then it is mainly due to anal gland secretions.
A dog’s anal sac can get impacted due to the stool accumulation. The anal sacs also called anal glands are present on either side of your dog’s anus at 4 and 8 o’clock positions. They need regular cleaning (expressing) from time to time. If they are left as is, they get impacted with stool and your dog could acquire that stinky fishy odor.
You might also find your pet scooting on the carpet or floor to relieve that itchy anus. What is worse is that you might even find some anal gland secretions on the carpet where your pet has scooted.
In short: if your pet has a fishy smell and is also scooting, it is a clear indication to clean and express its anal glands.
1.2) Anal Gland Tumors
Another answer to ‘why does my dog smell like fish’ is due to certain diseases. This includes tumors- which can be present anywhere in the anal gland region. The anal gland tumor might prevent the anal sacs from expressing naturally and could even fill the glands with inflamed cells. This can lead to a foul odor over time and your pet will also be in lot of pain.
1.3) Anal Gland Infections & Abscesses
Anal sac disease which causes inflammation of the glands is another factor that could be responsible for the unpleasant smell. An abscess in the anal gland area can also be the culprit behind the fishy odor. The abscess can burst to release greenish yellow pus. If left untreated, it can cause severe complications in the dog’s anus and rectum.
Also Read: Best Dog Food for Anal Gland Issues
2. Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?
Your dog’s breath smells like fish for a variety of reasons such as if it had eaten a fish-based diet, is fed omega fatty acid supplements, has poor dental hygiene or suffers from gastro intestinal disorders. The fishy smell from your dog’s mouth cannot be solved with excessive cleaning without treating the root cause.
2.1) Fish Based Dog Foods or Omega Fatty Acid Supplements
A dog’s breath can sometimes acquire a fish-like odor. This typically happens to dogs that eat fish-based dog foods or are fed omega fatty acid supplements. In fact, the dog’s entire body might smell like fish if it is fed omega fatty supplements.
2.2) Poor Dental Hygiene
Dental abscesses, periodontal disease, accumulation of plaque and tartar, and a general lack of oral hygiene can also cause puppy breath to smell like fish.
Even if your pup romps in leaves and dirt, it could acquire a fishy smell all over its body and on its breath.
2.3) Gastrointestinal Disorders
If your dog has a food allergy or intolerance, he may have trouble digesting food which can lead to fishy breath. Seek advice from your veterinarian to switch your dog to a prescription hypoallergenic diet.
Acid reflux or GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) can lead to foul smelling breath, characterized by regurgitation, drooling, lip licking and gulping air. Antacid medications can help to control symptoms when prescribed by a veterinarian.
3. Why Does My Dog’s Pee Smell Like Fish?
If your dog has fish smelling urine, it could be due to a urinary tract disorder. Urinary tract infections (UTIs), yeast infections and heat cycle in females can cause your dog’s urine to smell like fish.
3.1) Urinary Tract Infection
A female or male dog with urinary tract infection (UTI) could cause a fish-like stench. The dog’s pee can give you a clue if this is the case. Usually, dogs with UTI will strain to pee and tend to have dark-colored urine while producing just a few drops at a time. The pee will also have a strong unpleasant odor.
3.2) Yeast Infection In Female Dogs
Female dogs acquire a fishy odor when they have a yeast infection. You might find yourself wondering ‘why do my female dog’s private parts smell like fish?’ The answer might be yeast – an overgrowth of fungi. The private area remains moist and that harbors the growth of fungal pathogens.
3.3) When Female Dogs Are In Heat
Female dogs smell like fish when they have their estrus or heat cycle. During heat cycle, your dog will have reddish brown discharge from its vulva. This can lead to a fishy smell on her body.
4. Why Does My Dog’s Entire Body Smell Like Fish?
On the whole, the main reason your dog’s entire body smell like fish is due to anal gland disease where the sweat glands on the anal sacs produce fishy smelling anal gland secretions. The fishy odor can also be caused if your dog is dirty, has eaten fish carcasses or is fearful.
4.1) Anal Sac Diseases
Anal glands (or anal sacs) are small sacs located on the left and right side of your dog’s anus. These anal sacs contains specialized sweat glands that produce an distinct fishy odor that acts as a scent marker for your dog.
As explained in the earlier section on “Why Does My Dog’s Butt Smell Like Fish?”, the main reasons are dog anal gland impaction, anal gland tumors or anal gland infections & abscesses.
4.2) Dirty Or Eaten Fish Carcasses
If your entire dog smells of fish, then the most likely cause is that it has rolled in dirt, wet leaves, or has spent time near the lake or beach. It may have even eaten fish carcasses lying on the shore.
4.3) Out of Fear
Sometimes, fearful dogs also acquire a fishy smell. If your pet is anxious and you leave it alone at home, it might smell of fish due to stress hormones.
As mentioned earlier, dog’s diet can also play a role in how it smells. Doggy smell is usually not offensive, and it should never be if your pet is healthy. A healthy dog will always have a healthy smell.
So, a fishy smell is generally a sign that something is not right with your pet’s health. Of course, some dogs smell of fish oil if they are fed fish oil supplements, and that is normal. If not, it may be time to visit the vet.
When is Fishy Odor a Problem in Dogs?
1. When the odor persists despite bathing your dog
Fishy odor in dogs indicates a problem when the odor has nothing to do with what your dog ate or rolled in. It is definitely an indication of a health problem when the odor persists despite bathing your pet.
2. When your dog has anal gland impaction
Some dogs suffer from anal gland impaction while others can go all their lives without having the anal sacs expressed ever.
Anal glands sit on either side of the dog’s anus. If a dog has chronic diarrhea or loose and watery stools, then the water might get filled inside the dog’s anal sacs. Over time, this can turn into an infection or abscess.
That is why a dog needs to have small, dry stools. The harder stools press on the anal sacs and express the glands on their way out. This is very important for your dog’s health. Dogs that are fed low-quality diets could acquire fish-like smell because their stools are loose, watery, and not of the proper consistency.
3. When you dog has anal gland tumors or anal sac disease
Another factor is tumors or anal sac disease. These two health conditions can also prevent expression of the anal sacs. Tumors can end up filling the dog’s anal sacs with inflammatory cells. It can be very painful for your pet and surgery may be the only solution.
How to Get Rid of Fishy Smell from Dog?
Here are some tips to get rid of fish like smell from your dog:
1. Groom your pet
Regularly brush your dog and bathe it at least once a month. If your dog has had a romp in wet leaves or has rolled in fish carcasses by the lakeside or the on the beach, then bathe it right away with a vet-approved shampoo followed by a vinegar rinse.
You can also use hydrogen peroxide diluted with water and spray it all over its coat. This simple home remedy can effectively get rid of fishy smell from your dog’s coat.
2. Clean its ears
As part of grooming, make sure you clean your dog’s ears. Use ear cleaning solution or pet ear wipes to maintain your dog’s ear health.
3. Maintain oral hygiene
To get rid of your dog’s fish breath, brush and clean its teeth daily. You can use a doggy toothbrush and toothpaste.
Also, provide your pet with some dental chews to eliminate plaque and tartar and freshen up the breath.
Dental water additives can also prevent periodontal disease and dog’s bad breath.
4. Express its anal sacs from time to time
The number one cause of ‘why does my dog smell like fish’ is impacted anal glands. You can express your dog’s anal glands using video given below. Alternatively, have it done by your vet.
5. Eliminate yeast infection in female dogs
If your female dog’s pee or privates smell like fish, then have your vet rule out yeast infection. If your dog does have a yeast infection, then please have it treated with anti-fungal medicines, special medicated dips, and change in diet.
Switching to a hypoallergenic diet can reduce yeast formation.
6. Maintain hygiene during heat cycle
It is best to get your dog spayed to prevent her from going into heat. However, if that is not possible, please maintain hygiene by cleaning your pet’s privates with special dog wipes. You can also provide your dog with doggy diapers to contain the discharge.
7. Evaluate and change your dog’s diet
Many times, a dog’s specific odor can be attributed to what it eats. If your dog has a poor coat, dull, smelly, and with dandruff and stinky fishy odor, then you need to evaluate its diet.
Low-quality, commercial dog food and treats can all contribute to this poor coat condition. Many dogs are allergic to wheat, soy, corn, grains, and fillers found in commercial dog food. These can result in poor coat conditions and can also be responsible for loose watery stools which can cause anal gland impact and subsequent fishy smell.
Speak to your veterinarian and switch to a high-quality, grain-free, natural food.
8. Rule out health issues
If, despite all of the above, your dog still smells like fish, then rule out serious health issues like anal gland tumors or anal sac disease. These are often responsible for this unpleasant smell.
Timely surgery and/or medication can help your dog have a long, healthy life. In minor cases, a UTI or urinary tract infection could be responsible for the fish-like smell. Medicines and herbal supplements along with dietary changes can prevent such infections.
What Home Remedy Gets Rid of Fishy Smell On Dogs?
A combination of home remedies can help eliminate fish-like foul odor in dogs:
1. Vinegar rinse
Mix a cup of distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar with water. Spray this all over your dog’s coat to eliminate the fishy odor. Brush thoroughly and let it air dry. You can also use this as a post-shampoo rinse all over your dog’s coat.
Note that this remedy won’t work if your dog’s anal gland impaction is not taken care of.
2. Hydrogen peroxide rinse
Spray your dog’s coat with diluted hydrogen peroxide (3%). Brush thoroughly and let it air dry. Note that this remedy won’t work if your dog’s anal gland impaction is not taken care of.
3. Use coconut oil and baking soda to clean your pet’s teeth
Mix together coconut oil and baking soda. Use the mixture regularly to brush your fur buddy’s teeth and get rid of rotten fish breath from your dog’s mouth.
4. Add fiber to your dog’s diet
To prevent blocked anal gland (which is usually responsible for dog’s fishy smell), feed it a diet rich in fiber. Pumpkin, sweet potatoes, or psyllium husk are some natural fibers you can add to your dog’s diet. This natural remedy can prevent impacted anal gland and help in natural anal gland secretion and expression.
Conclusion –Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish
The most common reason behind dog’s fishy smell is impacted anal glands. By regularly expressing these glands, you can minimize this foul odor. In rare cases, your dog may be suffering from tumor, abscess, or an infection that cause the fishy smell.
In some dogs, fishy bad breath can arise due to dental diseases. Female dogs could smell like fish when they have a yeast infection or when they are in heat. Both male and female dogs can have fishy odor while suffering from Urinary tract infections.
We hope this guide helps you eliminate your dog’s fishy smell.