Quite often dog owners may be surprised about a fishy smell strongly emanating from their dogs. The fishy smell may be due to different problems. If your dog suddenly has a fishy smell, your best bet is a veterinarian appointment to confirm the source of the smell and a treat it accordingly.
Causes of Fishy Smell in Dogs
• Anal Gland Issues
The most common source of fishy smells in dogs are the anal glands. The anal glands are two glands found at the 4 o’ clock and 8 o’ clock positions around the rectum. These glands commonly secrete a fluid when the dog defecates, however if the dog’s stool is not firm enough, these glands may not empty and they may cause discomfort. This often results in a dog ‘’scooting’’ across the carpet for relief.
The anal gland secretions act as business cards and this is why dogs like to sniff each other’s rears and feces. They work in a similar way as scent glands in skunks. Anal gland fluid is also released when a dog marks its territory or when a dog is very fearful of something. C.A. Donovan in the Journal of American Veterinary Association describes how an anal gland substance emitted by an alarmed dog in an examination room can be perceived by other dogs which will avoid that particular room.
If a dog scoots or licks the anal glands, some anal gland fluid may secrete. Anal gland fluid has a very strong fishy smell that most dog owners find very offensive. Fortunately, the problem can be solved by helping firm up the stools and having the vet perform anal gland expressions.
If the stools firm up they will successfully empty the anal glands as they pass solving the discomfort issues and the fishy smell. The stools may firm up by adding some plain canned pumpkin (not the pie version with spices added) to the dog’s meal.
If you feed your dog fish based kibble this could also be a cause of fishy breath. Fish based diets are often prescribed by veterinarians for dogs skin allergies. If your dog's breath smells fishy and you feed fish based kibble using salmon, trout or sardines as the main ingredients, then this is the most likely culprit.
• Rolling over Dead Fish
If your dog has access to the great outdoors near lakes or streams, he may have rolled over dead fish if the smells appears to come from the skin. Dogs are naturally attracted to dead animals and will roll on the carcasses happily. There are various theories as to why dogs may do this. Some believe dogs do this to mask their natural smell with the smell of the animal so they can be less likely to be detected when hunting, others believe that dogs like to show off their new smells just as humans like to show off a designer handbag or a diamond ring.
If you happen to notice a strong fishy smell in your dog you should try to figure out exactly where it is coming from. The mouth and the anal glands are generally the most common sources of fishy smells. So it is a good idea to check both ends and then consult a veterinarian with your findings.