Believe it or not, you’re actually not the only one asking that. Every dog owner has probably asked that question at least once in their dog-rearing lives!
As much as it feels like it makes sense (they’re dogs, at the end of the day! ‘They probably rolled in something,’ you might think), the actual reason why could be a completely new, far-fetched fact for you.
So why does my dog smell like fish, you ask? Here’s why.
Your dog’s anal glands, the most common reason why they might smell that way, is what emits the fishy odor. Anal glands or anal sacs are a pair of specialty scent glands on either side of your dog’s anus. They’re why dogs smell each other’s tail areas when they greet!
The sacks are full of specialized sweat glands and are usually filled with a dark, smelly, oily material that is released when your dog defecates. That foul-smelling secretion that gets passes onto the feces is what acts as a scent marker: why do you think dogs like smelling each other’s poop?
If you smell something fishy, it might be these secretions at work. These anal sacs are also ‘expressed’ when your dog is frightened and are generally emptied naturally every time your dog goes for a number two.
The smell is how you know your pup could be having difficulties ‘expressing’ those glands.
Anal Sac Disease
The fishy odor could usually be associated with anal sac disease. Anal sac disease is an umbrella term describing any problem relating to your dog’s anal glands.
Usually, smaller dog breeds and obese dogs are more prone to anal gland infections. When your dog’s sacs do not express naturally or are not emptied completely, they could become dry and fall under the risk of infection and abscesses.
This could happen for a couple of reasons: your dog’s anal glands could be suffering an abnormality, or if your dog usually has soft stool, it would not be firm enough to express the glands.
Asides from your dog having a fishy smell, there are other signs you could look out for to figure out if your dog’s anal glands are a cause of bother. If your dog scoots on the floor, bites or licks their anus, or has difficulty defecating, you might want to get their anal sacs checked.
How to Treat It?
Luckily, resolving this issue is relatively easy: your local vet or groomer can simply manually empty your dog’s anal glands (which produces a pasty brown fluid) to resolve the odor issue.
Be wary of manually expressing the glands too much, however – it should only be done if it’s not emptied naturally as frequent manual expression could lead to inflammation.
Alternatively, to avoid having to manually express them often and to avoid the risk of swelling, some vets suggest giving your dog a break from dry food. Instead, keep your dog hydrated by feeding him a high-moisture diet, calling for a healthier stool that would promote a more natural expression process.
Other Reasons Why Your Dog Smells Like Fish
Investigate other reasons why your dog could be smelling like fish, there could be other underlying problems at hand! A fishy smell could result from your dog’s breath if they have dental or gastrointestinal issues.
Your pooch could also be giving you warning signs of possible UTIs, kidney stones, or even bladder cancer if you notice their pee smells odd.
Also, look out for any yeast infections that could be causing the smell. Yeast grows in warm, damp, and dark places, so look inside their ears, between their back legs, between the toes, or around the eyes. If you have a female dog, you may want to also check around her vulva.
Absolutely consult a vet if you are concerned about any of these issues.
Thankfully, resolving an anal gland issue is easy most of the time, and now you even know the signs to look out for it! But there’s also a couple of things you can do to try and avoid it.
Make sure your dog is always properly hydrated: give them plenty of fresh, clean water, and feed them a high-moisture diet. Include fiber in their diet, too, to ensure your dog has a well-formed stool. No one wants their dog to smell like fish, but now you know ways to prevent it, and when and how to fix it.