Dog Smells Fishy (Urine, Breath)? Get Rid of Anal Gland Problems

Dog Smells Fishy - Breath, Urine or Butt 2
A fishy smell from your dog can mean quite a few things, especially problems with the anal glands.

When you notice an unusual smell from your dog, you definitely want to find out what causes it and how you can get rid of it fast. A dog that smells fishy may not be very pleasing to spend time with. Even worse, if his breath and urine smell awful, the entire yard may as well start stinking.

The main cause of a fishy smell in dogs is retention of anal gland fluid. Anal sacs start to leak when they are full and that is when you will start to notice a strong fishy odor from your dog. The best way to get rid of it is by expressing the anal glands of your dog.

But that may not be the only reason why your furry friend has an unusual odor. Some pet owners believe that their dogs develop a certain smell that does not go away due to age. If your dog is older and begins to smell bad, it is a normal process, but if you notice this problem in a slightly younger dog, you need to start worrying and do something about it.

The role of anal sacs

Anal sacs, also called anal glands, are not glandular in nature. They are located on both sides of your dog’s anus and are full of specialized sweat glands that define the scent of your dog.

This scent carries a lot of information about your dog – that mostly other dogs will understand. This is also why dogs like to smell each tail and anal area when they meet.

The natural way of expressing anal glands is when passing stool. If for some reason your dog is unable to express these sacs, you will start to notice the unpleasant fishy odor. If you are careful, you will learn that the odor comes from the rear end of Fido.

Anal Gland Problems That Cause a Fishy Odor

A fishy odor is most likely emanating from the anal area of your dog. Normally, when dogs defecate, a small amount of anal gland fluid is secreted. Due to some problems such as diarrhea and impaction, the fluid may not be released.

Full anal glands soon start to leak and you may notice your dog licking the anal area, sometimes even scooting on the floor or carpet to try to relieve the anal area. This is when you will notice the unpleasant fishy odor on your dog.

Anal gland problems that cause a fishy odor include the following:

Impacted anal glands

Full anal sacs mean that there is a problem emptying them. When your furry friend is passing stool, the pressure naturally helps the sacs to release small amounts of the fluid.

Impaction means that the glands have stopped excreting their contents and are clogged. If not dealt with, a bad odor will soon emanate, and further complications such as infections, ruptures, and abscesses may soon follow.

Apart from the unpleasant odor, additional signs of impaction may include the following:

  • Your dog may start scooting (dragging his butt on the floor, carpets, and ground).
  • Increased licking and biting of the anal area.
  • Pus and bleeding from the anal area.
  • Inflamed or reddened skin around the anus.

If you notice the fishy odor, try to examine the dog’s anal area to see if there is something unusual. In most cases, expressing anal glands will get rid of the bad odor.


Tumors can cause the sacs to enlarge and sometimes become stiff. This way, their ability to empty themselves becomes limited. As soon as they fill up, you will notice a change of scent on your dog.

Do not try to diagnose and treat tumors at home. Take your dog to the veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment to relieve the glands.

Anal gland infections and rapture

Infected or raptured sacs will leak and change your dog’s smell in general. If severe, you may notice the brownish fluid leaking, and the fishy smell may become very severe.

Another symptom of infection is abscesses and pain. Your dog will start to exhibit signs of pain and itchiness in the anal area.


Frequently passing soft stools due to some reasons such as constipation and stomach infections may also result in a fishy smell.

Canine diarrhea reduces your dog’s natural ability to empty his anal sacs when defecating. The best way to deal with this is to find out the cause of the loose stool and addressing it. I highly recommend seeing a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Commonly affected breeds

Is the problem prevalent in large or small breeds?

According to PetMD, relatively uncommon in cats and large breed dogs, anal gland infections and impactions are more often diagnosed in small breeds such as Toy and Miniature Poodles, Chihuahuas, and Lhasa Apsos. Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and Beagles also rank high on the list of breeds affected by anal gland difficulties.

Why Your Dog’s Urine Smells Fishy

There are a few reasons why your dog’s urine might smell fishy, but the most important thing is to determine whether the smell is coming from their urine or butt.

If you established that the fishy smell is coming from the urine, it will be best if you take your dog to the vet. Fishy-smelling urine is the first sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI).

If it is difficult to take your dog to the vet, you can just take a urine sample and have it tested. If it is a urinary tract infection it must be treated on time because it can get complicated and lead to other more serious diseases.

Fishy Breath When the Dog Licks Himself

When your dog’s mouth smells bad, it is a sign that you must investigate the cause. It is a fact that your dog will never have the most pleasant breath, but a bad odor coming out of the mouth of your pet is never a normal thing.

This problem mostly occurs when dogs have an issue with their anus gland. When the gland gets blocked the dog will try to solve the issue and begin to lick it. While doing so, the bad smell will transfer to the mouth. If you notice something like that, take your dog to the vet.

How to Get Rid of The Foul Smell at Home

Dietary remedy

Although diet may not be the only fix for a fishy smell in dogs, it may go a long way in helping your dog recover from anal gland problems that caused it in the first place.

Feed your dog food rich in fiber. This will help improve the bulk of stool your dog is passing. It may also prevent diarrhea. Bulky stools exert the necessary pressure on the rectal walls near the anus which can help express and empty the anal gland content naturally.

Routinely express anal glands

This should be part of your grooming routine, especially for small dogs. Expressing Fido’s anal sacs should not be a necessity in healthy dogs. Regular exercise, nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight should prevent anal gland problems in dogs.

If you have a small dog weighing 20 pounds and below, you may want to make it a routine to express his anal glands by hand on a regular basis. Note that this is not likely going to solve the problem if the fishy odor is a result of an already diseased dog.


A veterinarian will diagnose your dog to determine whether the odor is because of a problem with his anal glands. Sometimes, the doctor will express each of the glands in order to examine the secretions to see if they are infected.

  • In some cases – such as those of impaction – expressing the sacs is all that is needed to get rid of the odor problem and relieve the dog of the unpleasant symptoms that come with it.
  • In the case where your dog is diagnosed with a bacterial infection, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the problem. Pain medications may also be given to relieve the canine’s anal pain.
  • Abscessed anal glands and tumors may require that surgery be done to provide drainage and to remove damaged and infected tissues.

Doctors also usually recommend warm compresses to help ease the anal sacs and reduce impaction. Ensure that you discuss with your trusted vet to guide you on how to do the compresses on your dog without hurting him.

(Video) How to express your dog’s anal glands


Why do female dogs smell fishy?

Female dogs can sometimes develop a weird, fishy smell in their hind area. One of the reasons why your female dog might smell fishy is because of a yeast, bacterial or viral infection.

If the condition is not being treated, the bad, fishy smell can be spread all around the area where your dog sits or even lies down.

These issues can easily be treated with the right type of medication. Every weird smell, coming out of your female dog is never a normal thing and is always a sign of a medical condition.

Can a fixed female dog smell fishy?

To answer this question simply – Yes. Even a fixed female dog can smell fishy because they can still get an infection.