Dog Smells Like Fish: Causes and Care.

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Dog Smells Like Fish

Much like humans, dogs can exude a somewhat repulsive stench. Dog owners love smooches and snuggles from their furry friends, though being licked by a dog whose breath smells like fish will make anyone sick. While the fishy smell is abhorrent, you can rest easy knowing that you aren’t the only pet parent experiencing this issue.

Certain smells that come from your dog can be a part of the normal scent though they can also be signs of present medical problems. And we often ask ourselves, why do our dogs smell like fish sometimes? Several factors can affect your dog’s breath and scent.

Why does a dog smell like fish

Although many unpleasant smells can originate from our dogs, the fishy smell is among the worst offenders. Sad to say, it’s fairly common.

Some of the reasons your dog may be excreting a fishy smell include anal sac disease, UTI, and poor oral hygiene. It would help if you recognized the underlying cause to ensure the foul smell isn’t a symptom of a more severe problem.

Dog Poop Smell like fish

A dog’s anus has two tiny glands. You might not notice them unless you take a closer look. Your dog emanating a fishy scent and licking his bottom is a sign that his anal glands need to be cleared. 

Dog Poop Smell like fish

Though it is unspecified precisely what makes some dogs suffer from anal gland diseases, overweight dogs are at higher risk of anal gland diseases. When a dog poops, these small glands must discharge fluid, though they can get obstructed or infected now and then. They can also experience constipation, recurrent diarrhea, and food and environmental allergies. 

Anal Sac Disease

Anal sac (gland) disorder is quite normal in dogs. The sacs often get clogged because of an infection in the ducts. The discharge within the affected sacs will thicken, causing the sacs to become inflamed and enlarged. This disease starts as an excruciating compression before progressing into an abscess, infection, or even cancer. 

The thicker and more solid the discharges, the more stretched the anal sacs become. This will cause your pup major discomfort, especially as they try to have a bowel movement.

Causes of Anal Gland Problems

Several factors may increase the probability of a dog having anal gland disease:

  • Obesity – the excess weight of the dog puts stress on the anal glands and obstructs openings
  • Extreme secretion of the sac
  • Chronic skin dermatitis
  • Inadequate dietary fiber
  • Environmental or food allergies
  • Genetics: Small breeds (like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shih-Tzus, the Bichon Frise, and Cocker Spaniels) are prone to anal sac disease since they either have tight or kinked ducts. And giant breeds are seldom affected.
  • Recurring anal gland problems: This phenomenon can likewise develop tight ducts caused by the entire trauma in that part and the succeeding creation of scar tissue.


  • Foul odor
  • Vocalization while passing feces
  • Scooting
  • Biting or licking of the anal area
  • Constipation or painful excretion with straining
  • A hard lump near the anus
  • Marks of blood or puss in their stool

Impacted Anal Glands

Usually, when a dog defecates, the fluid in his anal glands is excreted. If they aren’t entirely emptied, a serious issue can emerge. The fluid inside can dry out and thicken, clogging the pores. This phenomenon is referred to as impaction. 

If they’re impacted for an extended period, they can accumulate harmful bacteria. This generates discomfort, increased inflammation, and sometimes even fever and abscesses. These will have to be removed by hand as they can be very painful for your dog.

Dog's Anal Sac Disease

Infected Anal Glands

You can recognize if your dog’s anal glands are infected not only from the unpleasant smell. Another way would be to examine their rectum to see if they are stained, swollen, or otherwise strikingly different than usual. Infected glands are likely to develop abscesses. 

During an infection, pus accumulates in the gland. The infection stops the reeking anal sac fluid from leaving the gland. Sooner or later, the gland will burst, often within the body wall on your dog’s bum since that is the path of least resistance. This abscess is very uncomfortable and must be addressed promptly.

Anal Glands Tumors

Anal sac tumors are fortunately a rare occurrence but can be severe. They restrict your dog’s capacity to express his anal sacs. This tumor is likely to be extremely invasive within the surrounding tissues of the growth and metastasize even when the main tumor is relatively small. The tumors are most often on one side only. Cancer can lead to hypercalcemia in about 25% of cases, resulting in impaired renal function.

When To Seek Veterinary Help

Suppose the anal sacs can’t express on their own, then your vet will need to empty them manually. Anal gland disorders without treatment may become an infection, including more severe illness, such as an anal gland abscess. 

When To Seek Veterinary Help to Dogs

An anal sac abscess may manifest as a red inflammation or a huge bump underneath your dog’s rear. You may notice pus or blood from your dog’s rear-end if the abscess has already torn. If the sacs have turned into an abscess, then sedation and a secondary surgical procedure to empty the abscess will be required.

Care and Treatment

Treating anal sac diseases starts with knowing the root cause. That’s why most vets prefer to treat dogs individually, as there is no standard remedy for this. It’s incredibly important to work with your veterinarian to recognize the issue and help attend to your dog correctly. The vet will insert a finger into your dog’s anus to reach the gland and press it to release the contents.

If necessary, a lubricating agent can be injected into the gland to ease the process. If your dog has a persisting condition, your vet will look for the potential root cause. Your vet can likewise teach you how to do it at home in certain situations. 

If an abscess or an infection is present, emptying the infected gland to clear the solidified substance may be essential. Considering this illness is extreme, most dogs will need an anesthetic or a sedative for this procedure. Antibiotics are usually given and sometimes must be inserted into the glands for a couple of days. 

Feeding your pet with easily digestible food that’s packed with fiber will inhibit anal gland problems from developing. It will help your dog get back to normal excretions and healthy stools. Adding supplements such as fish oil for Omega 3 and Omega 6 anti-inflammatory or establishing a hypoallergenic diet for your dog will also help. 

Another remedy is to add more liquid to the food. Adding a small amount of wet food to kibble can give relief, besides promoting the urge to drink. You can also purchase a dog water fountain to boost hydration. 

Walking in the park regularly and maintaining its good shape are other means to avoid having an impacted anal sac. We all know that dogs that are obese or dogs that don’t get a fair amount of exercise are at higher risk. 

Most pups will demand pain relievers for several days until the inflammation and redness have eased. Surgery may be needed in a more severe case, such as an anal sacculectomy (removal of a dog’s anal sacs). But, there are complexities linked to this operation, like fistula formation and incisional infection, so a vet suggests the help of a specialist should this medical procedure be declared.

How to know if my dog needs his glands squeezed?

Your dog’s glands may emit an unpleasant pungent smell if they’re full. There are cases where you’ll observe bits of brownish material in areas where your dog spends a lot of time, like on the sofa or floor.

Can I express my dogs’ anal glands externally?

Yes, But keep in mind before you try to express your dog’s anal glands, it’s critical to have your vet demonstrate the proper procedure.

An incorrect expression can be harrowing for your pup. Grab a tissue or rag and put it in your dog’s rectum, then squeeze both sides of the rear end. If the discharge is very sticky, this process may be ineffective in emptying the glands.

Should I often empty my dog’s anal sacs to avoid this condition?

Only a few dog experts agree that the anal sacs must be emptied to some degree, except when the dog exhibits symptoms of an illness. Exerting pressure to an infected or impacted anal gland could trigger the sac to burst, causing bleeding and discomfort to your dog. Always ask your vet for help.

Dogs Pee Smell like fish

If your dog starts emitting a pungent odor from his urine, this is perhaps a symptom of UTI or urinary tract infection. These are due to bacteria buildup invading the urethral opening. 

Dogs Pee Smell like fish

Another reason is pyometra or an infection of the uterus. It is prevalent in female dogs. Some dogs in heat go through hormonal changes – progesterone levels stay high for eight to ten weeks and reinforce the uterus’ lining to support a potential pregnancy. And this endangers them from infection in the womb.

When to go to the vet

Once you smell a nasty odor or other signs, you must take your dog to the vet. He will run some tests, scanning blood samples, protein, crystals, and other symptoms of an infection.

Care and Treatment

Make sure that your pet is peeing regularly. See to it that your dog is drinking a sufficient amount of liquid. Clear to a light yellow urine color indicates that your dog is hydrated well. Urge them to urinate every couple of hours to prevent bacteria buildup in the bladder.

Ensure that your dog’s private part is clean, and this involves grooming, correctly cleaning it, and stopping bacteria build-up. Usually, canines will lick their private parts, helping the bacteria to disseminate.

Using antibacterial wipes for dogs can control some harmful bacteria from spreading where they’re not needed. If you own a female dog with fluffy, long fur, there’s a higher chance for E. coli to get stuck in their urethra.

Dog Breath Smell like fish

Dental infections may be an issue if your dog’s breath smells like fish without warning. More particularly, the stinky odor could be due to bacteria that thrive on your pet’s tongue, gum, and plaque on their teeth. Inflamed gum or the presence of tartar is an indication of gum disease and may also contribute to the fishy odor. 

Other causes of fishy breath:

  • Diabetes
  • Food stuck in the teeth
  • Gingivitis, plaque or tartar
  • Infection in a dog’s teeth
  • Renal disorder
  • Upset stomach
  • Tumor

Dog Breath Smell like fish

Care and Treatment

Suppose you notice a fishy odor on your dog’s breath; it could be gingivitis or gum disease due to poor mouth care. 

Using an enzymatic toothpaste, brushing your dog’s teeth 2-3 times weekly will inhibit plaque growth and further prevent foul breath. Chlorhexidine-based oral rinses and water additives can also help fix horrible breath. Investing in dental chews or those that dissolve tartar and plaque, like bones and biscuits, will likewise clean your dog’s teeth. 

Assuming your pet is already suffering from inflamed gums or more severe gum disorder, brushing his teeth is not enough to fix the fishy smell.

Professional dental cleaning will be required. See to it that the vet takes an x-ray of your dog’s teeth to identify tooth root abscesses and other problems that may not be visible otherwise. 

When Is Fishy Smell In Dogs an Issue?

If you notice a fishy smell emanating from your pet, and if it persists for several days, you must take him to the vet. Veterinarians are equipped to identify conditions that dog owners will find difficulty recognizing. They’ll help you find the most suitable remedy for your dog. 

Suppose there’s no history or symptoms of disease or skin infection, then your vet will tell you why your dog has this odor. If you start to smell something odd from your dog, this could be an indicator of a skin condition or systemic disease. 

Extreme body odors that require veterinary care include ear infections, smells from autoimmune skin infection discharges, and combinations of skin and ear infections with parasites. Usually, the earlier problems are detected, the simpler and less costly they are to address.


Your dog will smell like fish if his anal sacs are not functioning well. As these problems can lead to severe conditions, you should take good care of them. 

Impacted glands do not constantly have a pungent odor; therefore, put an extra effort into monitoring inflammation in your dog’s genital area occasionally. Perhaps, it is not the most exciting duty you can ever have, but your pet will be healthier and more comfortable since you made an effort to attend to their needs.

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