Why Your Dog Smells Like Fish and How To Stop It

Your beloved furry buddies can smell like a lot of things. Most of them have that ‘dog smell’ we all know – similar to the scent of popcorn. But because of their adventurous nature, some dogs can get some scents stuck on their furs like the smells of garbage, animal feces, skunk, soil, and other random stinky things. But if your dog smells fishy, he may have a problem with his anal glands.  

Dog Smells Like Fish

If your dog smells like fish, his anal glands could be the culprit

Dogs have two small sacs located on each side of their anus. They are called anal glands and they contain specialized fluids with strong and unpleasant scents that are exclusive to each dog. These fluids serve as scent markers. When your dog defecates, his anal sacs secrete this fluid to allow his unique scent to spread through his feces. This is the reason why dogs smell the rear ends or feces of other dogs, and this is how they get to know each other. 

Fluids from anal glands have a strong and fishy smell. If your dog smells like fish, it is very likely that he has anal sac disease. With this condition, his anal glands may be impacted, infected, or have tumors. 

Impaction is the most common anal sac problem in dogs. Dogs’ anal glands are expressed every time they defecate. But when a dog has an impacted anal sac, these sacs cannot express properly – and it can be a very painful experience. Impaction can make your pet’s sacs hard to press. If left untreated, the impaction can lead to an infection that can cause the affected anal gland to rupture.
 

Your dog’s anal sacs can also develop tumors. When this happens, a biopsy and an ultrasound may be needed. 

Which Dogs Are the Most Affected?

All dogs regardless of their breed can develop anal sac disease. In fact, it is estimated that 12% of all dogs have experienced anal gland problems at one point in their lives. However, obese dogs are more likely to have it compared to those who are not.  

For some reason, anal gland infections are seen more often in smaller dog breeds, such as Basset Hounds, Chihuahuas, Cocker Spaniels, Mini Poodles, and Lhasa Apsos 

Health problems, such as chronic diarrhea, anal sphincter muscle dysfunction, overproduction of anal fluids, and infection or trauma in the perianal area, can also lead dogs to develop the anal sac disease.   

Signs of Anal Sac Disease in Dogs 

So, your dog smells like fish, but does it automatically mean that he has anal sac disease? There are other signs of anal sac disease in dogs and you must pay attention to them. If your dog has the condition, he may show the following signs. 

  • Scooting (or rubbing his rear end on the floor) 
  • Biting or licking his own anus 
  • Having a hard time defecating 
  • Inflammation around the anus 
  • Discoloration around the anus area 

Your Dog Smells Like Fish: How to Stop the Stench 

If your dog smells like fish and shows other signs of anal sac disease, then it’s time to schedule an appointment with the veterinarian. Treatment for anal sac disease – especially, anal sac impaction — is simple and easy. Your veterinarian may empty your dog’s anal glands manually. But if your dog’s anal glands have tumors or are infected, the veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or topicals to treat them. The veterinarian may also recommend a high-fiber diet for your dog.  

However, if your dog’s anal sacs do not heal despite the treatment, the surgical removal of the sacs may be required. The same thing may be required if your pet’s anal sacs have tumors.  

How to Prevent Anal Sac Disease in Dogs

To prevent anal sac disease in your dog, consider these tips. 

  • Feed your dog food with ample amount of dietary fiber.  
  • Do not overfeed your dog to keep him at a healthy weight. 
  • Keep your dog hydrated. 
  • If your dog is small, consider having his anal sacs expressed by the veterinarian or groomer regularly. You may ask the veterinarian to teach you how to express your pet’s anal glands on your own, as long as there is no infection, abscess, or inflammation within his perianal area.  

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