Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?

Phew, Fido! Does your best friend smell a mackerel? It happens, and it’s unpleasant, but you can fumigate Fido. But why does my dog smell like fish?

Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?

What could be causing it? Let’s look at some common reasons and see what to do about them.

Anal Glands

Oh, yuck. Yes, your dog may need its anal glands expressed. Aside from that fishy odor, if your dog is scooting on the carpet or if you see brownish gunk, that may be the source of the problem. If you aren’t squeamish, and if you are very sanitary and careful about the process, you can “express” them yourself. Here’s how. However, it’s a pretty unpleasant procedure. If your reaction was, “No way!” then you can also have it done by your veterinarian or a professional dog groomer. If anal glands are the culprit for the odor, you may wish to consult your veterinarian about your dog’s diet. An overweight dog on a fatty diet may have more anal gland issues. Smaller dogs also tend to have more problems with anal glands than large dogs.

Liver or Kidney Function Problems

If anal glands are not the problem, please see your veterinarian, soon. We noticed this smell and sure enough, our pet had diabetes. This isn’t necessarily a death sentence; you can cope with many pet illnesses. However, this will require veterinary treatment.

Dental Issues

Pets need their teeth cleaned, too. If Fido’s breath smells like a dead fish, it may be time to schedule teeth cleaning. Smaller breeds may need their teeth professionally cleaned twice a year; larger dogs are usually good with one time per year. In between, though, you can learn how to clean your dog’s teeth on your own. If you start when they are puppies, believe us, it’s a lot easier! Check with your veterinarian for instructions and a starter set of tooth-cleaning equipment.


Dogs love to roll in smelly stuff, and sometimes, it’s time for a bath! However, the bath will be a waste of time unless you also make sure your dog’s bedding is clean. When was the last time the dog bedding was washed? It will need a thorough wash (use a gentle detergent) and dry, depending upon the manufacturer’s instructions. Most dog beds allow you to unzip, remove padding, and then wash. While the bedding is washing, check the floor area. You may find that the area itself needs a good scrubbing.


Your smelly dog may need a thorough bath to get rid of fishy smell. Make sure that you use a shampoo designed for washing dogs, not something that you have kicking around the bathtub. You might end up using something that is irritating or even dangerous to your dog. Check with your veterinarian or a groomer to ensure you use something appropriate. We found we really liked oatmeal-based shampoos for our dogs, which were gentle yet effective.


You may be feeding Fido something that doesn’t agree with him. Definitely consult your veterinarian, who will be able to guide you about the best type of food for your dog. Some dogs have issues with grain-based foods and you might be better doing more of a meat-based diet. At any rate, your veterinarian is the best place to start finding food that better suits your dog.