The 5 most common causes of your dog's strong odor.

A fishy odor coming from your dog is cause for concern. The source of this noxious odor could be their mouth, butt, or even their entire body.

It's not pleasant for you as a dog owner if your dog has a fishy odor. One's diet may be to blame for a fishy odor, but other factors, such as problems with the anal glands, may require medical attention.  

This article will discuss five potential causes of your dog's fishy odor and possible solutions.  

One, problems related to the anatomical salivary glands

According to Dr. Hunter Finn, owner of Pet Method and veterinarian, "the absolute most common reason your dog may smell fishy is due to a very common condition with a normal part of their anatomy called the anal glands."

They are fluid-secreting sacs that dogs use to mark their territory. Finn says that if there's a problem, the odor of this fluid can become overpowering.  

Blockage or infection of the anal sacs are two common causes of discomfort. Glands issues aren't the only thing allergies can mess with.

Problems with the anal gland can cause more than just a fishy odor.

  • Moving their bottom across the floor by scooting or dragging it
  • A common behavior is licking or scratching the butt.
  • Inability to defecate
  • When there is evidence of either blood or pus in the bowel movements or the butt area.

As for how to fix it, that's something that has to do with how bad the anal gland issues are. Vets need to manually empty blocked anal glands, according to Dr. Shadi Ireifej, founder and chief medical officer of VetTriage.

Your dog appears to be frightened.

If there is no blockage or infection, your dog's anal glands may still give off an unpleasant fishy odor. When they are feeling stressed, anxious, or frightened, this behavior could be a natural part of the "fight or flight" response.  

Dr. Shadi Ireifej, the founder and chief medical officer of VetTriage, explains that "if your dog gets alarmed or scared, an automatic bodily response is to secrete the anal glands."  

Now you know what's up with the fishy odor your dog emits only when they're feeling anxious. Is it common for the anal glands to release distinctly scented gases depending on how the person is feeling? Consider it necessary to elaborate if that is the case.

There are other signs of canine anxiety, including:

  • Shaking
  • Panting
  • Yawning
  • Extravagant licking
  • Barking
  • Whining 
  • Hiding
  • Escaping or attempting to flee

Anxiety-induced odour in the ano is not a real medical condition, so there's no need to treat it. However, if this is a common occurrence and your dog suffers from severe anxiety, you may want to work on calming them down.  

Dogs can get relief from their anxiety in a few different ways.

  • Use desensitization and counterconditioning techniques to train your dog.
  • Treating their anxiety with medication (prescribed by your veterinarian).
  • Assisting them in avoiding precipitating events
  • Care for your dog's health

Third, the way one eats can be traced in one's exhaled

The breath of a dog who eats fish can sometimes have an unpleasant fishy odor.  

"Many times it's because the dog is actually getting into the cat's fish-based wet food," explains Finn. "But some dog foods are actually mainly fish-based proteins, and it can leave a strong odor when they come to lick you."  

If your dog has fishy breath because of what they eat, treatment isn't necessary unless the odor is intolerable.  

Finn advises that this problem can be solved by including protein sources other than fish in your dog's diet. However, before making any significant dietary changes to your dog, you should consult with your veterinarian to rule out the possibility of gastrointestinal distress.

If your cat eats fish-based food, keep it out of your dog's reach or take other precautions to prevent your dog from eating it.  

IV. Oral Illness

Ireifej says, "Dental disease in dogs can produce any number of foul odors, with a fishy odor being one possibility."  

There is a genetic predisposition for dental disease in some dogs, and if you haven't been keeping up with your dog's oral hygiene, problems could develop.   

It's possible that a dental infection is what's causing that fishy odor," Finn says.

There are additional warning signs for dental issues in dogs, such as:

  • Bad odor in one's breath
  • Stains on the teeth
  • Tartar-coated teeth
  • Discoloration or bleeding of the gums or mouth
  • Consuming fewer or no meals
  • Tooth decay
  • Cracked teeth
  • Drooling 

How severe your dog's dental disease is will determine the course of treatment. Ireifej explains that some potential treatments are:

  • Modifying your dog's diet and lifestyle by, for example, switching them from wet food to kibble (kibble is abrasive and can help scrape plaque away) or using dental chews (chews designed specifically for the teeth)
  • Antibiotics, NSAIDs, and painkillers are all examples of medications that fall into this category.
  • Extraction of teeth

Find out from your vet the best way to take care of your dog's teeth. They are able to give tailored recommendations.

5. UTIs (urinary tract infections)

Finn warns that a urinary tract infection can be present if your dog's urine has a fishy odor. When bacteria multiply out of control, this happens.  

According to Finn, a urinalysis performed by your veterinarian is all that's needed to diagnose a UTI.  

Many dogs experience additional signs of a urinary tract infection besides just a fishy odor in the bladder.

  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Trying very hard to hold your bladder
  • Tears while peeing
  • Urine containing blood

Antibiotics are the standard treatment for a urinary tract infection, according to Finn. UTIs are common, but it's important to investigate the root cause, especially if they keep coming back.  

According to Ireifej, some of the root causes of UTIs are:

  • Stones in the urethra
  • Issues with the bladder, such as growths or polyps.
  • Urologic Disorders
  • Male canine prostatitis
  • Abnormalities of the female dog's genitalia, specifically her vagina and vulvar areas.

Your vet can help you figure out if your dog's UTIs are caused by something more serious and whether or not your pet needs any additional treatment.  

The takeaway for insiders

Problems with the dog's anal glands or teeth can contribute to a fishy odor. You should take them to the vet if they show any of these symptoms, and especially if they show any others.  

Your veterinarian can help you figure out why your dog is emitting a fishy odor and what can be done to make him or her feel better.  

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