Why Does My Dog Smell Fishy? 5 Possible Causes

So you’re hugging and kissing your dog when the smell hit you hard. And in disgust, you blurted out, “why does my dog smell fishy?!”.

Some of the possible culprits here are dental problems, skin disease, anal gland issues, vaginitis, and ear infection. Dogs develop different scents, and it could be tricky to tell what’s causing it.

why does my dog smell fishy

Below, I discussed these potential causes and what you can do about it. I highly suggest contacting the veterinarian for the best solution. Remember that dogs are different, and so are their health conditions.

Why does my dog smell like fish?

If your dog has a smelly fishy, the following could be the reasons why:

Why does my dog smell like fish

1. Dental problem

Dental problems are the leading cause of bad smell among dogs. It can range from mild odor to full-blown halitosis. Aside from the fishy smell, your dog’s poor dental health will also pose a more serious threat to their health. Dental problems can be an avenue for infections that can be life-threatening.

A dog with a bad breath similar to fish might be suffering from over-abundance of oral bacteria. It’s usually due to rotten teeth and the presence of plaque. This will cause a fishy smell, and it will not go away on its own.

Dental problems only get worse until proper treatment is given. From smelling fishy, your dog’s breath will soon have a rotten scent that other dog owners describe as “smelling like death”. please read here why dose my dogs breath smell like death.

Aside from dental problems, the last thing your dog ate could be the reason for the fishy smell. If your dog ate fish or any seafood, its drool and breath would smell fishy. Seafood-flavor kibble can also be the source of the fishy scent. This can be fixed through regular brushing.

Regular vet checks are also necessary to spot early signs of dental problems. This way, your dog will not smell fishy, and you can prevent further problems.

2. Anal gland issues

Another notorious source of fishy smell in dogs is problematic anal glands. Dogs have two anal sacs located just right at the lower sides of its anus. These anal glands produce a unique smell and serve as a canine’s marking scent.

However, if the anal glands are not expressed properly, it will become smelly. Every time your dog eliminates, the anal sacs produce fluid that has a foul smell.

As the fluids deposit on the sacs, it brews bacteria and a strong fishy smell. Worse, your dog’s anal glands will be impacted if you don’t express it regularly. This means your dog will have painful and difficult bowel movements.

Expressing a dog’s anal glands is a smelly and gross process. However, it’s very much necessary if you want to avoid the fishy smell from getting the best of your dog. Read more here why do dogs smell bad after being outside

If you can’t do it, you can ask the vet or a groomer to handle it for you. Most dog owners prefer this paid option instead of doing the dirty work.

3. Canine vaginitis

If you have a female dog, chances are the fishy smell is due to canine vaginitis. This condition is an infection of a female dog’s vagina that causes swelling and an awful, fishy smell.

Dogs with vaginitis will suffer from increased urination, fishy vaginal discharge, vaginal inflammation, and itchiness. This will also cause the dog to scoot or rub its vagina on the floor.

Canine vaginitis can be caused by urinary tract infections, vaginal trauma, foreign bodies, incontinence, or vaginal tumors. Sometimes, it could be from anatomical abnormalities, yeast infection, or abscesses in the vaginal area.

One of the tell-tale signs of vaginitis is a fishy smell. The scent is much stronger near the vagina, but it can waft all over on the worst cases.

The good thing is that vaginitis can be treated. Depending on your dog’s condition, vaginal douches will be applied. The vet will be the one to identify the proper treatment to remove the fish smell and cure the infection.

4. Fungal skin diseases

Skin disease can make your dog’s body smell fishy. The fishy smell is an indication of infection that requires immediate medical attention. Over time, the fishy scent will become worse just as much as the infection.

One of the most common causes of the fishy smell is yeast dermatitis in dogs. It’s a condition caused by a fungus called Malassezia pachydermatis.

This is very common among dogs and is usually found on the canine’s skin. But if the fungus overproduces, it will cause dermatitis and a fishy smell.

Aside from the fish-like smell, dogs with yeast dermatitis will suffer from crusty skin, itching, skin inflammation, hyperpigmentation, and other symptoms.

Sometimes, parasitic infestations like ticks and fleas can cause a fishy smell due to the wounds left by the bites. As the wounds get infected, it would start to smell, often with a rotten or fish-like whiff.

5. Ear infection

Lastly, the fishy smell could be due to your dog’s ear infection. This occurs when the ear canal of the canine develops an infection due to bacterial buildup.

dog ear infection

About 20% of all dogs have a form of ear disease, which can cause a fishy smell if not addressed right away.

Dogs with floppy ears like Beagles, Basset Hounds, and Cocker Spaniels are highly prone to ear infections, but almost any dog can have it.

Ear infections in dogs can be otitis externa, media, or interna. This refers to the part of the ear that’s infected. Almost all of these types of ear infections will lead to a fishy smell if not treated. please read here can cbd oil help dog ear infections

If your dog is scratching its ear incessantly and has a bad smell emanating from its ears, an ear infection might be going on. Other symptoms also include dark ear discharge with a fishy or musty smell as well as pain and head shaking.


How to get rid of the fishy smell from a dog

  • Proper coat care. It’s important to check your dog’s coat for potential infections. Spotting and treating skin problems will prevent the fishy smell and discomfort on your dog’s part.
  • Express anal glands. Expressing anal glands is my least favorite grooming task. But to prevent the fishy smell, it’s important to perform this part. Don’t fret because you can always experts for help!
  • Dental hygiene. Like humans, dogs need proper dental care. This is to prevent any fishy smell as well as the risk of infection. Regular brushing is a must paired with vet checks.
  • Regular vet visits. Take note that your dog shouldn’t just visit the vet when it’s sick. It’s important to schedule routine check-ups to prevent any health problems. This will also help spot possible infections that can cause a fishy smell.

Why does my dog’s gas smell like fish?

If your dog’s fart smell like a fish, you have the anal sacs to blame. If not expressed regularly, the anal sacs will harbor discharge with the nastiest scent you can ever smell. As your dog farts, the smell is carried over into the air.

However, you should also factor in the possibility of intestinal problems. A change in diet can cause fishy farts as well as allergies. If the fishy farts aren’t going away after expressing your dog’s anal glands, you should bring the pooch to the vet.

Fishy farts and burp can point to a kidney or liver problem among canines. Only the vet can give a proper diagnosis. Immediate action is necessary to prevent any life-threatening complications.


Why does my dog smell fishy? It can be anywhere from dental issues, clogged anal sacs, skin disease, ear infection, or vaginitis. Whatever it is, you must seek proper vet care to resolve the health issue. This way, your dog will not suffer from the discomfort, and your nose will be saved from the repulsive odor. Never self-medicate your dog because it will only result in more problems.

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