Pet owner holding his nose, holding his dog.

Dogs can smell like a lot of things, depending on what they eat, their health, and what things they have been exposed to (or rolled around on) outdoors. But if your dog is smelling like last night’s flounder dinner, it can be both offensive to the olfactory system and also concerning. 

Why does my dog smell like fish? That’s what the team at Arlington Animal Hospital is here to explain.

Tip of the Nose to the Tail

Before getting into some of the medical conditions that cause a pet to smell fishy is to try and locate where it is coming from. Does your dog’s mouth smell like fish, ears, under the tail, or just in general? 

There are several reasons why your pup may smell a little funky and finding out where the odor is most apparent can help figure the mystery out.

Some health conditions that cause a fishy or unusual smell include:

  • Ear infections
  • Bacteria or yeast infections of the skin
  • Kidney disease
  • Skin conditions like dandruff
  • Periodontal disease
  • Parasites
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Diabetes

This is why it is essential to have  your pet examined if you notice a foul odor, just to rule out more serious medical concerns.

The Anal Scent Glands

If your dog is emiting a fishy odor, the most likely cause is that the anal glands are impacted and need to be released. The anal sacs are the size of peas and are psoitioned on both side of the inside of your dog’s rectum. These sacs have an oily substance that is released through your dog’s excrement. It is a marker to other dogs and animals that have territory, readiness to mate, and so on.

This “clogged” system will cause a dog to scoot their rear on the ground, as you may have witnessed. They need to have the glands released, and this is done by the veterinarian or most groomers. You can also learn to do this simple task by asking us for instructions.

Yeast Overgrowth

Yeast will cause a somewhat fishy scent when there is a problem with overgrowth or infection. Yeast, like bacteria, are naturally occurring and are on the skin, ears, and warm, damp places that encourage their growth. If your female dog smells funky, they may have a yeast or bacterial infection, such as vaginitis. Check for any signs of yellow or white discharge as another indicator of this infection.

Many dogs also have a problem with ear infections due to overgrown yeast and/or bacteria. Some heavily wrinkled dogs like bulldogs and Shar-Peis suffer sometimes from an overgrowth of yeast, which loves to hide and proliferate in the folds of their skin.

Bad Breath

Dental disease is common in dogs (especially those who don’t receive routine pet dental exams) and because of this, bad breath, or halitosis, is reported in many canines. P

eriodontal disease causes your dog’s breath to smell and this condition can cause serious problems down the road. Broken and loose teeth, discoloration, tooth loss, infection, and abscess are only some of the problems associated with dental disease, which is why dental cleaning and tooth brushing are a must for our furry friends.

Kidney disease and diabetes mellitus are two conditions that cause unusual or foul breath. 

Help! My Dog Smells Like Fish

Aside from the odor, we are sure you would  be concerned if your dog has that unmistakable fish smell. In many cases, the anal glands are impacted, but since there are an array of other problems related to a foul odor, it is best to call us. We can get to the, um… bottom of why your dog smells like fish.