Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish? Actual Reason can Alarm you!

This is a small dog smelling like fish and primary reason can be impacted anal glands.

Why does my dog smell like fish? Hmm. Sometimes, you can’t accept certain things, especially if it’s stinky stuff in your house. You’ll right away throw him in the trash. But as a pet owner, when it’s your pet that stinks, how do you cope with it? 

At first, you can’t believe that your dog can smell like fish. After all, you take complete care of his grooming. 

Don’t panic, please! Over 12% of dogs suffer from anal sac diseases to cause them to smell like fish.

But I understand it. To resolve your dog’s stinking issue, this guide will help you.

Yes, your dog can get rid of that smell and once again cuddle with you happily!

For this purpose, this article will help you by knowing what’s causing the fishy smell in your dog and how you can end it.

Let’s know more.


Causes and Diseases for Dogs Smelling Like Fish

Multiple causes can exist behind the fishy smell that your dog is emitting. Yet, the most severe reasons for life-threatening conditions can also exist. 

It’ll always be your responsibility to make sure that nothing out of usual is happening to your pet. If their odor is like fish, the basic cause behind this is possible that your dog is sweating because of hot weather or after heavy activity. 

It’s also possible that your dog may have tried to sneak into the trash bin in your absence and might have a fish feast. For this, you can simply wash it. But even after the wash, no odor is going; worry about it. 

The primary reason for your dog’s pungent fishy smell is that its anal impacted anal glands. This disease is also called fish odor syndrome. 

Fish Odor Syndrome or Anal Glands Disease can be a Primary Cause 

why does my dog smell like fish

As told previously, the fish odor syndrome occurs because of the dog’s anal glands. These anal glands are located a few centimeters away on both right and left sides near the anal opening’ anus’. 

The primary purpose of anal scent glands is to produce a unique fluid from every dog. Usually, anal glands are expressed naturally when your dog poops. 

They can do it by forcing or contracting muscles surrounding the anal glands as scent markers for communication with other dogs, normally called ‘territorial markings. 

That’s why you’ll often notice dogs sniffing on each other’s feces and rear ends. The production of odor is a natural physical process. You might have also seen it when dogs are frightened and have sudden anal gland secretions.

In case, dogs don’t release it or have a hard time expressing their glands on their own owing to the high fluid production, hick fluid production, and even sometimes, the soft stool, then that liquid is left inside their anal glands causing excessive bad odor. 

The other reasons that might become a reason for unexpressed anal glands are obese dogs, weighty small dog breeds, dog’s anatomy, lack of stool consistency, and chronic diarrhea. 

If this liquid stays in the anal glands, that can cause multiple issues for the dogs, including liquid thickening inside the anal glands and causing hardness to defecate. So it’s always advised by the vets to express anal glands manually with hands using gloves and non-toxic lubricants. 

How can you Express Dog’s Anal Glands?

There are two ways to express your dog’s anal glands.

External Method

The first method to express a dog’s anal sacs is an external method, which is to put pressure from outside on both the anal glands until liquid comes out of the dog’s anal sacs and drains from the anus opening. 

You’ll see the brownish liquid coming out of the anus, having a pungent smell. 

Internal Method

The second method is the internal expression. The internal expression is done by inserting a finger in the dog’s anus and compressing the anal glands. The vet presses the anal glands until all the anal sac liquid comes out of them in this method.

How can you Express your Dog’s Anal Glands at Home?

Since anal sac disease happens because of the failure of natural expression, doctors usually prefer to express anal glands from the outer skin until the anal glands leak out. 

But if this cannot work, they opt for the second, more sensitive method. In this second method, the vet uses only one finger with gloves on to enter the anus to approach the anal glands to express them. 

There are different precautions that vets usually advise people to take if they treat their dogs at home. You can do both of the expression methods at home, which we had discussed previously. To find Anal glands, you’ll have to look out for oval structures on both sides of the anus that can be found 1 inch from inside the anus. 

  1. Ensure you have a person to assist you while you perform both methods.
  2. Make sure your hands are sanitized, and you’re wearing gloves.
  3. You should also have a lubricant.
  4. If your dog acts up or shows anger against expression, you may not proceed with the expression. And perform the method on an alternative day.
  5. Let’s say your dog is not accepting the expression treatment, you may consult with your dog’s vet. 

Remember, you can perform this method once or twice a month to relieve your dog at home. However, when the fish smell syndrome is persistent periodically, it’s showing to get your dog checked by the vet as it can be alarming.

Similarly, if your vet has found no serious underlying cause of the dog’s anal sacs inflammation, you’ll need to release the fluid 1-2 times a month. The reason can be your puppy’s body hasn’t learned to express itself.

What can Help To Prevent Dog’s Anal Sacs Disease? 

You can easily prevent your dog or puppy from getting affected by following some tips. You can add water and healthy balanced diet products to your dog’s meal. Ensure to monitor calcium and phosphorus intake. 

If your dog is not drinking or urinating, make sure they do. If you make your dog’s food yourself, add appropriate amounts of protein into the dog’s diet and ensure that the meal is preferably edible wet food, not a dry one.

To help your pooch cope with the dog’s anal sac problems, make sure it gets enough fiber in its food. 

A well-balanced, fiber-rich diet may help your dog deal with any concerns linked to the anal glands, yeast, cancer, urinary tract, or periodontal disease. Studies show that dogs fed an all-meat diet are more likely to suffer from anal sac infections. Hence, it’s also a good idea to stick to the diet your dog’s physician recommends. 

Serious Diseases might also Asscoiate with Dog’s Fish Odor Syndrome.

Assume that the liquid from the anal gland does not travel through the duct or canal passage into the anus opening because of natural muscle contractions or expression. In that instance, the anal glands may expand or swell, causing discomfort and inflammation in the anal glands, canal passage, and possibly throughout the entire body. 

This inflammation can cause your dog to scoot continuously or lick its rear end to get rid of the pain. You may also see your dog biting the affected area. 

Other possible behavioral changes may include unusual walking manners, no walking, ignoring treats, or low or no food intake. It can also lower your dog’s activity level and increase the pungent fishy smell.

However, if this disease persists silently and your dog does not show symptoms of swollen glands, it can lead to serious problems. Following are some diseases that can affect your dog’s health.

Anal Sac Tumors or Perianal Tumors can Make your Dog’s Vag Smell like Fish

Also known as the anal gland, adenocarcinoma of anal gland carcinoma occurs in the anal glands of dogs. It’s not common, but it can occur if the tumor builds up inside the anal glands. 

An anal sac tumor only occurs in one anal gland; however, there is a possibility that another gland may get affected by the tumor. 


Usual symptoms are similar to anal sac disease (fish odor syndrome). That may include swollen glands, defecating issues, irritation, inflammation, scooting or licking the affected area, loose stools, increasing thirst, and lower or no activity levels. Your dog may also behave non-interested in any of the activities you do or may even show fatigue and walking issues. 

Sometimes symptoms are visible, and sometimes they aren’t. The most visible symptoms are bumps on your dog’s rear end and behavioral changes.


Tumors can happen on their own. It’s hard to determine the occurrence of a tumor, but regular visits to the vet can prevent such tumors from happening. 

However, if a tumor occurs, you can ask your dog’s vet to determine or examine the anal area of your dog during the regular checkup. Through digital palpitations, aspiration cytology, and biopsy, the vet can determine the size of the tumor. The vet can also detect cancer tumors using other methods. 

If the tumor is cancerous, your dog may have to go under chemotherapy. After chemotherapy, the survival percentage depends on how much the dog can bear. But, if it survives chemotherapy, the possible life expectancy is one and a half years on average.

Lung Cancer 

If the anal gland cancerous tumor remains untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body, including your dog’s lungs and sensitive private body parts. The most chance of cancer to apply is in the lungs. 

Lung cancer spreads because anal gland cancer is usually rare, but it occurs and is sometimes fatal if left unchecked.


As tumors can not be detected with the naked eye or simple physical examination, you can only check for the following symptoms. 

Lung cancer can cause your dog to breathe heavily or hardly. Your dog may spit out food without having nausea, fever, excessive coughing, excessive weight loss, lack of energy, fatigue, and may also experience poor appetite.


The ‘precautionary’ prevention is not possible in this. You can do one thing that may stop worsening lung cancer related to anal gland adenocarcinoma. 

That one thing is to stop anal gland carcinoma from spreading in the body. That is only possible when you actively visit and take vet appointments for your dog’s health.

The vet can look into the matter and examine the dog’s health by biopsy, MRI, aspiration cytology, and manual checkup. By following the exact advice given by the vet, you can save the dog’s life.

Kidney Disease or Stones (Nephrolithiasis) 

A lot of toxins from the body are eliminated through the anal passage. If the organs face any issues in cleaning the track, then those toxins affect the internal passages and the kidneys.


Kidney diseases like kidney stones have some prominent symptoms, like Hematuria. You can notice bloody urine if your dog faces a medical condition like Hematuria. Other symptoms include changes in the frequency of urination, anorexia, depression, stones appearing in the urine in the liter, vomiting, or nausea.

So it can be best to get your dog checked by the veterinarian immediately if the fish-like odor persists and getting the dog’s anal glands expressed has not stopped it permanently.

Female Dog’s Vagina can also Smell Like Fish?

If you’re noticing a pungent or a fishy scent coming from your female dog’s vagina. Your dog may have a urinary tract infection causing fishy-smelling urine. 

The endorsement of your dog’s vaginal area can increase the tendency of your female dog getting UTI from bacterial or yeast infections. But that also depends on how it is shaped inside the dog’s vagina. 

The stump of your female dog’s uterus might also be a key cause of this illness. It can happen if your dog hasn’t been spayed, but it can also occur if it has. 

These symptoms can also refer to a female dog’s suffering from an infection of the womb, known as “pyometra.” 

Pyometra is a severe sickness, and if your veterinarian detects it, your dog may have to undergo immediate surgery. Any signs of sickness or foul smell result from an imbalance of bacteria and yeast in their vagina. So if you ever witness some light-colored vaginal discharge and a foul smell out of your dog’s rear end, this needs serious medication. 

To get rid of the diseases, it’s always necessary for you to visit the vet and discuss the details.

How To Get Rid Of Female Dog Odor? 

Hmmm, the first place you might think to treat the female dog odor at home. How far can it be effective, and whether there is any need to see a doctor?

There can be many home-based remedies and tactics that you can adopt to eliminate your female dog’s unpleasant odor. But the most reliable way to stop this odor is to seek help from a veteran, as your female dog might need to get its anal glands expressed. Though you can learn to do this independently, letting professionals do their job is the safest. 

Besides this, you can also treat this foul odor issue by following a simple dog hygiene routine. So, you can bathe your female dogs every three months with aromatherapy shampoos. As suggested by a vet, it’ll be better to pick a shampoo containing tea tree components, as they are ideal for fighting the foul odor and making your dog smell pleasing. 

Washing your dog’s bedding regularly can also play a significant role in eliminating this odor caused by sweat glands. You can also add witch hazel and other essential oils like lavender to a water spray bottle. And spray it all over the bed of your dog, but don’t go overboard as the dog does not appreciate loud deodorants. 

An Unneutered Male Dog can Porne to Fishy Odor.

Yes, it would be best if you always got your dog neutered because it causes serious health threats to your dog’s health. This natural process of expressing the build-in anal fluids stops in some dogs because of inflammation and anal gland issues like infection. 

You’ll have to get them eliminated if you want your dog to live a healthier and happier life. Also, if you do not get the testicles of your dogs removed, your dog will get more exposed to the risk of getting testicular cancer, and the chances of hernia, tumor or prostate cancer can increase. 

If you have unneutered male dogs, you do not want your male dogs to spread a putrid odor or smell like a dead fish to mark every territory with urine. You must consult a vet and get your dog neutered promptly to avoid such medical complications that can cause your dog to show aggressive behaviors and smell like fish. 

Male dogs create more issues when left on their own. And if you leave them un-neutered, they show more aggressive behavior, as they will produce more testosterone. 

Excess testosterone will make them see every other dog and human as their rival. They’ll not even hesitate to bite them. 

Fishy Odor can also be because of Fishy Dog Breath.

It’s possible that your dog has a foul-smelling breath. A fishy smell occurs in dogs’ breath because of the saliva and bacteria living in the mouth. The most common disease that causes bad fishy odor in dogs is dental disease.

Since dogs use their saliva and mouth to clean themselves up, this may be causing a bad odor from your dog’s body. 

Spraying your dog’s body may help you reduce foul odor for the short term, but it can come back after a few hours. To get rid of your dog’s breath smells, the following are the remedies that may help you. 

Home Remedies For Fishy Dog Breath

Here are a few home remedies to help you treat your pups’ bad breath.


Organic care for your dog is essential. Many pet owners use updated care tools for pets, but your premium focus is always on organic food and care if you’re more inclined to have an organic lifestyle. Some of the Organic ways you used to clean up the bad fishy odor breath from your dog’s mouth are below.

Coconut Oil 

Brushing with coconut oil helps to keep tartar at bay.

Apple Cider Vinegar 

It’s acidic and non-edible for dogs. So, use a small amount or less concentrated solution to brush its teeth.

Mint leaves 

It’s an all-time favorite cure for bad breath. You can make a paste out of it and brush your dog’s teeth.

Baking Soda and Vaseline Mixture

Baking Soda mixed with Vaseline helps in gingivitis to destroy the root canal. You can brush their teeth off from its mixture.


Here are some of the InOrganic curing tips for bad breath.

Fluoride Toothpaste

To cure bad breath, use fluoride toothpaste to brush your dog’s teeth. You can also use a fluoride mouthwash to brush your dog’s teeth for gingival protection.

FAQS about Dog Smell Like Fish

How can you distinguish a fishy smell From a natural smell of a dog? 

It’s hard to distinguish if your dog smells like fish or if it’s simply their natural odor as the dog’s ear, feet, and rear end mostly stinks. These areas are where the yeast and bacteria lay, and hence they are smelly most of the time. 

However, detecting a pungent fishy odor coming from your dog’s rear end could show a problem. It may be difficult to distinguish between a fishy odor generated by infection or an overgrowth of yeast and bacteria. But if you notice that the fishy odor persists for more than a few days, this could be your clue to take your dog to a vet and have it treated.

Are impacted anal sacs gender or breed specified? 

Are you wondering about the chances of both your male and female dog being exposed to this disease? And you want to know the likelihood of your dog getting affected?

Let me tell you that according to studies, the chances of dogs from any breed, domestic or wild, developing this disease are not very common. And, it can happen in both male and female dogs of any age, so you should never neglect this slight possibility. 

Though no specific breed is immune to anal gland problems, the smaller breeds have a higher occurrence of anal sac diseases for being obese, as discussed earlier. 

Final Thoughts

To conclude, the following are the five common reasons your dog has a fishy odor.

  • Anal Sac Disease (also called anal gland or fishy odor syndrome)
  • Yeast can cause fishy smell in female dogs.
  • Urinary tract infection can cause a dog’s fishy smell.
  • Un-neutered male dog can be prone to fishy smell/
  • Periodontal Disease can be a potential cause of your dog smelling like fish.

Since the fishy odor in dogs can be an alarming sign of some underlying health issue, it’s advisable to get your pup checked by the veteran.

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