There’s only one thing in this world that will prevent me from letting my dog jump on my lap and give me lots of kisses: stinky dog breath! Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?
While our furry friends might be adorable, it’s just a fact that their breath can absolutely stink. The worst is when your dog’s breath starts to smell fishy. Who wants to deal with constant fish breath in their face?
Certainly not me!
Figuring out exactly what is causing the fishiness can be especially difficult if you don’t feed your dog with any fish in it. Why does my dog’s breath smell like fish?
Luckily for you, we’ve got the answers you need. Some are a little gross, but you’ve gotta know the problem to be able to enact a solution.
Stinky Dog Breath: Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?
For humans, bad breath often happens when we forget to brush our teeth before bed, or when we eat something particularly pungent just before sleeping.
Bad breath, officially named halitosis, doesn’t just happen. There is always a reason for it!
When your dog gets bad breath, it’s typically caused by the buildup of bacteria in the mouth, lungs or stomach. This leads to the a number of not-so-great smelling odors.
There are a few reasons why dogs have a tendency to get bad breath:
- Very susceptible to gum disease
- Lots of tartar buildup
- Plague can build up easily
- In small breeds, teeth that are close together lead to bacteria buildup as well
What’s The Simplest Solution As To Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?
The simplest way to get rid of bad breath is to give your dog a dental chew! Inexpensive dental chews will help loosen up and remove buildup in their mouths. This will lead to less bacteria, which means less bad breath!
Additionally, make sure their teeth are getting brushed regularly.
Here are a few more simple tips on how to reduce bad breath:
Where Does The Fishiness Question Come From?
The problem you’re still probably wondering about is why does my dog’s breath smell like fish?.
I hate to tell you that the reason is a little bit disgusting, but it’s important for you as a dog owner to understand why this fishiness happens. It is possible that your dog’s breath is getting fishy because they are licking their butt.
Every dog has anal sacs full of anal gland fluid in their butt. A bit of this fluid is released when they go to the bathroom. If this process does not happen properly, the anal glands can build up with fluid and become infected.
When your dog licks this area, bacteria from the infection can get into their mouth, and this is what causes the fishy smell!
Yes, that is disgusting.
Still, we love our dogs!
As bad as the smell is to you, your dog is probably pretty uncomfortable, too. Anal sac infections aren’t known to be incredibly painful, but they can’t be comfortable for your dog either. If you suspect your dog has this problem, it’s time to do something about it.
Here are some warning signs of an anal sac buildup:
- Fishy breath smell
- “Scooting” their butt on the floor
- Regularly licking their butt after going to the bathroom
- Sensitive to the touch near their tail area
If you notice one or more of these signs, it is time to do something about this possible infection.
Is It Dangerous For My Dog’s Breath To Stink?
Now that you know bad breath is typically caused by the buildup of bacteria which then creates the distasteful odors, you may be wondering if bad breath is dangerous to your dog’s health.
Honestly speaking, there’s not a clear answer here.
It might be nothing.
If your dog’s bad breath is caused by unbrushed teeth, anal glands, or another small problem, easy-peasy. All you need to do is resolve this issue, and your dog will be back on a full bill of good health.
If, however, a more serious issue like stomach worms, liver disease, or another condition is causing the bacteria to develop and build up, you could be in for more vet visits, treatments, and bills before you can be confident that they are healthy.
Solving Stinky Fish Breath
Since this article is mostly about stinky breath in dogs that smells like fish, we’re going to focus on how to get rid of that problem. The solution can be a little scary, but it really works!
The Anal Gland Problem
Here is what you need to do about your dog’s anal glands.
- Check with your vet on their opinion of whether or not your dog needs their anal glands to be emptied, or expressed, as it is commonly called. Usually, a dog’s body does this naturally when going to the bathroom.
- If a dog’s glands have become backed up, the glands will need to be expressed. Usually, this will need to be done only one or two times before they start functioning properly again. If done too frequently, it can actually cause more harm than good!
- Once the glands are cleared, the fishy smell should leave your dog’s breath within just a few days.
Can I Express My Dog’s Anal Glands Myself?
If your dog’s anal gland situation isn’t too serious, it’s possible for you to treat it at home.
Remember this, however. If your dog’s anal glands have abscessed, you must take them to the vet. They will need prescription antibiotics for up to two weeks in addition to the actually express treatment, so a veterinarian is essential.
If your dog is very squirmy, has pus or blood buildup around their butt, or is very sensitive in that area, you should visit a vet. Don’t attempt to do it alone.
Here is how to handle a simple clogged anal gland at home:
- Kneel beside your large dog or put your small dog on a counter to start the process.
- Have a friend that your dog is comfortable with gently restrain your dog, as they will likely try to run away while you are attempting to do this procedure.
- Put on latex or latex-like gloves before continuing. This is necessary!
- Lubricate your index finger with any water-based lubricant.
- Gently lift your dog’s tail. Very gently push your index finger about one inch into your dog’s butt.
- Feel around for the gland. It is about the size of a marble or pea and should be to the bottom area of where you put your finger in.
- Holding a paper towel near your dog’s anus, use a milking motion to push any buildup or pus out of the gland. Only put a tiny bit of pressure on the gland; this is enough!
- The gland should get significantly smaller once you complete this process. In fact, you might not even be able to feel it at all!
- Find the second gland; repeat the process.
While this process requires a lot of effort on your part, it’s actually quite easy to do.
Remember that even though this process is simple, it is not something that you want to do too frequently. Over-expressing the glands can actually cause damage to the glands themselves, so I would not do this more than two times at home.
If you suspect your dog’s anal glands need to be expressed again and you have already done it at home before, I recommend taking your dog to the vet for a more thorough examination.
If The Stinky Breath Keeps Happening…
The fishy smell should be gone once your dog’s anal glands are back to functioning normally.
However, there are cases where it comes back.
It’s possible that your dog has a permanent problem with their anal glands! So how do you adjust for that issue?
The key here is to change your dog’s diet. Your dog will need more fiber. Fiber helps to make the poop have more bulk. This extra bulk will push more on the anal glands which will help them to express properly while your dog goes to the bathroom.
If the problem is not resolved by a change in diet, talk to your vet.
They may recommend a treatment called an anal sacculectomy. In this procedure, the anal glands are removed completely to get rid of any risk for infection in the future. Talk to your vet about this option if anal gland infections become a regular part of your dog’s life.
Say “Be Gone!” To Stinky Dog Breath
There’s nothing worse than wanting to cuddle with your best friend when their stinky breath keeps ruining things!
Fixing your dog’s oral hygiene might be the simple solution you need to solve any bad breath problems for your dog. Otherwise, you may need to take a look at their anal glands to figure out the real issue.
Either way, this is a fairly easy issue to solve at home, so don’t put up with bad breath any longer! Your dog’s breath can be fresh…and it should be!