Why Dog’s Breath Can Smell Like Fish



This article is posted as part of PGAA’s curation efforts. This was originally posted at No Longer Wild


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I feel like a fish out of water here. For some or other reason my dog’s breath smells like fish and I can’t figure out why. Also, there is no fish anywhere in her diet. Does your dog’s breath smell like fish too? If so, you don’t need to flounder for answers any further because I have them all right here for you to help you figure out fast the cause of your furry friend’s fish breath.

Debunking the Doggy Breath Myth

First of all, dogs are not normally supposed to have stinky breath. Doggy breath is just a saying and actually has no basis in reality. If your dog’s breath does have a bad odor, it is indicative that there is something wrong. This is usually a sign of gum or periodontal disease.

Your dog may require a professional cleaning from the vet over and above regular brushing to promote good oral hygiene. Make sure that when you brush your dog’s teeth that you use toothpaste specifically designed for canines. Our toothpaste is not good for dogs and can even be fatal.

In other cases, certain odors like ammonia/urine on your dog’s breath or a sweet/fruity smell is caused by kidney failure or diabetes respectively.

Any strange smell on your dog’s breath means a trip to the vet to determine what the cause is as these are only some examples of health issues that may be present in your pooch.

Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?>

Eliminating Obvious Causes

As mentioned in the introduction of this article, your dog’s breath could smell like fish because he/she got into the cat’s food. Also, if you give your dog fish oil, fish pills or feed them fish, like sardines which are actually very good for dogs, this will obviously cause his/her breath to smell that way. This is only short-lived and the odor shouldn’t linger. If your dog hasn’t eaten anything like that then you know something else fishy may be going on.

If you give your dog fish oil or fish pills, this will cause her breath to smell that way

The Main Cause of Fish Breath

The cause of fish breath is not pretty and actually has nothing do whatsoever with your furry friend chowing down on actual fish or fish products. A fishy smelling secretion is given off from your dog’s two anal glands. Usually, every time your dog does a number two, these glands are naturally emptied but it can occur that this does not happen.

In some dogs, this secretion is clear so you may not see it but in others, it is thick and brown in color. For the latter, you will see traces of this on the carpet or floor when your dog is trying to alleviate the discomfort and cause expression of the glands through pressure by scooting (rubbing his/her backside across the floor or on the grass).

Fish breath could be the sign of problems in expressing dogs’ anal glands

Once your dog has succeeded in relieving the problem, he/she will lick himself/herself clean and that is why your dog’s breath smells like fish.

What Should I Do If My Dog’s Breath Smells Like Fish?

If your dog’s breath smells like fish, it means that he/she has successfully emptied his/her glands and licked it up. All you may want to do is brush their teeth or make use of doggy mouthwash or dental spray to freshen your dog’s breath quicker. Luckily, this smell does go away rather quickly.

In the event that your dog continues to lick his/her bum excessively and he/she is scooting often, you may need to get your dog help in emptying the glands. Although some groomers offer this service, it is still best to take your canine to the vet.

Your vet will perform a small and quick procedure that will empty your dog’s anal glands. Regular checkups are advised in this regards especially if your pet suffers from this ailment. Additionally, make sure to make an appointment at the vet should your dog suffer from chronic fish breath that doesn’t go away.

What Can Happen If My Dog’s Anal Glands Are Not Expressed?

When these glands remain full they can become infected. Infection can be caused by rupturing which is extremely painful your dog. If the anal glands are impacted, the same will happen. Your dog will need to go on a course of antibiotics to clear this up and require medication to alleviate the pain.

Do All Dogs Have Problems in Expressing Their Anal Glands?

No, luckily not. Most dogs are able to empty these glands when necessary on their own if it does not occur naturally when they do their business. By manually expressing the glands when it is not needed you could actually create other unnecessary health complications for your dog.

Take your dogs to the vet regularly to empty their anal glands to prevent rupturing and infections.

It is best left alone if your pooch is not diagnosed with this specific ailment. However, some small breeds of dogs are more prone to this particular problem. This is because the secretion of the glands is thick and like toothpaste in consistency which makes it hard for them to express naturally.

If your pet has this problem you will need to take them to the vet regularly to empty their anal glands to prevent rupturing and infections.

In Conclusion

So actually if your dog’s breath smells like fish, it is not something that should cause undue concern. It just means that your dog has successfully expressed their anal glands and licked up the secretion. It is only when your dog cannot do this by himself/herself or if the fish breath lingers for some time that you can be sure something else fishy is going on with your dog and that a visit to the vet is in order.


This article was originally posted on No Longer Wild “a crazy fan of dogs, cats and all kinds of in-house little cute pets.” Permission to post was given to Pet Guardian Angels of America.