Why does my dog smell like fish? How to prevent

One day, after playing with your lovely dog, you hug and kiss him. After only one second, a foul odor rushes into your nose, as unpleasant as a fishy smell. Then you may wonder “Why does my dog smell like fish?”.

The fishy smell not only acts as an odor problem, but it is also a helpful warning of many potential ones of your dog. Let’s figure out lots of important information about this smelly situation.


Anal glands – what are they and why do dogs have them?

In case your dog smells like fish, it is very likely that something is going wrong with the anal glands. First of all, what are anal glands? Like human beings, anal glands of dogs, which are sometimes referred to as anal sacs, play a significant role in the digestive system and bowel movement.

All dogs have two small anal sacs on both sides of their anus. When everything is working properly, these sacs are expressed naturally, through a duct connecting the gland to the “outside world”. Specifically, this process happens when dogs poop.

Have you ever wondered why your dog’s stools differentiate from one another’s?

It sounds interesting to say that the smelling secretion, or scent glands, known as a scent marker of every single dog, is the result of specialized sweat glands located in each anal sac. Therefore, in order to mark the territory, dogs tend to not hesitate to pass one or two stools on that ground, no matter where it is, as a claim to the world that “this is my own nation”.

Not to mention, this is the reason why dogs are interested in smelling another one’s feces to identify the distinctive chemical of their friends. Just play with them in one day and you will see these strange interests.

Why does my dog smell like fish when the anal glands are blocked?

Is it serious?

Don’t worry because your dogs will have this problem several times in his life. As mentioned before, normally, the anal sacs of your dog can be expressed on their own in small volume and firmness each time he defecates. It works naturally when the bowel movement is healthy enough. In many cases, however, your dog can suffer impaction, which is simply defined as blocked anal glands.

Why are anal sacs blocked?

If your dog’s bowel movement is working properly, there is appropriate pressure on the layers of muscles in the anal sacs to help him defecate easily. Unfortunately, if your dog’s stools are soft, watery or he is experiencing diarrhea, then his anal glands don’t have enough pressure to be completely emptied of smelly and oily fluids. Soon after, these fluids turn dry, resulting in blocked anal sacs.

When blocked anal sacs happen, how will my dog feel?

It is so hard for the blocked ones to be expressed normally that your dog can feel uncomfortable and itchy. Besides, his anus seems to smell fishy due to the dried oily fluids in the anal glands.

My dog is not experiencing an impaction. Why does my dog smell like fish? 

  • Infections

I have my dog cleaned every day. How can infections appear?

Actually, it is considered to be very common that the anal gland areas are easy to get infected, because harmful bacteria from the outside can directly enter your dog’s anus, readily traveling up the ducts and attacking the anal sacs. So even when you often wash him, the ere are still many chances that he will suffer infections.

  • Abscesses

In case the infections are left untreated, abscesses will appear causing painful, red swollen and discolored anus areas. When the abscesses burst, there will be a quantity of greenish yellow or bloody pus flowing. As a result, the infections have great chances to spread largely, damage the anus and rectum severely. This serious problem also makes your dog’s anus regions smell disgusting like fish.


How can I notice the symptoms?

  • Your dog smells like fish

The obvious sign we have discussed above is when your dog has a foul odor coming from his rear end. This is a result of smelly and oily fluids in the anal sacs, which differentiates one dog from other ones.

  • Scoot on the floor

You may consider it laughable and ignore it as your dog sits and scoots on the floor, but the fact remains that he is trying to relieve the pain and discomfort in the anus areas. Similarly, his biting, chewing or licking the anus is a warning to you to take action since it is a natural reflex to help feel better on his own.

  • Struggle to defecate

When your dog experiences anal sac diseases, he seems to have difficulty in defecating and vocalize as trying to defecate painfully. As an owner, you should notice the status of his stools frequently, whether it is soft or firm, in the proper volume or not to realize his problems in time.

  • Can my dogs easily be affected by anal sac diseases? 

Honest to say, anal sac diseases happen mostly on small dog breeds, which means there is little chance that the largest dog breeds can get affected. It is likely that, however, overweighted and obese dogs are at high risk to suffer these problems due to the abnormality and unhealthiness of the bowel movement.

How about food allergies?

You should also notice your dog carefully when he has any food or environmental allergies, perhaps causing vomiting or diarrhea. This is a reason for the fact that the small anal sacs do not have enough pressure to express properly. Besides, any kind of skin mites and bacterial or yeast infections of the skin can result in problems of anal sac diseases.

Anal sac diseases – Do they hurt my dog?

  • Physical discomfort

Remember when you, yourself, are experiencing problems relating to the digestive system, how do you feel? Uncomfortable, embarrassed, painful, itchy and terrible, isn’t it? So is your dog. As any kind of anal sac problems appears, they will cause much physical discomfort inside himself day by day.

  • Physical harm

The physical discomfort will lead to physical harm when he tries to bite, scratch or lick his rear end to relieve the pain.

  • Negative emotions

Not only does the anal sac diseases have a severe impact on physical issues, but they also damage your dog’s emotions, making him hopelessly fear or stress to understand what is going on.

If left untreated, how will anal sac diseases become?

In case these problems are not treated promptly, there is a high likelihood that the infection easily attacks the anus areas, causing abscesses under his red swollen skin. If you notice there is any blood mixed with his stools, please consult with your vet immediately because it is turning serious.

What can I do to help my dog prevent anal sac diseases?

  • Call your veterinarians

When you recognize that your dog has problems with the anal glands, don’t be panic. You can ask the veterinarians or professionals for advice; frequently, they will simply help your dog’s anal sacs manually emptied, or expressed to feel better and resolve the odor. If you are not afraid of that fishy smell, your vet can teach you how to do it step by step so that you can deal with the trouble at home.

  • Should my dog be usually expressed manually?

Remember that your dog’s anal glands can be expressed naturally. Therefore, turning this natural process into a manual one too often will harm his anal regions, resulting in inflammation and scar tissue. So you should only do it manually as long as his anal sacs are not emptied naturally.

  • Infections and abscesses, ask your vet for help

When it comes to infections and abscesses, you need to take him to your veterinarian immediately as in this case, the vet has enough skill to diagnose the problem. He will decide whether your dog requires antibiotics and pain medications or not; even sometimes, surgery seems to be necessary.

  • Will surgery be a risk when my dog has problems with anal glands?

In some cases, the veterinarian will conclude that one or two anal sacs, especially the anal sac tumors, need to be removed when they can not be resolved with the normal treatment. Although potential complications can happen, such as incontinence, most surgeries get successful and do not harm your dog’s quality of life. So don’t worry about that.


How to prevent anal sac diseases?

  • How to know whether the bowel movement is healthy or not?

A healthy bowel movement is when both anal sacs perform properly, which means your dog passes one or two stools every day with the appropriate volume and firmness. In order to have a healthy bowel movement, he needs a combination of proper diet, exercise, and hydration.

  • Diet

+ Add higher fiber to his single meal.

+ Dry or canned food products of poor quality are not good for your dog’s stomach.

+ If you don’t have enough time to make his food with vegetables, qualified herbal products are a good choice for you.

Fiber and vitamin contained in vegetables will significantly help his digestive system and make it easier for the bowel movement to work.

  • Weight

+ Have a look at your dog’s weight weekly.

+ Don’t let him become overweighted or obese due to overfeeding or lack of exercise.

You can make a regular exercise process for him to maintain a suitable weight and a healthy lifestyle.

  • Water:

Don’t forget to give him plenty of fresh and clean water because water plays a role in your dog’s body as important as in yourself.

But why does my dog’s breath smell like fish?

Your dog may not only smell like fish near the anus regions because of problems with the anal glands, but his breath is also foul. Why can this happen? Let’s check whether your dog is in these situations.


  • Licking, chewing and biting

As mentioned above, problems of blocked anal glands, infections or abscesses result in physical discomfort in your dog. In order to relieve the pressure, as a natural reflex, he will lick, chew, scratch or bite his rear end. In this way, the smelly fluids enter his mouth and go onto his tongue, causing your dog’s breath to smell like fish.

  • Your dog’s diet

But you may still wonder “Why does my dog smell like fish even when he has no problem with the anal glands?”. The answer turns to his diet. Like human beings, dogs burp when their stomach wants to say “Hey bro, there is too much air in me!”. As taking much fish oil, your dog’s burp will have a foul fishy smell, unfortunately, which lasts for a long while in his breath.

  • Should I reduce the number of fish products?

Dogs’ diets often include fish products made from salmon and whitefish, containing omega-3 and omega-6. This may also lead to your dog’s unpleasant breath; you can cut down this quantity of material in his meal if you find it disgusting. Omega-3 and omega-6, however, is very good for his eyes and his development. Therefore, you should take it into careful consideration before excluding it from the diet just because of the foul odor.

  • Fecal matter

It is interesting when dogs like to turn around and eat their own stools after defecating. As doing that, he is partaking of the anal sac fluids contained in his own feces. Again, these fluids enter his mouth traveling up his tongue, resulting in the foul odor like fish in his breath.


To sum up, the topic “Why does my dog smell like fish?” provides you information of many problems that your lovely dog may be experiencing, especially anal sac diseases. Try to give him a proper diet, exercise, and hydration to limit the chances of his getting into trouble with the bowel movement. Thanks a lot for your reading and we hope that all of this information can help you and your dog.

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  1. blank Jonah Meyerson 22/10/2020
  2. blank WewPet 27/10/2020

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