Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?

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No, Your Dog Should Not Smell Like Fish

We’ve all heard the old adage that “dog is man’s best friend.” Readers of this website also know that fishing is, arguably, man’s greatest pastime.

That said, most of us like to keep a healthy distance between the distinct smells of our four-legged companions and our legless aquatic pals. But, as they say, “things happen!”

So, why does your dog smell like fish?

There are a few reasons why your canine companion must be emanating a pungent, “fishy” odor. In trying to determine the root cause, consider trying to found the source of the smell. It might not be pleasant, but knowing where the smell is originating may give you a better idea of why your dog smells like fish.

  • Dog your dog’s breath smell like fish?
  • Does the dog’s coat or body have a fishy odor?
  • Is the smell coming for the dog’s anus?

The good thing is that, regardless of the origin, most of the underlying reasons can easily be remedied via a mixture of diet and lifestyle changes. If your dog regularly has a fishy stench, however, there may be some deeper issues that should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Below, we will look at some of the main reason why a dog might smell like fish.

The Dog May Have Been in Physical Contact with Fish

My Dog Smells Like Fish
Dogs who have recently spent time on a creek, river, or even the ocean can carry a slight, lingering “fishy” smell for a while. (Photo via Daniel Boggs)

Assuming your dog smells like fish, this should be the least surprising reason. Most people won’t be in situations where a dog is physically around fish without their knowledge.

If you are fishing the creek with your furry friend, or (even better), took your dog out on the boat, there is a good chance the animal may have come in contact with fish or fish residue. In reality, any exposure to fish (or even fishy water) could produce a lingering scent. Creeks, streams, lakes, pond, rivers, and even oceans can be prime breeders for that distinct smell.

If your dog has been anywhere where either direct or indirect fish contact may have occurred, the strong, fishy odor may blend in with the dog’s coat, leaving a feint-but-lingering stench for a few days. Many dogs do a great job of cleaning themselves, but it never hurts to expedite the cleaning process.

If you believe the scent on your dog may have come from physical contact with a fish, here are a few things to try:

Dog Shampoos

Even if your dog has not been rolling around in fish scales, it doesn’t hurt to give them a regular bath. This is especially true is the pooch will be sharing a bed with you. A few popular brands to try include:

  • Pro Sense Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs: This oatmeal bath is dye-free with an oatmeal and honey scent. It will not only help remove unpleasant smells from your dog’s coat, but also assist with itching.
  • Skunk-Off Odor Removers: We really hope your dog did not encounter fish AND a skunk at the same time. Even though this formula may be geared toward removing skunk odor, it may also help eliminate that fishy stench. If the odor if not overwhelming, though, you would be better off using a more gentle solution.

Clean Up the Coat

A thorough shampooing can help remove odors from your dog’s fur. Sometimes, being proactive and manually extracting some excess fur will be necessary. If the dog tends to shed or has an especially thick coat, this should be a regular occurrence.

To safely and efficiently remove excess fur, consider trying the Furminator Slicker Dog Brush. This tool has been a grooming standard for years and comes in both a firm and a soft version.

While this article is specifically geared to helping make sure your dog smells less like a fish, the Furminator is a great tool to have if your canine is joining you on regular outdoors excursions. If your dog joins you for hunting, hiking, or camping, you will want to make sure that excess fur is regularly removed. This keeps the coat nice and healthy and reduces the amount of cleaning you will need to do when it naturally sheds.

Fish, or Fish Oils, May Have Been Part of the Dog’s Diet

Every now and then, a resourceful dog might find its way into a trash can that contains discarded dinner remains. Maybe some scraps fell on the floor.

Just as likely, however, is that fish is a major ingredient in the dog’s diet. Many popular brands include popular species like salmon and tuna in the mixture.

Some dog owners even reward their dogs with fish on a regular basis. Catfish, cod, herring, whitefish, flounder, light tuna, and salmon are all consider “dog-safe” fish. Fish oils (like omegas 3 and 6) are also regularly founds in name-brand dog foods.

If you find that the fish meal scent tends to linger on your dog’s breath, you may want to focus on improving the animal’s dental health. Chew toys, raw hides, and other snacks can help remove the tartar on a dog’s teeth by up to 70%!

Some options to help potentially remove the fishy stench from your dog’s mouth include:

Dog Treats

Dog Toys

Chronic bad breath may be a sign of a more serious, underlying issue, however. If the problem persists for more than a couple weeks, consider discussing further option with your veterinarian.

Your Dog May Have an Issue With Its Anal Glands

Admittedly, this is a less desirable option than the previous two.

And more disgusting.

Many species of dogs will experience issues with their anal glands – two small sacs located inside the dog’s anus. Smaller breeds especially may experience issues with these glands becoming swollen or blocked. To try and relieve any discomfort, the dog may lick its the area regularly.

The mixture of odors from the dog’s anus and glands can, at times, resemble fish.

If your dog’s breath smells particularly “fishy,” then, it is possible that the odor has carried over to its mouth.

At this point, you will need to consult with your veterinarian to discuss treatment options. Sometimes, the dog will simply need its anal glands manually expressed. Other times, a more serious issue may be the cause of your dog smelling like fish.

Final Thoughts on Why Your Dog Smells Like Fish

As we mentioned, there are several reasons that might explain why your dog smells like fish. Direct (or indirect) exposure to fish, fish oils, scales, or slime can mat into a dog’s fur. Sand from the beach can also carry a degree of this scent. A dog’s diet, especially if fish-heavy, may also be a culprit. Finally, a dog’s anal glands may produce the stench. If the dog cleans itself regularly, then the odor may transfer to the tongue and mouth.

If you have any concerns about your dog’s smell (or any potential health conditions), it is always a good idea to follow up with your veterinarian.

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