Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?

Every animal exudes a different smell, and it can range from a subtle, light fragrance until a disturbing stink. However, it’s no doubt that fishy smell is one of the most perplexing odors.

Why does my dog smell like fish? For a first, the fishy smell doesn’t always mean that your dog just rolled in a bucket of fish or sprayed themselves an Eau de Sardine. In fact, fishy smell your dog gives off might be an initial sign of a serious disease.

Wondering how to remove fishy smell and prevent unpleasing odors from your furry friend? Here’s a comprehensive guide to assist your canine problem.

Are Dogs Always Smelly?

Some dogs are smellier than others depending on the sex, breed, and size. The more oil they produce, the sharper the odor they give off. For instance, cocker spaniels and basset hound are large, scenting dogs that produce a lot of oil in their fur, thus exuding a harsher smell.

On the other hand, breeds such as basenji, poodle, and dalmatian are considered as the least stinky dogs due to their short coat which doesn’t trap oil and odor.

Other than the coat, body formation also plays a great role in determining a dog’s odor. Big dogs with folds such as the bulldog, pug, and shar-pei might churn out yeast and bacteria, thus producing an unpleasant smell.

Nevertheless, you can rest the case as long as your dog’s smell isn’t related to medical conditions. Just make sure to bathe them in gentle or dog-specialized shampoo to wash sweat, dirt, and smell away.

Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?

Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish
Dog Smell Like Fish

There are multiple assumptions to answer “why does my dog smell like fish?” question. According to the renowned author and veterinarian Dr. Judy Morgan, fishy smell in dogs might be caused by a yeast infection–in the paws, skin, or ear–or trouble in expressing their anal glands.

Yeast Infection

If you ever mixed the yeast with warm water during bread-making, you’ll easily notice the smell in your dog. Yeast flourishes the most in warm, dark places. Some of the most common parts in dogs are inside the ears, in the tears glands, around the vulva, or between the toes. Be sure to bring your pet to the vet and ask for medication. Additionally, to prevent another outbreak, pet owners are suggested to limit simple carbohydrate intake which feeds the yeast.

Anal Glands Problems

Located at both sides of your dog’s anus, anal glands or anal sacs consist of personalized sweat glands that produce a secretion to mark your dog’s smell as well as territory. When your dog poop, they pass on this fishy-smelling substance to their feces. According to the American Kennel Club, the smell helps other dogs to identify your dog’s sex, age, and overall health condition.

A healthy anal gland expresses itself during a bowel movement. Unfortunately, some anal glands don’t work properly due to malfunction or diet. If your dog suddenly starts to smell fishy, there’s a big chance that there’s something going on with their anal glands. Here are some anal glands disease symptoms you need to be aware of:

  • A fishy smell, especially in the anus area
  • Chewing around the area
  • Scooting on the floor
  • Swelling around the anus
  • Trouble during bowel movement

If the anal glands are not expressed properly, it can lead to more severe problems such as impaction, infection, and even tumors.

  • Infections and Abscesses

When the anal sacs suddenly become swollen and discolored, there’s a big chance that it is infected. An infected anal sac swells and is painful to touch. If not treated, it could lead to abscession or skin rupture.

  • Impaction

Impaction occurs when the anal sacs are not emptied properly and the fluid dried inside the sacs. Since your dog expresses their anal sacs during a bowel movement, this could be caused by an overly soft stool which doesn’t provide enough pressure to the anal sacs during defecating. However, an abnormality in your dog’s anal sacs could also be the cause.

When impaction gets worse, the anal sacs become abscessed. Be sure to bring them to the vet for further treatment.

  • Tumor

In major cases, anal sacs tumor means that your dog isn’t able to express at all. As a result, you or your veterinarian need to express it for them.

How to Treat It

Why does my dog smell like fish? the most common answer to this is due to a problem in their anal sacs. Generally, if you’re someone who is easily panicked and don’t trust yourself to do the job: call your veterinarian.

When it comes to a compacted anal sac, your vet will treat it with a saline rinse to soften the substance. Commonly, your dog will have to undergo a high-fiber diet to naturally express his sacs afterward.

For severe cases such as infection and abscession, the vet will perform an antiseptic-based cleansing and antibiotic medication to heal the infection.

Unfortunately, some anal sacs diseases are not untreatable, such as tumors, and your dog might have to lose their anal sacs through surgery. Do not worry as anal sacs surgery won’t change your dog’s overall health and behavior.

Anal Glands Disease Preventions

The key to preventing anal glands diseases is good nutrition and high-fibers diet. A high-fiber diet helps to promote healthy stool and rouses anal sac excretions. Additionally, since impaction is affected by a dog’s weight, make sure to engage your dog in regular exercise to avoid dog obesity. Finally, don’t forget to give them enough fresh, clean water every day to avoid dehydration.

What If It Happens to a Female Dog?

While the question “why does my dog smell like fish?” usually occurs amongst male dog owners, female dogs can also exude a similar smell.

Female dogs have healthy bacteria that live in her vagina. However, if things go south, and it starts to smell fishy or worse, here are several medical conditions that explain it.

  • Vaginitis: an infection in the vagina caused by yeast or bacteria.
  • Pyometra: an infection of female dogs’ uterus which results in yellow-brownish discharge.
  • UTI problems.

All of the conditions above need to be professionally treated by a veterinarian. Make sure to book an appointment once your female dogs’ rear end starts to stink.


Two possible answers on why do my dog smell like fish? are either yeast infection or anal glands diseases, although the latter is more common. Anal glands problem happens when your dog has a problem in expressing his sacs, leading to infection, abscesses, impaction, or even tumors. To prevent it, consider changing your dog’s diet into a highly-nutritious one with a lot of fibers. Finally, don’t be doubtful once your canine friend shows any sign of discomfort in their rear end. Call your vet and let them check your dog before the condition gets even worse.

Leave a Comment