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Dog Breath Smells Like Fish: Common Causes & Remedies

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As the old adage states, a dog is a man’s best friend. Us humans enjoy having our furry four-legged friends around.

Sometimes there are disadvantages, though, to having the dog around.

An example is the hot dog’s breath in your face when they run up to you. What makes this even worse is if their breath has an odor.

Unpleasant dog breath may seem like a typical dog characteristic, but not all smells are created equal.

If you notice the dog’s breath smells like fish, this is a sign of underlying issues that needs looking into.

What Does It Mean When Your Dog’s Breath Smells Like Fish?

Saying a dog’s breath smells like fish may not be the clearest verdict on the problem.

This phrase could get tossed around by numerous individuals who each mean the term slightly differently.

Therefore, before we go further in addressing causes and remedies, we must first identify what the word means.

When we are referring to dog breath smelling like fish, a pungent, foul odor protruding from the dog’s mouth is unnatural and unwelcome.

It may even smell something rotting. This odor is not simply occurring after eating a meal but is present long-term. You may have noticed this last for weeks.

There are several reasons for this long-lasting odor.

Fish-smelling dog breath can occur at any age and in any breed.

The foul breath is a symptom, so to effectively treat the issue of how dog breath smells like fish, you have to treat the underlying issue.

If not, the dog’s breath smells like fish will be a recurring problem.

Do not make the common mistake of just overlooking the dog’s breath, smelling like fish.

Is Bad Breath In Dogs a Sign of Illness? 

Illness is very likely. There are general health concerns that have either been ignored or unseen.

The bad breath alerts that something in the dog’s body is off.

Foul-smelling breath is connected to overall health and means that somewhere in the body, processes are not performed as they are supposed to be.

Bad breath in dogs could signify illnesses such as periodontal disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease.

A veterinarian visit can solidify the reasoning behind the bad breath.

If this issue has persisted over time, then there should be a concern for your dog’s overall health.

Does Fishy-Smelling Breath Mean Kidney Disease?

Kidney disease is only one of the possible reasons behind fish breath in dogs.

Just because your dog’s breath smells like fish does not automatically mean that they have kidney disease.

Kidney disease in dogs will produce a foul odor in the breath, but that odor tends to be scented more like urine than fish.

However, if you are unsure, it is best to get a professional’s opinion and not let the issue go unattended.

Why Does Your Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?

Most of the reasons behind dog breath smelling like fish deal with health. We will explore those different causes.

Eating Fish

Before going into health-related causes, let us first address the most apparent reason.

If fish were present in their meal, they would temporarily have fish breath.

The bad breath should go away independently after a couple of hours or a day.

Poor Dental Hygiene

Dental health is a common reason behind a dog’s breath smelling like fish.

Dogs need their teeth cleaned regularly to stay healthy.

If not, tartar and plaque will develop on the teeth, just like in humans.

Built-Up Bacteria

The tartar and plaque on the dog’s teeth are bacteria in the mouth.

When left uncleaned, this bacteria can strengthen and multiply.

The built-up bacteria causes more severe oral issues such as gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Gingivitis is gum inflammation. That produces chronic bad breath or halitosis.

Periodontal disease occurs when gingivitis is left untreated.

This disease creates a looseness of the gums and teeth. That leaves areas open for food to get caught and go wrong, aiding the fish’s breath.

Dietary or Gut Issues

There could be fragments of food trapped in the mouth, contributing to the dog’s breath smelling like fish.

The dog may not digest properly, or the dog’s body does not respond well to certain foods.

In this case, the bad breath in the dog indicates finding food that the dog can digest better and is easier on its body.


Diabetes is a cause of bad breath in dogs. Usually, suppose a dog has diabetes, though.

In that case, the odor will be more reminiscent of chemical smells or can be intoxicatingly sweet.

Kidney Problems

When the kidneys are not filtering waste as they should, the excrements linger in the body longer than needed.

This buildup can develop poor-smelling breath in the dog.

Liver Disease

Liver disease is another cause of fishy-smelling dog breath.

With this disease, there is typically vomiting.

That will only prolong the lousy breath to stay around.

When Should You Worry About Fishy Dog Breath?

If a dog’s breath smells like fish, that is usually a sign of a severe health issue that needs treatment.

Unfortunately, dogs will not know or tell you exactly what is wrong, so you must keep a close eye.

These issues can be life-threatening. Most of them require consistent care in order to get their health concern under control.

These diseases do not go away on their own and the dog’s life is at risk the longer they go without treatment of some kind.

How To Make Your Dog’s Fishy Breath Go Away

Fishy breath in dogs can be treated and even reversed.

How long the underlying issue has persisted will determine how long it will take to get rid of the fish’s breath.

Identify the Underlying Cause

We listed some common reasons for your dog’s breath to smell like fish, but you need to look at other symptoms of each disease to help better pinpoint the exact problem.

A veterinarian will be able to tell you the problem before you try troubleshooting and potentially cause more harm.

Treat the Underlying Cause

Treating the underlying cause will treat the fishy breath.

The fishy breath is a by-product of a more significant issue.

Call the Vet

When you contact your vet, make sure that you have been logging the symptoms the dog has been experiencing. Take note of any behavior that seems out of the normal.

More information helps the veterinarian to make a better prognosis.

Brush Their Teeth

Brushing the teeth can remove any extra bacteria buildup present in the mouth.

Doing this regularly can prevent more bacteria from being harbored in the mouth, which will lead to serious dental disease.

Provide Dental Chews and Rawhide

By giving your dog dental chews and rawhide, they are able to scrape away any bacteria or plaque buildup just by continuous chewing.

You will just need to double-check that fragments have not gotten lodged in their mouth.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are common questions often asked associated.

Can dogs eat fish?

Yes. It is perfectly fine for dogs to eat fish. The only concerns are making sure that all bones are removed to prevent tearing in the throat if swallowed and watching the mercury levels in fish offered to the dog.

Is fishy-smelling breath a sign of teething in puppies?

In puppies, teething is a common cause of fish breath. If the cause is teething, the bad breath should go away after teething is over.

Wrapping Up

When a dog’s breath smells like fish, there are many reasons behind this.

Avoid the common misconception that bad breath is always normal because highly foul-smelling odors are not normal and should not persist.

There are ways around the issue that revolve around being active in your dog’s health.

A dog’s breath may smell like fish, but it does not have to stay that way.

Understanding the underlying cause will help you to have better results when treating the bad breath as a whole.

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