Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?

Straight Answers to a Fishy Question

There are some questions in life you probably never imagined you would hear yourself asking. “Why does my dog smell like fish?” is likely one of them.

Assuming he hasn’t been rolling around outside in something foul-smelling—or even worse, eating poop and other noxious items—this post offers some quick and dirty answers to your fishy question.

Let’s run down a short list, and then I’ll jump right into today’s topic:

  • Anal Gland Impaction
  • Skin Conditions
  • Illness or Infection
  • Halitosis
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders


As embarrassed as your dog may be to admit it, impacted anal glands may be the cause of his…odorous self.

Does your dog often drag his butt on the ground, across the floor, or nip at and lick his hind end? If so, he may have impacted anal glands.

Your pup’s anal sacs lie internally on either side of his anus and are meant to empty themselves when he poops, gets scared, or marks his territory. Each dog actually has his own unique scent. This is why dogs often greet each other with butt-sniffing! But sometimes these sacs get blocked (impacted), causing that awkward, fishy odor.

Certain breeds are more susceptible than others to anal sac impaction, but it can happen to any dog, leaving Snoopy super stinky and uncomfortable.

If left untreated, impaction can lead to infection and other problems. It’s best to head to the vet (or groomer) and have your dog’s glands expressed manually. It’s a simple, straightforward process.

Your veterinarian or groomer may even show you how to manually express the glands yourself, thus avoiding future trips to have it done professionally. Frequent trips to the veterinarian are costly, so taking care of this issue at home can yield great savings.


Yeast and bacteria cause common skin conditions which can also make your pup smell badly. Heck, just like people, dogs can get dandruff, leaving them with oily, flaky, offensive-smelling skin.

As I mentioned in a prior post, my Chiweenie, Charlie Brown, naturally smells like rotten Fritos. Frequent bathing helps but doesn’t solve the issue. Within 24-48 hours of his bath, he is smelly once again.

My close friend has the same problem with her Pit Bull, although he smells more like fish than Fritos.

If Snoopy’s skin seems to be the culprit, experiment with various shampoos to see if you smell any improvements. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Oh, and make sure to keep your dog’s bedding clean and fresh. If he loves his bed and spends a lot of time there, your problem could simply be stale bedding.

When none of these things seems to help, or if your dog scratches excessively and seems uncomfortable, take him to the vet to see if he can get some relief from meds or supplements.

A comfortable dog is a happy dog. A clean-smelling dog makes for a happy owner!


Infections, kidney disease, diabetes or even parasites can also cause fishy or foul odors in dogs. And if your dog is female, she could have a yeast infection or some other related problem. Not even dogs escape female issues!

All these possibilities merit a trip to the veterinarian, but gather some information first.

Sniffing your dog from top to bottom may help you locate the source of Snoopy’s odor. Is it coming from his ears, hind-end, or some other location? And is this a chronic smell, or has it popped up more recently?

Being armed with information may help your vet have a better understanding of what’s going on and come to a quicker diagnosis.

You don’t want to miss anything important about your dog’s overall health.


Most people assume that all dogs have halitosis, or bad breath. After all, isn’t that where the phrase “dog breath” comes from? But that just isn’t the case.

My dog Charlie Brown may have stinky skin, but his breath smells just fine. I know because he is always in my face!

Dental disease is common in dogs and can definitely cause bad breath. Loose, missing or broken teeth, infection, abscess—all of these are possible sources for that fishy smell.

More importantly, foul or unusual-smelling dog breath could be symptomatic of an underlying health concern like diabetes or kidney infection. If you don’t see any visual signs of dental decay etc., getting your dog screened for underlying disease by your vet is a priority.


Intestinal inflammation, infection, and cancer are all possible causes for halitosis and other unsavory smells. Watch your dog closely for signs of intestinal distress such as vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite.

Has he been eating the same food for months or years and is suddenly refusing to eat or throwing up his meals?

A day or so of such behavior isn’t unusual. After all, he may have eaten something you’re unaware of that has upset his stomach.

Two or more days with an upset stomach is another matter.

I know I sound like a broken record! But again, set an appointment to see your vet for ongoing digestive or appetite issues. Poor health may be the underlying cause of his distress.


Nobody likes a stinky dog. As you can see, if you’ve been wondering why on earth your dog smells fishy, there are plenty of possible reasons.

If regular bathing does not wash away the funkiness, the most likely culprit is Snoopy’s anal glands. Unless there is some other obvious problem, I would start by inspecting his hind end, especially if he is dragging his hiney across the floor or ground.

With that said, don’t hesitate to call your vet. He should be able to put an end to the stink! Remember, the end goal is a happy, healthy dog.

As always, if you have questions or concerns that I might help you with, be sure to comment below and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.



4 thoughts on “Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?”

  1. Ingrid Robins

    Your article is very detailed and has a lot of good points. I used to look after my friend’s dog, and he also had a foul smell. I washed him with tea tree oil shampoo, and it solved the problem – but the next day, the smell was back again. Now I know why this has happened. He also had a lot of wind by changing his diet the problem was fixed. It takes a lot to look after a dog. Most people are not aware of issues that can arise when owning a dog,

    Thank You for your article I learned a lot. 


    1. Ingrid, it DOES take a lot of work to look after a dog! Thankfully, they make it worth our while:) There certainly are  many different reasons behind our dog’s odors!


  2. Hi Carrie, thanks for such an informative post on taking good care of your dog. If there is a smell, there must be a reason. I think that is the gist of the post. It is interesting to realize the variety of issues that may be causing the problem. If we do not like to be uncomfortable and look for solutions to our problems, it is a good plan to help out our animals find solutions that they cannot solve by themselves. A vet is a good place to get information, but if you can take care of it at home, I am sure you will save yourself some cash as well. Thanks!

    1. You’re welcome, and you’re absolutely right:) Our pups rely upon us to pay attention to their needs. 

      Thanks for sharing, Carolyn!


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