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Help! My Dog’s Breath Smells Like Fish

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Noticed something fishy about your dog’s breath lately?

As owners, many of us are used to kisses from our pooch as soon as we walk in the door, but when you happen to catch a whiff of your dog’s breath in the process, and the smell nearly knocks you off your feet, you know something is not right!

It’s not as if we expect our dogs to have minty fresh breath, but if you have detected a heavy fish-like odor, then there is a variety of things that might be causing it.

We will be discussing the causes here with you today: from anal sacs to dental problems; we will list all of the possibilities that might be causing your dog’s extra fishy breath so that you can find a way to get rid of it for good!

First, the Fishy Part on My Dog’s Breath Smells like Fish

Bad breath should not be written off as “normal” if it is particularly strong on a regular basis.

Average bad breath is one thing, but if your dog’s breath smells like fish, in particular, it could be due to dental problems or related to their anal sacs.

  • Dental Problems. When something is rotting, it has an extremely potent, distinct smell. If you have detected something rotten and fishy happening in your dog’s mouth, then this could be a sign of a serious dental problem.

A tooth infection, tooth decay or even something more serious like gum disease (as shown in the pictures above) could all be linked to the fishy smell, and one of the signs of gum disease (according to WebMD Pets) is halitosis – more commonly known as bad breath.

Bad breath is just one small symptom of gum disease (and probably not one that would have you rushing your dog to the vet), so keep an eye out for some of the other most common signs, as well.

  • Anal Sacs. The putrid stench of the anal sac fluid in dogs is described in many ways: from a horrid fungal stench to that of dead or rotting fish. Sounds pleasant, doesn’t it?

For those who don’t know, the anal sacs are located on “each side of the anus at the 4 and 8 o’clock position. [Each] sac empties through a short and narrow duct to the surface near the inside edge of the anus” when your dog has a bowel movement.

This fluid tells other passing dogs a little story about your dog: in other words, it “…acts as a powerful territorial scent marker.

Sometimes these sacs become blocked or infected, and naturally, due to the irritation, your dog will lick the area to try to release the fluid. You might also notice your dog “scooting” their bottom across the ground (or your nice rug!) in an attempt to empty the sacs.

If you have noticed them licking their behind, the result is some truly putrid breath that you hope never to smell again!

Other Reasons for Bad Breath

We noticed that many people seem to link the “fishy” odor to the anal sacs, but just because it is one of the most common reasons that a dog’s breath smells like fish does not mean it is the only reason!

As WebMD pet suggests, see your vet “if your dog’s breath suddenly has an unusual smell.”

Bad breath could also be a result of other things such as diet, where the food they eat is causing gastrointestinal problems or “an abnormality in your dog’s liver, kidneys, or lungs.

Sometimes even a simple cleaning of the teeth can help clear up the fishy breath problem, so make sure you assess your dog’s general health before you jump to any conclusions.

When in doubt, just visit the vet!

So What If the Anal Sacs Are the Culprit?

If you have determined that the fishy smell does, indeed, link back to your dog licking his or her backside, then you will probably need to empty (or express) the anal sacs.

Don’t just jump right into to squeezing and prodding your dog’s backside, however, especially if you haven’t ever expressed the anal sacs before.

If there are underlying issues to blame such as an abscess or infected anal sac, then you should NOT try doing it yourself. Take your dog to the vet where they can safely and professionally deal with the problem.

The rest of you can watch this video and do it yourself. We won’t exactly say that it’s the same as watching an episode of your favorite show on Netflix, but it gives you a very clear view of what to do and how to do it.

Note: the man in the video is using his bare hands, but we would highly recommend a pair of latex gloves to help keep your hands free of the liquid.

Now that we have officially grossed you out and before you head off to wash your hands 20 times, we will say that the technique in this video is much easier than what they would do in the vet’s office.

Other techniques include inserting the finger slightly into the anus and then squeezing the anal sac, but it is much more uncomfortable for your dog this way.

Try the technique in the video! It is much easier.


We certainly hoped that you found the reason why your dog’s breath smells like fish in our article.

Some of the most common reasons for fish breath include:

  • Anal sacs (they aren’t secreting normally, they are inflamed, they have an abscess, or they are infected)
  • Dental problems (anything from gum disease to rotting teeth and tooth decay)

A few other reasons for your doggy’s bad breath may be linked to,

  • Diet (food or snacks that irritate the gastrointestinal system)
  • Plaque and tartar buildup on teeth (they just need a simple cleaning)
  • Serious underlying medical issues (consult your vet if you have determined that the problems are deeper or more serious than those we have suggested)

As always, we highly recommend that you consult your vet rather than relying solely on the internet and common opinion.

We put in the research and found the info we included thanks to the help of some professional sources, so if you would like to read more information on the topics we have discussed today, please visit some of our trusted resources for further reading.





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