Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish? The Real Reasons + How to Handle

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Does your dog’s breath smell like fish? Find out the reason why and what you should do next. 

Many dog owners find their dog’s breath smelling a little fishy at times. But yet they know their dog hasn’t eaten fish or any type of seafood, so how is that possible? Honestly, it’s probably not their breath at all, but we will get into the real reasons in just a second. 

Dalmatian dog with a fish in his mouth

My Dog Smells Fishy 

Canines can take on many different smells depending on what they eat, what they roll around in, and even show symptoms of underlying illnesses. 

Your dog can have bad breath for a ton of different reasons. More often than not, the reason always comes back to poor oral hygiene. The best way to combat smelly breath is by brushing their teeth daily and taking them for professional cleanings. 

Gum disease can wreak havoc on their mouths causing all kinds of different smells. There are other ways to clean your dog’s teeth without brushing that you can check out and start implementing today.

Diabetes can cause their breath to smell sweet or fruity. Scents of ammonia or urine can be an indicator of kidney disease

If your dog decides to eat their own poop, your cat’s poop, or another dog’s feces that can give off a pretty foul smell too. 

But what about your dog having fishy breath? If you know your dog is in perfect health, doesn’t have dental problems, and hasn’t eaten anything out of the ordinary, the issue lies in the anal sac glands

black dog in the snow sniffing poop

Dogs Butt Smells Like Fish 

When the anal glands are impacted (clogged), they can release a fish smell. In this case, you will need to take your pup to the vet and have them released or follow instructions from the vet and do it yourself.

The anal sacs are located bilaterally around the anus and serve as a scent marker for dogs. You know so they can mark their territory, mating, etc. Normally the excretions are passed onto the dog’s poop. Another reason why they are interested in sniffing their own and other dog’s feces, including their butts when they meet each other. 

You may also occasionally get a whiff of this smell when your dog is scared.

Vet Charge to Express Glands

We mentioned the vet will tell you how to express the dog’s anal glands yourself, it’s a pretty gross job. If you take your dog to the vet for anal gland expression, the cost is usually under $100. This is totally worth it in our opinion!

How Do You Know If Your Dog’s Glands Are Full?

You might notice your dog is licking his bum more often than normal. They may also scoot their butts across the floor, trying to get some relief. 

Other symptoms to watch for:

  • Having trouble using the bathroom 
  • Blood or pus in their stool 
  • Discoloration around the anus
  • Stinky smell 
  • Brown spots on your carpet or furniture 
brown and white dog in the grass with it's butt up in the air

What Dogs Are At Risk for Anal Sac Disease 

While any dog may experience signs and symptoms of impacted anal glands, here are some criteria that may put them at higher risk.

  • Dogs who are obese 
  • Small dog breeds in general
  • Dogs with allergies 
  • If they have yeast or bacterial infections of the skin 
  • Already diagnosed with hypothyroidism
  • Have skin mites

Other Anal Gland Conditions 

Abscess or Infected 

If anal glands become infected, without treatment, it may lead to an abscess which is very painful for your pup. Your veterinarian may recommend antibiotics, surgery, and/or pain medications. Infected anal sacs will be discolored and swollen, and you will be able to tell that your dog is hurting. 


If the glands are enlarged and won’t excrete, this could mean your dog has a tumor. In this case, your vet will run some tests, take a biopsy, and advise you on the best treatment options. 

Preventing Anal Gland Disease 

Not all cases can be prevented, but here are some ways you can do your best to prevent anal sac diseases and impaction. 

Keep an eye on your dog’s weight. Make sure they are eating a balanced diet and getting exercise daily. 

Increase their fiber intake. Before giving your dog more fiber, you will want to speak with your vet first. Sometimes they recommend a high fiber diet so the glands can express naturally. This can include dog formulated products or adding fruits into their diet. 

Hydration. Ensure they drink enough water and that it’s clean. Give them fresh water daily along with keeping their bowls clean.

vet holding golden labrador puppy

How Do I Get Rid Of The Smell Of Fish On My Dog?

The first step is to determine the problem. Is it their breath that smells like fish or their odor in general? 

If their bad breath smells like fish, make them an appointment for a dental exam. If they are experiencing other symptoms along with the fish smell, it’s important to consult the vet right away before symptoms worsen. 

Remember, any time you give a dog a regimen you are just treating the symptoms versus the actual issue that is happening. 

If the anal glands are in fact impacted they need to be expressed by a veterinarian or groomer. If you can stand the smell they will give you advice on how to perform the procedure. 

When it comes to infection, abscesses, and tumors your pooch should be seen by the vet immediately. 

Help, My Female Dog Smells Like Fish! 

Female dogs can suffer from this same condition as male dogs. However, girl dogs may smell like fish due to vaginitis, which is caused by a bacterial or yeast infection. You should take her to the vet, as both of these conditions will require a prescription to treat. 

Final Thoughts 

If your dog’s breath smells like fish, and they aren’t showing signs of any other condition, most likely it is just related to poor oral care. You should schedule a visit for a cleaning at the vet, and start brushing their teeth daily. Here are more tips on how to take care of your dog’s teeth without brushing

However, if there are other symptoms present such as butt scooting, pain, or odd behavior it’s best to check with the vet in order to get the proper diagnosis. 

If you notice other smells on their breath such as sweetness are ammonia, these could be signs of other serious diseases and you will need to speak with the vet as soon as possible. 

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