Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?

We all know that dogs like to roll in things that should best be left alone. Sometimes no matter how much you try to keep your dog clean, they can start to smell of things that they shouldn’t.

While it’s natural to assume that your dog may have rolled in something fishy, or eaten something that they shouldn’t have done, this isn’t always the case. If your dog is giving off an odor, this could be an indication that there is a health issue they might need a little bit of help with.

So, why on earth does your dog smell like fish?

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Why Does My Dog Randomly Smell Like Fish?

This is a question that can’t be answered without first knowing where the odor is coming from. The origin of the smell could be indicative of several different issues depending on which part of your dog smells of fish.

Teeth Issues

Noticed that your dog’s breath smells strongly of fish? This could indicate that your dog has a few dental issues that need to be sorted out. Your dog may be suffering from broken or abscessed teeth, which will explain the fishy smell.

They could also be suffering from something known as periodontal disease. This can be caused by inflammation and infection around your dog’s teeth and gums.

Does your dog also have a large buildup of tartar around their teeth? Then this could be the source of the fishy odor.

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from dental issues, you should consult with your vet. They will be able to advise you on the best course of action for helping your dog and hopefully get their dental health turned around.

Food Allergies And Intolerances

If your dog’s teeth look fine, but they still have fishy breath, they could have an allergy to something that they are eating.

Does your dog tend to burp a lot or have difficulty digesting their food properly? Chances are that they may have a food allergy or intolerance.

You should take your dog to visit your vet if you suspect this may be the case. Your vet can then prescribe a hypoallergenic diet and help you to work out which ingredients your dog is allergic or intolerant to.

Other gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux can also cause a fishy breath. Your dog will likely suffer from other symptoms such as drooling, vomiting, gulping air, and lip licking. It will always be best to consult with your vet if you suspect this is what the issue may be.

Anal Glands

No one’s happy to see this body part on the list. Is the fishy odor emanating from your dog’s behind? Then the most likely culprit is their anal glands. These are a pair of structures inside your dog’s anus often called anal sacs or anal glands. They tend to contain a fishy smelling liquid that is often naturally expressed every time your dog relieves themselves or if they are scared.

However, sometimes your dog’s anal glands can’t empty themselves normally. This may lead to further problems such as rupture or impaction. This would of course be very painful for your pet.

Other symptoms of issues relating to your dog’s anal glands will involve leaking, excessive licking around the sore area, and scooting.

If you notice your dog doing any of these, you should take them to your vet so that they can be examined and have their anal glands squeezed if necessary.

Is It Necessary To Express A Dog’s Glands?

The general rule of thumb is that your dog’s anal glands don’t need to be expressed unless they are causing an issue for your dog.

In this case, it will always be best to take them to your vet so that they can assess the situation. This is because if your dog’s anal glands are squeezed too much or in the wrong way, it could cause them pain or other issues.

If your dog is healthy and you were to express their anal glands when there wasn’t a need to do so, this could cause inflammation around the area.

It could also cause something called anal gland sacculitis. Which will of course cost you more trips to the vet anyway! So it will always be best to wait and leave your vet to do this.

Some groomers do offer this service, however, if your dog is healthy and doesn’t have an issue with their anal glands, this could cause them more discomfort in the long term.

It will always be best to just leave it for your vet to do if your dog is suffering from an issue with their anal glands.

How Can I Express My Dog’s Glands Naturally?

The best way to get your dog’s anal glands to express themselves naturally is to make sure that they have plenty of fiber in their diet. This can help to improve how regularly they pass their stools, as well as better improve the formation of the stools so that they can be passed easily.

You can opt for a high fiber dog food to help your pooch along, or you can give them a dietary supplement.

It is thought that one of the issues that may cause anal gland issues is obesity. So it will be wise to keep on top of your pooch’s diet and ensure that they are the optimal weight that they need to be.

In Summary

So there you have it! There could be many reasons as to why your dog appears to be smelling of fish. If the odor is coming from their mouth, it could be either teeth problems, food allergies, or gastrointestinal problems.

If the fishy odor is coming from your dog’s butt, then the most likely culprit is your dog’s anal glands. If you suspect this may be the case, you should take your dog to see your vet so that they can assess the situation. If your dog’s anal glands do need to be squeezed, they can do this for you.

PuppyLists is written by J., who has owned, trained, volunteered with, and loved dogs for nearly three decades. When she isn't writing or researching, she's out adventuring with her 14 year old Lab mix.