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Five Possible Reasons Dogs Smell Fishy

 

You are sitting on your couch when suddenly you get a whiff of a strong fishy smell coming from your dog, the next thing you know, you are on your computer Googling “why do dogs smell fishy?” You may be surprised, and at the same time disgusted, about discovering such a fishy smell strongly emanating from your dog. Turns out, the fishy smell may be due to different problems. If your dog suddenly has a fishy smell, your best bet is a veterinarian appointment to confirm the source of the smell so to treat it accordingly. Following are several possible causes as to why your dog smells fishy.

Fishy Smell After Dog Licks his Bottom

Does your dog have a fishy smell after your dog licks his bottom? Well, it will all make sense after you take a little lesson in dog anatomy.

One of the most common sources of fishy smells in dogs are the anal glands. The anal glands are two glands found at the 4 o’ clock and 8 o’ clock positions around the rectum.

These glands commonly secrete a fluid when the dog defecates, however if the dog’s stool is not firm enough, these glands may not empty  as they should and they may cause the dog discomfort as it builds up.

This often results in a dog ‘’scooting’’ across the carpet for relief or the dog biting and licking at his anal glands (I know, gross..).

When a dog scoots or licks the anal glands, some anal gland fluid may secrete. Anal gland fluid has a very strong fishy smell that most dog owners find very offensive. Fortunately, the problem can be sometimes be solved by helping firm up the dog’s stools. Adding some plain canned pumpkin (not the pie version with spices added!) to the dog’s diet can be helpful suggests veterinarian Dr. Sheree.




If the stools firm up, they will often successfully empty the anal glands as they pass, solving the discomfort issues and the fishy smell. Stubborn cases though may need the vet perform anal gland expressions by manually emptying the glands.

Did you know? Your dog’s anal gland secretions act as business cards and this is why dogs like to sniff each other’s bottoms. And what about dogs interested in sniffing other dogs’ feces? Anal gland fluid is also released when a dog defecates, which can also act as a business card providing dogs some interesting information.

Fishy Smell When Dog Gets Scared 

If you get a fishy smell when your dog is acting scared, you are not imagining things: on top of emptying when your dog scoots over the floor or defecates, those anal glands also empty when your dog gets really scared of something, and those folks working at the vet’s office are quite used to this smell.

C.A. Donovan in the Journal of American Veterinary Association describes how the anal gland fluids emitted by an alarmed dog in an examination room can be perceived by other dogs which will want to avoid that particular room.

What’s happening in this case is that the frightened dog, along with the anal gland secretions is emitting special alarm pheromones which are picked up by the other dogs.

” The function of spontaneous emptying of the anal glands during fear has not been extensively studied, but may be related to the release of alarm or aggression-inhibiting pheromones.”~Sarah Heath

 Fishy Smell from Dog’s Breath 

If the fishy smell comes from your dog’s breath, there are chance he may have licked his anal glands, but there may be also other possibilities. If you feed your dog a fish- based kibble this could also be an obvious cause of fishy breath. Fish-based diets are often prescribed by veterinarians for dogs skin allergies.

If your dog’s breath smells fishy and you feed fish based kibble using salmon, trout or sardines as the main ingredients, then this is the most likely culprit. If you are not sure if the food you feed your dog has fish in it, look at the label and see if there are any fish oils, fish meal, salmon or some other fish product used in the food. Fish products are often added to dog food to increase its fatty acid content.

Very often a  rotten fishy smell coming from a dog’s mouth may be indicative of a problem in the mouth. Your dog may have periodontal disease, an infected tooth or some other infection going on in his mouth.




Small dogs are particularly prone to dental problems because their mouths are very small and their teeth are very crowded so much so that food gets easily stuck in between, leading to gum disease. Gum disease (periodontal disease) is very common in dogs, and according to American Veterinary Medical Association, statistics show that 80 percent of dogs over the age of 3 have periodontal disease.

” The most common cause for this (fishy smell in dog breath) is gingivitis / dental disease. Basically bacteria can cause gum inflammation and tartar build up and this causes a bad odor.”~Dr. Bruce, veterinarian.

Fishy Smell From Dog’s Urine

It may be difficult at times telling whether the fishy smell comes from the dog’s urine or urinary tract or from his bottom. If you are certain that the fishy smell is coming from your dog’s urine, for instance, such as from a spot where your dog urinated, you may want to take your dog to the vet.

There may be chances that your dog is suffering from a urinary tract infection. If you also see your dog urinating frequently, licking her private area more and having accidents around the house, this can be a possibility. Along with your dog, you  should bring a urine sample to your vet to have it examined for presence of bacteria. Fortunately, urinary tract infections in dogs are fairly easy to treat.

“A urinary tract infection will cause a smell like this. In most cases a dog with a bad infection will need to urinate more often and may even pass blood. Infections are more common with female dogs and antibiotics are typically very effective at treating it.” Dr. Christian, veterinarian

Fishy Smell After Dog Comes from Outside

If your dog has access to the great outdoors near lakes or streams, he may have rolled over dead fish if the smells appears to come from the skin. Dogs are naturally attracted to dead animals and will roll on the carcasses happily. There are various theories as to why dogs may do this.

Some believe dogs do this to mask their natural smell with the smell of the animal so they can be less likely to be detected when hunting, others believe that dogs like to show off their new smells just as humans like to show off a designer handbag or a diamond ring.

If you happen to notice a strong fishy smell in your dog you should try to figure out exactly where it is coming from. The mouth and the anal glands are generally the most common sources of fishy smells. So it is a good idea to check both ends and then consult a veterinarian with your findings.

Photo Credits:

Flickr Creative Commons, snuzzy, Rex – Gone Fishing, CCBY2.0

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