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Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish? 4 Common Reasons for This

Nicole Cosgrove

Dogs are notorious for emitting pretty bad odors. They love to roll in the strangest of things, resulting in “interesting” smells for their owners. Among the variety of bad smells that you may have experienced coming from your pooch, a fishy odor has got to be the worst.

What makes it even stranger is if your dog has had no access to fish at all, yet still they manage to smell like it. How is this possible? There are several possible reasons.

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1. Dental Issues

hand brushing dog's teeth
Image Credit: Littlekidmoment, Shutterstock

Even if your dog hasn’t eaten any fish recently, their breath can still smell somewhat fishy. This is usually caused by periodontal disease, an issue caused by inflammation or infection of your dog’s gums. If you’ve noticed a large amount of tartar on your dog’s teeth or red, inflamed gums, they may potentially have periodontal disease, which could be causing the smell.

Your dog may also have a broken or abscessed tooth, and the resulting infection can give off a somewhat fishy odor. It could also be that there’s food stuck in their teeth that is causing the smell. Either way, you’ll need to brush your dog’s teeth with an enzymatic toothpaste to try to rid your dog’s teeth of infection and plaque and thus, the smell.


2. Yeast Infection

yeast infection on dog
Image Credit: ThamKC, Shutterstock

The fishy smell coming from your pooch could be due to a yeast infection of some kind, especially in dogs with excess skin like Bulldogs. These folds of skin can collect yeast and dead skin cells, which can cause a smelly, fish-like odor. Yeast infections can also occur inside the ears, around the eyes, or in between the pads of your dog’s toes. Limiting carbohydrates in your dog’s diet can help, but the best solution is a thorough bath with warm water and specialized dog shampoo.

Vaginal yeast infections are fairly common in female dogs, which can also cause a fishy odor.


3. Anal Glands

black and tan dog butt
Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

Your pooch has anal glands or sacs on either side of their anus, which are responsible for the pungent odor that your dog uses to mark their scent. If your dog is frightened, they may express some of this anal gland secretion — which is perfectly normal — and this can have a fishy odor. If the smell persists, however, there may be something more serious at hand.

Anal sac disease is fairly common in dogs, especially in smaller breeds. The disease is caused by the anal sacs becoming impacted or plugged due to inflammation of the ducts, causing swelling and discomfort for your pooch. This slowly secreted anal fluid is ideal for the propagation of bacterial growth. Also, the bacteria in your pooch’s feces can easily come into contact with the ducts and cause infection. The disease is usually accompanied by a very fishy smell and hard, painful anal glands, and you may notice your pooch having difficulty defecating.

You’ll need to take your dog to a vet who will manually empty and then clean the infected anal glands, which should resolve the odor. Your pooch may also need a course of antibiotics to prevent any further infections.


4. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

sick dog_Christin Lola_Shuterstock
Image Credit: Christin Lola, Shuterstock

If your dog’s urine smells like fish, it may be due to a UTI. This infection in the urinary tract can lead to an overload of bacteria that causes a foul odor, and you’ll need to take your pooch to a vet right away, where they’ll likely be put on a course of antibiotics. Once the infection clears, the smell should go away.

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Conclusion

If your dog smells like fish, the first thing to make sure of is that they have not gotten into any fish! Once you’re sure that they haven’t stolen a tin of anchovies from somewhere, there are a few physical examinations that you’ll need to perform, as your dog most likely has a yeast infection of some kind or possible dental issues. Once you’ve found the cause of the odor, it is typically easy to resolve.


Featured Image Credit: UfaBizPhoto, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.