Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish? (Explained and Quick Facts)

Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish

Have you noticed your dog smelling like fish, and you’re wondering if you should be concerned? Unfortunately, an ongoing fish smell isn’t a good sign – it could be the result of bacteria or infection, resulting in emergency care.

A fishy smell in your dog often comes from anal sac issues. This smell can also indicate dental, stomach, skin, or ear infections. Dogs have small glands near their anus. These glands produce a special smell that helps dogs recognize each other.

Thankfully, a one-off fish smell coming from your dog could be nothing more than just a stinky fart, or an accidental release of anal scent. Whatever the circumstances – most causes can be treated with a veterinarian visit and a well-established hygiene routine. To learn more about the causes of your dog smelling like fish, continue reading!

Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?

Periodontal disease or gum disease is typically the reason behind your dog’s breath smelling like fish. Apart from the stench, dental issues and abnormal patches around your dog’s mouth are the tell-tale signs that a health issue has arisen.

When your dog is suffering from a type of dental disease, the fish smell comes from the infection within the mouth. Another way to spot issues within your dog is to observe any signs of struggle to chew or when they continuously drop food on the ground.

Like humans, if we neglect to practice good dental hygiene – bacteria will form, impacting our life. Dog’s are no different, meaning the only way you can treat your dog’s fishy breath is through a well-implemented dental routine.

Why Does My Dog’s Urine Smell Like Fish?

The probable cause behind a dog’s urine smelling like fish is due to a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection.) Other reasons could indicate kidney stones, bladder problems, or prostate disorder – all of which let off a fishy-stink within the urine.

Whatever the problem causing your dog’s urine to smell like fish could be, will likely require medical attention. Seeking a trusted Veterinarians’ advice can assist your pooch in healing and recovering faster, as opposed to leaving this issue untreated.

Depending on the problem with your dog, symptoms will vary. Common traits include irritability, painful bowel movements (or lack-of,) diarrhea, bloody stools, extreme scooting, dehydration, and so forth.

Why Does My Dog’s Fart Smell Like Fish?

When your dog farts and it smells like fish, this is probably the smell of an accidentally expressed anal sac. For those who don’t know, when a dog is scared – he can “accidentally” release his anal scent, usually due to being scared or significantly frightened.

Your dog’s anal sac (or anal glands) are located amongst layers of muscles near the anus. They carry strong and foul fluids that are naturally expressed when they poop. If your dog becomes scared, he/she might express this fluid by accident – resulting in a smelly fish-like fart.

If this does occur, you don’t need to worry. Although extremely stinky, this is normal and doesn’t usually indicate problems. When your dog begins to smell like fish on a regular basis, however, this might require medical attention.

Usually, overweight, small breeds, or unspayed dogs are prone to health issues that cause fish-smells. But not always, which is why you should remember to remain attentive and keep up regular hygiene.

Why Does My Dog’s Crotch Smell Like Fish?

A fish smell coming from your dog’s crotch could suggest a few things – as it’s dependent on the symptoms and the severity of the odor. If your dog is primarily healthy without any apparent issues, it’s possible that your dog accidentally expressed his anal scent on accident.

Other reasons could include blocked anal glands – accompanied by symptoms such as scooting and/or lumps or bumps on the rectum. Yeast infections with symptoms of swelling on their eyes, feet, and ears. Or even a UTI, producing a strong fish odor in their urine.

For you as the handler, here are some things you can do to determine the cause of your dogs fish smell:

  • Look out for bumps on the rectum
  • Observe the stool, ensuring no blood
  • Catch a whiff of a fish smell from the urine
  • Make sure your dog isn’t in any pain
  • Beware of loose stools (or no stools at all)
  • Watch out for regular scooting on the ground

As mentioned above, if your dog doesn’t present any weird or unusual symptoms – then the fish smell coming from the crotch could be a one-off stinky fart, meaning you don’t need to worry. Otherwise, it might pay for a visit to the VET if the odor persists – accompanied by the symptoms listed.

Skin and Ear Yeast Infections

Yeast overgrowth is a common cause of that unpleasant fishy odor coming from your dog.

How Do Yeast Infections Happen?

Yeast is always present on your dog’s skin. But when conditions are right, yeast levels can increase rapidly.

Warm, moist environments – Yeast thrives in folds of skin and fur where moisture gets trapped. Common problem spots include paws, ears, armpits, and skin folds.

Weakened immune system – Any harm to your dog’s immune system can let yeast grow too much. This includes illnesses, medications like steroids, and allergies.

Skin irritation – Scratches, wounds, and skin problems like seborrhea break the skin’s natural shield, making way for yeast.

Allergies or diet issues – Food allergies and environmental allergies can upset the skin’s normal state.

The Fishy Symptoms of Yeast

That yeast overgrowth leads to some smelly symptoms:

  • Greasy coat and skin – You’ll notice an oily sheen and clumping fur.
  • Scaly or crusty skin – Patches of dry, flaky skin develop.
  • Hair loss – The skin becomes irritated and reddened as hair falls out.
  • Ear infections – Yeast invades the ears, causing discharge and foul odors.
  • Fishy smell – This strong smell comes from waste products made by yeast.

Other Possible Causes for a Fishy Smell

Diet and Food Sensitivities

A diet of fish can cause your dog to have a fishy smell.

Fish ingredients – Foods containing fish proteins or oils can make your dog smell fishy. Salmon, trout, and menhaden are common culprits.

Allergies or intolerances – If your dog is allergic to some foods, it can lead to stomach issues and fishy smells. Grains, chicken, and dairy are common triggers.

Low-quality foods – Low-quality foods can cause digestion problems, resulting in gas and bad smells.


  • Gradually transition to a high-quality ingredient in dog food.
  • Work with your vet to identify and eliminate any problem ingredients.
  • Give probiotics to support healthy digestion.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormone issues in intact female dogs can also trigger a fishy smell:

Pyometra – This uterine infection causes foul, fishy odors in unspayed females. It is a dangerous condition requiring emergency vet care.

Vaginal inflammation often occurs after a heat cycle when hormone levels fall. Discharge and odor can result.


  • Spay your female dog to prevent hormonal fluctuations and infections.
  • Have your vet examine any fishy odors arising from the vulva or anus.
  • If needed, have a vet treat your dog’s anal glands or hormone problems.

Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish When Scared?

Ever wondered why your dog smells like fish when he’s scared? This is because when a dog is scared, he/she might express their anal glands – which is fairly normal by the way. Although not every dog does this, your pooch would need to be pretty frightened if he does.

So what do we mean by “he/she might express their anal glands”? Basically, anal glands (or anal sacs) are scent glands positioned within the muscles of the anus. Every time your dog poops, he/she naturally expresses this scent gland – which is indicative of a healthy dog.

When your dog is scared, he/she can smell like fish due to an accidentally spraying of this scent gland. And just like humans, some of us might accidentally wet ourselves if we’ve been frightened. It happens naturally, and usually doesn’t indicate anything serious.

The moment you notice your dog smelling like fish when he isn’t scared, or on a regular basis, take him to get a check-up as he may just need to have his anal sacs manually cleaned.

Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish After Being Spayed?

One of the benefits of your female dog being spayed is the prevention of uterine infections – but that won’t always be the case. Even if your dog has been spayed and she continues to smell like fish – this might be a sign of possible Anal Sac Disease.

An irritated Anal Sac may present symptoms within your pooch such as scooting, difficulty pooping, blood from her stools, and of course a strong fish-like odor.

To assist your dog in deterring this smell, simply call your Veterinarian and have her anal glands expressed. The emptying of your dog’s anal glands will usually solve the problem, otherwise, your VET will inform you if there’s a change in circumstance.

Remember: Small dog breeds need their anal glands emptied on a regular basis, but not too often that it’ll cause inflammation. There are steps you can take if you’d like to learn online, otherwise calling a local service to do it for you is another option!

Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish When in Heat?

It isn’t uncommon for a female dog in heat to smell like fish – but it also could indicate problems, so make sure you’re paying close attention. When a female dog is in heat, her hormone balance has been disrupted – which can result in Pyometra, therefore causing the fish smell.

Pyometra is an infection within the uterus, so when your dog is out of heat, she should go back to smelling normal. If she comes out of her heat continuing to smell like fish, this is when you should be concerned.

Another reason that can cause your dog in heat to smell like fish is an infection within the anal glands, also referred to as Anal Sac Disease. Anal Sac Disease within dogs is extremely common but does require treatment as soon as possible.

A UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) can also be the cause of the fish smell coming from your dog. UTI’s can cause strong odors through discharge accompanied by foul smells from her urine.

If any of the above is left untreated, your pooch can suffer some serious aches and pains – if she isn’t already. The best thing to do is take her to your trusted VET, explain the symptoms, and have her looked after with professional help.

How to Make Your Dog Not Smell Like Fish?

If your furry friend has a fishy-odor that requires medical attention, take him to your VET as soon as possible. This could be an indicator of a serious problem. To prevent this problem from reoccurring in the future, here are some things you can do instead:

Implement a Thorough Cleaning Routine

Your dog needs to keep his hygiene in tip-top standard, which requires you to pay attention to his health and keep him up to date by washing his butt every so often, or once a week.

Use Chemical-free Wipes

It’s best to use chemical-free or fragrance-free wipes when cleaning your dog’s butt. Other alternatives you could use:

  • Washcloth damped in water
  • An old rag damped in water
  • Towels
  • Cotton material

Be Gentle, Yet Firm

To ensure you’re cleaning your dog without hurting them, ensure to remain gentle yet firm when wiping his anal area. Do this by lifting his tail upwards, and applying moderate pressure when whipping away debris from his private area. Proceed to apply light pressure when cleaning the dampened area.

When to See a Veterinarian?

That fishy odor you notice on your dog may seem harmless. But sometimes, it can mean a health problem that needs a vet’s help.

Watch for these red flags that indicate it’s time to call the vet:

Persistent or Worsening Odor

  • The smell stays for more than a few days or gets worse even with home care.
  • The odor appears with other signs like skin problems, tiredness, or changes in eating.
  • The smell comes back fast after a bath or appears to be from under the skin.

This could mean that an infection, foreign body, tumor, or other internal issue requires diagnosis and medical treatment.

Smelly Discharge

  • You see yellow, green, or bloody fluids from the eyes, nose, mouth, behind, or vulva.
  • Anal glands often release bad-smelling fluids by themselves.
  • There is vulvar discharge in an unspayed female.

This could indicate an infection, injury, blockage, or hormone disorder needing prompt veterinary attention.

Ear Problems

  • Your dog is shaking their head, scratching their ears, or crying in pain.
  • The ears are red and inflamed with a bad smell.
  • There is dark fluid or dirt deep inside the ear.

This points to A possible yeast, bacteria, or mite infection causing irritation. Medicated ear drops or flushes will be needed.

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