Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?

Why does my dog smell like fish? The answer to that question may surprise you

dog smells like fishHave you noticed that your furry friend has developed an odor recently? Does the odor smell strongly of fish? Unless your dog has the opportunity to rub herself all over the floor of a fish market, there’s a good chance that the abnormal smell doesn’t come from a fish at all.

Usually, when your dog goes to the bathroom, she’ll express a small amount of fluid from her anal glands (also known as anal sac) along with the feces. However at times, the anal glands do not empty enough or even at all. This could be the result of your dog having frequent soft stools or diarrhea.

If your dog does not secrete anal gland fluid when defecating, they may begin to get an odor which has a fish-smell to it. When full, the glands may even leak at inconvenient times. This is when the smell will be the strongest. Usually, a hard stool will help your dog naturally express her glands without any outside stimulation. However, if the glands do not get expressed, they might become impacted and painful.

Do you ever notice that your dog scoots her rear on the floor? Or does she nip at her behind in an attempt to clean or scratch her rear? These are signs that your dog’s anal glands are impacted. If your dog has impacted anal glands, you may want to consider bringing her to the veterinarian’s office or even your dog groomer to have a professional express the glands. Both vets and groomers are very familiar with this process, making it go smoothly, quickly, and comfortably for the dog.

Another option is for the dog owner to help excrete the anal sacs at home. If you choose to go this route, invest in gloves, and be sure to complete the process in a calm, confident, and quick manner so that it is less uncomfortable for your dog. To express your dog’s anal glands at home, locate the anal glands, and massage the area in an upward pattern until fluid is released. Make sure to have a wash cloth to clean up your dog and give her a nice treat for behaving!

If your dog’s anal sac becomes impacted, there is also a chance that infection could lead to further complications for your dog. If you notice any blood when your dog scoots or uses the bathroom, contact your veterinarian immediately, as this may be a sign of infection or an even more serious issue. Feeding your dog a diet rich with fiber, but without fillers will help produce firmer stools. The firmer the stools your dog produces, the more likely her anal sac will be to express on its own.

Have you ever thought your dog smelled like fish? Let us know in the comments section.


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23 comments on “Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?

  1. As I play host to older German Shepherds who frequently transiion to new homes I found your article and your insights to be highly useful and greatly appreciated.

  2. Tonight, my large male 8 month old was startled from a sound sleep and was spooked, jumped up and discharged a really horrible fishy smelling slime onto the tile floor. It was overwhelmingly bad. Is this the anal gland discharge you refer to?
    How do I get more fiber in his diet?

    1. It’s likely your dog doesn’t need more fiber if it was just one time. Usually dogs if panicked or frightened enough secrete anal gland fluid as a defense or anxiety when startled. My dog experiences the same when being held down for a procedure at the vet. 🙂 hope that helps

  3. This is really helpful but I noticed a change in behavior in my dog like she has become a bit more aggressive does this have anything to do with it.

  4. My dogs only smell fishy when they have had any food or treats that have omega oil, which nearly all Pedigree treats do, is they anything I can do other than not letting them have them

  5. Yes my dog has had this smell every now and then. I thought it was food related i found when i gave him oinkers or liver it happens

  6. My dog only has this fishy odor when coming in from outside vet emptied her glands but said they weren’t bad at all thought good the odor will stop! But it didn’t

  7. Hi my 10 year old girls glands leak on a weekly basis and when she is laid down. The smell is awfully fishy! Her stools are hard due to the dry food she eats so does this mean she has a problem with them? Her bum has leaked a few times now when she’s laid next to me so its got on my clothes or its usually the bed or sofa.

    Do you think this is normal for her age etc or shall I get her checked out?

    Thank you

  8. My dog has hard stools. She is like this all the time with only maybe 2-3 weeks during the month. The smell can last for a week sometimes more. I have never seen anything swollen. She doesn’t scoot across the floor. It runs us out of the room. Our other female has never had this smell. She was fixed as a small puppy. The one that smells like 5 day old tuna that is baking on the side of a Texas highway, had 3 heats back to back & was extremely nervous before we could fix her. I’m thinking this has a huge part of this. Our other 4 dogs have never had this ever & she is he only one.

  9. My dog has fishy breath. I only smell it when he licks one of us or he is licking at the air, lol. I thought it could’ve been his oral hygiene, but I brush his teeth and buy expensive dental treats. It has gotten worse and now he’s not really eating.

  10. Our dog has a red lump on her bottom and smells fishy, the lump has gone down now looking a bit better but it’s very smelly and bless her she’s an old King Charles and we’re cleaning it with salty water but the smells so strong, just wondering what it cauld be.

  11. For awhile now my dog has been smelling like fish and I did not know what it was and today her stomach started making some weird noises and I’m not sure if it’s because she got into something outside or what.

  12. I have the same issue as Katie – “My dog only has this fishy odor when coming in from outside vet emptied her glands but said they weren’t bad at all thought good the odor will stop! But it didn’t” but it is not frequent – perhaps once every 6 weeks but lasts for a week. My parents bred German Shepherds, I have had male dogs since the beginning of time: mostly boxers (all rescues). I had never had a pitbull (Staffordshire Terrier technically) until now. He is also a rescue and a neutered male. Of all my 30+ years with dogs, I have NEVER smelled this. I was wondering if it is a “breed thing”.

    It is sooooo bad, I have to kick him out of my office. Every time I take him to the vet, they always say his glands are NOT full and are totally fine. I thought it was his teeth rotting or something but we brush his teeth, buy good oral treats, etc. Not sure what it is but I have never appreciated Febreeze so much in my life!!

    Weird.

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