Help! My Dog Smells Like Fish!

Those of us who live with dogs are used to all kinds of strange odors and bodily fluids from our lovable but sometimes gross family members. However, a strong, new smell can be a cause for concern. Here are some common causes of a strong “fishy” odor coming from a dog.

Fish Breath

“Dog breath” is a common complaint among dog owners. Many dogs have very strong smelling breath. It may be innocent or it could be a symptom of something worse. Many times, strong breath odors are due to bacterial buildup on your dog’s teeth, tongue, and gums. 

The first step is to try brushing your dog’s teeth with a dog-safe enzyme toothpaste to remove plaque. Other options to clean your dog’s teeth include having them chew on dental treats or bully sticks, if you really can’t get them to agree to a toothbrush. And of course, check to see if your dog has eaten something fishy recently before you get worried!

If the smell persists, it could be due to another condition, including food caught between the teeth, decaying teeth, gum infections, an upset stomach, or even kidney problems. If after cleaning and freshening, your dog’s breath still smells strongly of fish, make an appointment with your veterinarian to have it checked out.


Fishy Urine

Dog urine shouldn’t smell all that different from human urine. Ensure your dog is well-hydrated if you notice strong-smelling urine. If you’re certain your dog is getting enough to drink, and you still notice a fishy smell in their urine, it could be evidence of a urinary tract infection. Again, this is a reason to visit the vet when you can. The vet can prescribe antibiotics to clear it up. 

A female dog might also have fishy-smelling urine due to an infection of the vagina or uterus. Uterine infections only occur in dogs which have not been spayed, but the remaining stump of uterine tissue can also become infected if left behind after surgery. If you notice a yellowish-white discharge with a strong odor coming from the vaginal area of your female dog, spayed or not, you need to get her to a vet right away! These kinds of infections are very serious. 


Anal Glands

Finally, a common source of fishy smell in dogs is their anal glands. These are small glands on either side of your dog’s anus. They release when the dog defecates, but can also be expressed if your dog becomes suddenly frightened or stressed.

You might also see your dog scooting around the floor on their bottom. This can indicate that their anal glands have become irritated or clogged. Full anal glands can be expressed manually; you can learn to do it yourself, or ask your veterinarian or groomer to do it the next time you visit. 

Blocked or infected anal glands can even rupture if they get too full. This isn’t life-threatening, but it’s messy, smelly, and distressing for everyone involved. It’s a painful process, involving leaking fluids, pus, and blood. Having your dog’s glands expressed regularly is a good precaution, if they’ve had a problem with blockages in the past.

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