Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?

Dogs can produce a range of different scents based on their recent activities. However, they often give off a particularly unpleasant smell that is similar to fish.

The fishy smell comes from your dog’s anal glands, sometimes called anal sacs, and it is often a sign of a problem. Let’s dive in to learn some reasons why your dog smells like fish.

Possible Reasons Your Dog Smells Like Fish

Here are a bunch of possibilities that may trouble your dog and further make your dog smell like fish.

1. Your Dog Smells Like Fish When They’re Feeling Scared

When faced with a fearful experience, the dog may either instantly poop or release a scent from the anal glands. This scent-only excretion gives out a fishy smell, irrespective of whether a motion is being passed or not.

Factually speaking, the dog’s anal glands smell fishy naturally. No matter the breed, whether a poodle, beagle, bulldog, or labrador, amongst others, a sense of fear can easily lead to a ‘fishy’ odor.

You Might Want To Bring Them For A Bath After Checking Their Rear End For Why Dogs Stink

2. Your Dog Might Be Developing Bacterial or Yeast Infections

Naturally, dogs tend to have fishy odors around their rears, feet, and ears. That is because these areas contain specialized glands that produce oils and those areas are naturally colonized by yeast and bacteria. Yeast infections multiply in larger amounts in warmer places.

Whether at home or anywhere else, make sure your dog is not left in hot conditions for too long.

A Dog’s Anal Glands Could Also Be A Warning Sign

3. The Stinky Odor is Coming From Your Dog’s Urine

Even if your dog may consume a slightly different diet than you, their urine should smell like your urine. If you’re noticing a strong stench that wasn’t present before, this is likely a sign of a urinary tract infection, or UTI.

UTIs come from bacteria in the dog’s pee that doesn’t belong there, causing the urine to smell like fish.

As soon as you notice this smell, bring your dog to the veterinarian’s office to schedule an analysis of the urine, which looks for crystals, white blood cells, red blood cells, protein, and any other indicators of a urinary problem. A urine culture should also be done to check if any bacteria are present in the urine.

If your veterinarian suspects a UTI, your pet will be put on a course of antibiotics to clean up the infection, which will then clear up the stench.

Other Than UTI, Make It A Point To Check Your Dog’s Anal Glands

4. Your Dog’s Breath Smells Like Fish Due to Periodontal Disease

Bad breath associated with periodontal disease is from the production of volatile sulfur compounds in your dog’s mouth, which come from bacteria.

Brushing your dog’s teeth with an enzymatic toothpaste two to three times a week will prevent the formation of plaque and help curtail bad breath. Using dental treats or those that scrape off tartar and plaque, like bully sticks, will also clean your dog’s teeth naturally.

Pay Attention To Their Dental Hygiene

5. Your Female Dog Smells Like Fish Because of Vaginitis Or Pyometra

Your female dog has normal bacterial flora that reside in the vagina but a stinky odor that smells like fish (or worse) could be a sign of a medical condition.

If you’re seeing a light-colored discharge coming from the vagina, this could be an indicator of an infection of the vagina called vaginitis, caused by yeast and/or bacteria.

The uterus of the female dog can get infected too, causing a white-yellowish discharge to exude from the vagina.  Pyometra, the infection of the uterus, is a serious condition that warrants emergency surgery, and if you suspect this, kindly take your female dog to the vet right away.

Female Dogs Have Higher Chances Of Smelling Bad Due To Vaginitis

6.  Anal Gland Problems Could Be The Culprit

A fishy odor is usually the result of secretions from the dog’s anal gland. Anal glands, which are also called anal sacs, are small sacs found on either side of your dog’s anus.

These sacs are filled with specialized sweat glands that produce an unpleasant-smelling secretion that acts as the dog’s scent marker. When your dog poops, these secretions pass onto the feces, letting other dogs know important chemical information about your pet.

This explains why your pet is so interested in other dogs’ poop, not to mention the tail sniffing that goes on when two canines meet.

If your dog smells like fish, chances are your pet may be suffering from anal gland issues.

Anal Sac Disease

Anal sac disease is an umbrella term used for just about any issue with the anal gland. Anal sac disease is particularly common among small dog breeds and dogs who are obese. In larger-breed dogs, the problem is rarer.


Normally, your dog’s anal glands are naturally expressed in small amounts each time they defecate. Sometimes, however, the anal sacs are not emptied of fluid, and the fluid becomes dry and causes impaction.

Impacted anal sacs cannot express properly, which is very painful for your pet. The sacs feel hard to the touch and, when expressed manually by a veterinarian or other professional, produce a thin ribbon of pasty, brown material.

If impacted anal glands aren’t treated, they can become abscessed.

Impactions can occur for many reasons. There could be an abnormality in your dog’s anal sacs, or your dog could have a soft stool, which is not firm enough to express your dog’s anal glands when they defecate.

Obese dogs are at an increased risk of impacted anal glands, as their sacs do not empty well.

Infections and Abscesses

Infected anal glands often form from impactions, and in turn, infected glands can become abscessed. The anal sac will appear swollen and discolored, and if left untreated, abscesses can rupture, causing your dog further pain and complications.

Anal Sac Tumors

Anal sac tumors are fortunately uncommon; however, they are serious. They limit your dog’s ability to express his anal glands.

In addition, they can be cancerous and metastasize to other parts of the body. A biopsy and ultrasound may be needed to diagnose the issue. Often, the best treatment is surgery to remove the tumor and, sometimes, the anal glands themselves.

Symptoms of Anal Sac Disease in Dogs

Besides a fishy smell, there are other symptoms of anal sac disease. You may notice your dog scooting on the floor due to irritated anal sacs. Excessive licking or biting at their anus or having difficulty defecating are also signs of anal sac disease.

They may even vocalize when they defecate because it is painful. You might also feel a hard lump near the rectum or notice blood and/or pus on your dog’s feces.

Although scooting is a fairly common sign that may seem laughable, it is a helpful symptom and a warning of anal sac disease. If you notice any of these signs or any discoloration around the anus, contact your veterinarian and get your dog in for an evaluation.

There are certain conditions your dog may have that can increase the chances of anal sac disease. These include obesity or being overweight, hypothyroidism, food and environmental allergies,  skin mites, and yeast or bacterial infections of the skin.

What To Do About Your Dog’s Fishy Smell?

If you notice a fishy odor coming from your pet and it lasts beyond a few days, you should take them to the veterinarian.

Your pet may simply need his anal glands manually emptied or expressed, which should resolve the stench.

Some dogs, especially small dog breeds, require that their anal glands be expressed regularly. Veterinarians and groomers both perform this service, and you can even learn how to do it yourself if you don’t mind the smell.

However, you should know that manually expressing the anal glands too often can cause inflammation and result in scar tissue, so it should only be done when they are not emptying naturally.

Compacted anal sacs require your vet’s assistance. These are carefully expressed, and your vet may need to use a softening agent or saline rinse if the compaction is particularly dry.

Once the compacted material is eliminated, your vet may recommend a higher fiber diet for your pet to help him express his anal sacs naturally.

Abscessed or infected anal sacs are cleaned with an antiseptic and are then commonly treated with antibiotics. Your vet may recommend hot compresses applied to the area if they suspect an abscess, and it may take a few flushings for the infection to resolve.

In some cases, your vet will get rid of the anal sac or sacs. Anal sac disease that does not resolve with treatment, as well as anal sac tumors, usually needs to be dealt with by surgical removal.

While there are potential complications, such as incontinence, most procedures are successful and do not negatively affect your dog’s quality of life.

Tips for Preventing Anal Sac Disease

Not all cases of complications can be prevented, but there are some things you can do to help:

  • Feed your pet an appropriate diet with enough fiber
  • Exercise your pet regularly to prevent weight gain
  • Encourage your dog to drink plenty of fresh, clean water
  • Examine your dog’s stool to catch any signs of softness, puss, or blood


As you know, the health of the anal sacs is a major factor if your dog is smelly. A dog smelling like fish can be avoided if pet parents ensure their pet’s health is in top condition.

Dog owners are responsible for ensuring their dogs’ anal glands are comfortable expressing as and when needed. You can even attempt to eliminate these odors by washing them with shampoo.

The post Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish? first appeared on Well Pet Coach.