Dogs, like humans, can have a variety of unpleasant body odours. One of the most egregious offences is when a dog smells like…well…fish.

Although we humans strive to avoid and disguise our body odours by washing regularly and using deodorants and perfumes, dogs seem to be unconcerned with their own odour. After all, dogs are drawn to items that we consider to be filthy, such as garbage and rotting animal carcasses.

Dogs, by nature, have foul odours around their feet, ears, and rears. Since these areas have specialised glands that produce oils and are naturally colonised by yeast and bacteria, this is the case. However, allergies or other diseases can cause an overgrowth of these yeasts or bacteria, which can make dogs smell bad and indicate a problem.

What Causes Dogs to Have a Fishy Smell?

Fishy odours can often be detected in dogs. A fishy odour is unlikely to be a cause for concern if you feed your dog a fish-based diet or supplement his diet with fish oil.

Otherwise, your dog may have an abnormal medical condition that needs to be treated if she smells like fish. A fishy odour in dogs can be caused by dental problems, gastrointestinal problems, parasites, and anal gland problems. An overgrowth of such foul-smelling bacteria is usually to blame.

Why Does Your Dog Have a Fishy Smell?

If your dog has a fishy odour, determining the source of the odour is critical and will help you narrow down the issue. Discover the most common causes of dogs smelling like fish, as well as what you can do about it, in the sections below.

If your dog’s breath has a fishy odour,
The majority of our dog’s breath stinks because, let’s face it, most of us pet parents don’t brush our dogs’ teeth on a regular basis. Fishy breath, on the other hand, may indicate a problem for one of the following reasons:

Dental Problems
Fish-scented breath in your dog may mean a dental issue. Infection and inflammation of the tissues that surround and protect the teeth cause periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is the most prevalent disease in dogs, with up to 84 percent of dogs over the age of three suffering from it (1). Your dog could have periodontal disease if you raise his lips and see a lot of tartar, which looks like yellow or brown powder stuck to his teeth, or red or puffy gums. Periodontal disorder should be handled as soon as possible by your veterinarian to prevent it from worsening. Regular skilled dental cleanings under anaesthesia and daily home dental care are the best treatments for this disease.

Broken or abscessed teeth in dogs may also trigger fishy-smelling breath, so get your dog’s mouth and teeth checked by a veterinarian to rule out any serious tooth issues.

Disorders of the Gastrointestinal Tract
Food allergies or intolerances may cause dogs to burp excessively and have difficulty digesting their food, resulting in fishy breath. If your veterinarian thinks your dog has a food allergy, she can prescribe a hypoallergenic diet for him to eat.

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, can cause bad breath. Regurgitation, drooling, lip chewing, and gulping air are all symptoms. Symptoms can also be controlled with antacid drugs prescribed by a veterinarian.

If your dog’s butt smells like fish, it’s time to take action.
It’s most definitely an anal-gland problem if your dog’s butt is the source of the fishy odour. Dogs have a pair of fluid-filled structures called anal glands or anal sacs that sit just inside the anus. These sacs are filled with a fishy, foul-smelling liquid that varies in appearance from thin and yellowish to dense and greyish. When dogs poop or are scared, their anal glands instinctively express themselves.

An abnormal expression of the anal glands in some dogs may cause problems such as impaction and rupture. Although the exact cause of anal gland disorders in certain dogs is unclear, obesity, frequent diarrhoea, constipation, environmental and food allergies are all associated with an increased risk of anal gland disorders.

Scooting, anal gland leakage, and frequent licking of the area are all signs of an anal gland problem. You can see a swelling next to your dog’s anus if her anal glands are affected. An open wound next to the anus will result from a ruptured anal gland. If you have any of the signs mentioned above, you can take your dog to the veterinarian.

Your veterinarian will examine your dog’s rectal cavity and, if possible, express his or her anal glands. Anal glands should not be regularly displayed in dogs that show no signs of anal gland problems. Some veterinarians believe that excessive speech, especially the external expression method used by many groomers, can damage the anal glands and cause future problems.

Weight loss, high-fiber diets, hypoallergenic diets, and using prescription medications and supplements to manage environmental allergies can benefit dogs with anal gland irritation symptoms. Surgical removal of the anal glands may be recommended in dogs that have failed to respond to any of the above treatments.

If Your Dog’s Pee Smells Like Fish
Dogs with urinary tract disorders can develop fishy-smelling urine. UTIs, bladder or kidney stones, prostate disorders in men, and bladder cancers may all cause foul-smelling urine.

If you find that your dog’s urine has an unusually strong odour, you should take her to the vet. Your veterinarian will examine your pet thoroughly, which will normally include a urinalysis (urine test) and probably a urine culture. In the event that an infection is detected, antibiotics will be prescribed to cure it. If the problem persists or is followed by other symptoms such as bloody urine or straining to urinate, your veterinarian can suggest X-rays and/or an ultrasound of your dog’s abdomen to help diagnose the issue.

How To Make Your Dog Smell Better
Fortunately, there are steps that pet owners may take to help their dogs from getting that nasty, fishy odour.

Clean your dog’s teeth regularly, preferably once daily, with a soft bristled or finger toothbrush and an enzymatic dog-safe toothpaste to eliminate bad breath. Oral rinses containing chlorhexidine, dental chews, and prescription dental foods are all available from your veterinarian to help with bad breath.

Brushing alone would not likely resolve bad breath if your dog already has gingivitis (inflamed gums) or more advanced periodontal disease. A professional dental cleaning would be needed. Make sure your doctor takes X-rays of your dog’s teeth when she gets her teeth cleaned. This enables the diagnosis and treatment of tooth root abscesses and other problems that would otherwise go undetected.

If your veterinarian has ruled out a dental problem as the cause of your dog’s fishy breath, she may suggest a special diet or medicine to help with a possible gastrointestinal condition, which may help your dog’s breath.

Long-haired dog breeds must also have a daily grooming schedule. However, tell your groomer not to express your dog’s anal glands on a daily basis, as this could cause further issues. Have your dog’s anal glands tested if she is licking or scooting her buttocks? If they’re whole, your veterinarian will articulate them, preventing odour and discomfort.

In order to keep your dog’s skin and coat safe and her gut health in check, you can feed her a high-quality full and balanced diet.