Dogs can smell unpleasant at times. Each dog has a natural odor to them which you may take some time adjusting to.
If your dog is particularly stinky, it could be because they have rolled into something dirty, went rummaging through the garbage bins, or have an underlying medical issue.
If you are looking for ways how to get rid of fishy smell from dog, the article offers a few home remedies you can try; and tips that can help prevent the dog from developing a foul smell.
5 Reasons Why Your Dog Smells Fishy
If your dog likes to lay and roll on the ground, it is bound to get dirty and pick up weird smells. It is one of the obvious causes why your dog might smell fishy.
On the other hand, if your dog majorly stays indoors, you follow regular hygiene routines, and it still smells like fish, it could be a health condition that requires your attention.
Here are possible causes why your dog smells fishy.
1. Anal Sac Issues
Dogs have anal sacs located on the sides of their anus. These sacs produce a secretion that acts as a marker for the dogs. And these secretions can smell really unpleasant.
Your dog’s anal sacs can produce this secretion even when it is scared or anxious. The secretion can pass on to their poop while pooping. And this is how dogs recognize if some other dog has pooped in the area.
The dog’s anal area can start smelling fishy if there is something wrong with the anal sacs. For example, anal sacs could get infected. If left as is, the sacs can become inflamed and develop pus. Apart from the smell, the anal area could get swollen, and the abscess could also rupture.
The dog can develop impaction. This happens when the sacs are not able to eliminate the fluid entirely. The fluid that is left behind can become dry. The sacs can swell and become painful.
Anal sac tumors are another cause that can limit or stop the secretions. As a result, the sacs can get enlarged and firm and require medical attention.
2. Dental Issues
Bacteria in your dog’s mouth can progressively harm its gums, bones, and teeth supporting structure. There could be an accumulation of plaque and tartar on your dog’s teeth. Such an environment becomes ideal for the bacteria to grow.
Plaque can form in your dog’s mouth 24 hours after brushing. If not cleaned, the plaque will continue to build up and turn to tartar in 72 hours.
Puffy gums and fishy-smelling breath are the initial symptoms you might notice. However, if the condition is left untreated, it can progress and shows signs like receding gums, bleeding gums while brushing or chewing, and loss of teeth.
These dental issues are common in dogs. They affect over 90% of dogs before they reach the age of 2 years. Along with regular brushing, dental visits are necessary to keep the pet’s teeth in optimal condition.
3. Gastrointestinal Issues
Dogs can develop gastrointestinal issues due to allergies, bacteria, viruses, medication, or underlying medical conditions. Such dogs can show symptoms like:
The farts, burps, or poop can have a fishy smell to them. The dog may even gag or heave heavily after drinking or eating.
Be careful when introducing foods to your pet’s diet. When out on walks, keep the dog on a leash if it tends to wander around. If your dog tends to dumpster dive, keep a close watch. In such scenarios, it can easily pick up bacteria and viruses.
Your dog’s digestive issues could also be a symptom of health issues with its kidneys, liver, or pancreas.
4. Urinary Tract Infections
Your dog’s pee can start smelling fishy if it has a urinary tract infection (UTI). The dog can develop a UTI when bacteria travel up and make the bladder their home.
Senior dogs, the ones with diabetes or the ones with bladder stones, have a higher probability of developing UTIs.
Your dog may run outside to pee frequently. In severe cases, it may accidentally pee inside the house. Your dog could also excessively lick its genital area.
If the urine has a foul odor, then it is usually an indicator of infection. The medication for a UTI will depend on the specific type of bacteria causing the issue.
Also Read: Dog Dribbling Urine While Walking? 9 Startling Reasons + What You Should Do!
This is a secondary infection that unspayed female dogs develop. If your dog has a pyometra, it can have a strong fishy odor, pus or other vaginal discharge, fever, lethargy, vomiting, and listlessness, among others. The dog’s stomach could also become distended.
Post the estrus cycle on a female dog in heat, its uterus walls can start thickening to prepare for pregnancy. The uterus wall will continue to thicken if the dog does not become pregnant over the next heat cycles. These walls can then develop cysts that secrete fluids. And such a condition is an invitation to bacteria.
The thickened uterus walls prevent the dog’s body from fighting off the bacteria, worsening the situation.
If you have an unspayed female dog and you notice the symptoms mentioned above, please get in touch with the vet immediately as the dog might require surgery.
How to Get Rid of Fishy Smell from Dog? – Home Remedies
Now that you know what can cause your dog to smell fishy, let us look at techniques that can help do away with the smell.
If your dog’s medical condition is making it smell foul, the priority should be treating the health issue. Any home remedy you try may work temporarily, but if your pet is in discomfort or pain, then it needs vet care.
Here are some home remedies that can remove the fishy odor or prevent it in the first place.
1. Better Diet
Watch what your dog is eating. Note down foods that make the dog burp or fart a lot. They are signs that your pet does not digest those foods well. Some typical food allergens to watch out for are chicken, dairy products, gluten, and soy.
When introducing new foods, start small. First, feed it a small quantity and monitor it for negative reactions. Then, increase the quantity only if the dog seems fine.
Include fiber in its diet to keep things moving smoothly inside the dog’s digestive system. For example, pumpkin is a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber. It can help the dog’s digestive system stay in top health. It can also help with health issues like diarrhea and constipation.
When the dog is feeling great inside, its health, skin, and coat will also show positive results. External home remedies will work better to get rid of the fishy smell.
2. Clean the Butt Area Daily
As mentioned above, the anal sacs secrete fluid when the dog poops or when it is scared. These foul-smelling secretions can stick to the skin or fur around the butt area. Also, small bits and pieces of poop can stick to the anal area, adding to the unpleasant smell combo.
You can clean the dog’s butt area with a wet cloth, water, and mild soap. Once you have cleaned the area, run a dry soft towel over to ensure there is not much water under the dog’s tail.
It would help if you followed this process after every poop session. If the dog poops over three times a day and it seems like a lot of work, you can clean the butt area with a wipe or a tissue and follow the water and soap method at night.
3. Have a Bathing Routine
It is necessary to have a regular bathing practice. Generally, bathing a dog three to four times a month is enough. But, the actual number may differ depending on the dog breed and its lifestyle.
Dogs that stay most of the time indoors can go for a longer time between baths. However, if it is an emergency, the dog is particularly smelly or dirty; please feel free to bathe it.
Medium to large-coat dogs may require a weekly bath. Dogs that have a strong natural odor like Bulldogs, Pugs, Cockers Spaniel, and Saint Bernards may also fall into this category. Other short-coat dogs can be bathed once in two weeks.
AKC cautions that over-bathing your dog can strip too much oil from its skin, doing more harm than good. Please consult the vet on an appropriate bathing routine if in doubt.
4. Baking Soda
How to get rid of fishy smell from dog? This ingredient is one of the simple home remedies you can use. It is a standard household product that can do wonders in eliminating odors. It can not only be used on pets, but it can be safely used to deodorize your home, car, and pet beddings.
You can use this ingredient between baths to prevent the typical doggy smell. First, brush the dog’s coat to remove dirt and loose hairs. Next, rub baking soda all over, and avoid the sensitive facial areas. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Next, brush out the fur and use a dry cloth to remove any baking soda left behind.
If your dog tends to smell a lot, you can prepare a baking soda wet shampoo at home. Mix three tablespoons of the soda with 1-quart water, and your wet shampoo is ready.
Pour the mixture on the dog’s coat, massage, and then make the dog sit still for a few minutes. Next, you can rinse and apply the pet shampoo you normally use.
The bodily fluids that usually cause the odor are acidic. Baking soda is a base that can chemically neutralize the odor by making these fluids more alkaline.
Like baking soda, vinegar is another ingredient that has multipurpose use for pets. If your dog smells weird, you can give it a white vinegar rinse. Stir a cup of distilled vinegar with 8 quarts of water. Soak the dog in plain water, and then pour this mixture.
Do not rinse the pet. A simple dry-off should do. Do not worry about the vinegar; it does not leave a lingering smell behind.
You can mix one teaspoon of vinegar with 1 quart of water and spray this mixture on the pet’s fur to keep fleas and ticks away.
Apple cider vinegar can also ensure the pet is healthy from the inside. You can mix one teaspoon of this vinegar with one quart of your dog’s drinking water. If you give the dog a mixture of raw vegetables, cover them with apple cider vinegar. It can help with digestion, lowering pH levels, and the growth of good gut bacteria.
If you want to deodorize your home, prepare a mixture of one part apple cider vinegar and three parts water and spray it in areas the most frequented by the dog.
6. Wash Beddings Regularly
Your dog sits and sleeps on its beddings. The anal sac secretions will not necessarily leave a stain behind but will be present on the beddings. Then there are bacteria, viruses, and parasites that your pet can bring home. These organisms can live on beddings for up to a year without a host.
You should ideally wash beddings once a week or once every two weeks. You can use the regular detergent along with two big scoops of baking soda to clean and eliminate any odors. Between washes, use a vacuum to remove hair and dirt.
When Does a Fishy Smell from Dog Become an Issue?
If the fishy smell keeps reoccurring and your dog’s behavior is different than normal, it is best to discuss its condition with the vet.
For example, if the dog has anal sacs impaction, the sacs will have to be manually emptied by the vet. According to AKC, this manual emptying may need to be done regularly for small dog breeds. The vet or groomer can do this procedure. Alternatively, if you do not mind the smell, you can learn to do the procedure yourself.
In case of infections, the underlying organism needs to be dealt with. Your dog may require antibiotics and medications. The pet will need surgery to remove the affected uterus for infections like pyometra.
The dog will have to get its teeth cleaned professionally for dental issues. The bacteria can reside below the gums; thus, regular brushing may not be enough for optimal oral health.
Your dog can smell fishy due to various reasons. It may have rolled in something dirty; it could be its anal sac secretions, dental issues, gastrointestinal problems, UTIs, or infections. And some dogs tend to smell more than others.
Now coming to the question of how to get rid of fishy smell from dog? Use simple ingredients like baking soda and vinegar with water as dry shampoo or a wet rinse. You should follow practices like regular brushing, bathing, and washing beddings to prevent unpleasant odor.
Please note, if the cause is a medical condition, then unless the condition is not treated, the dog will continue to smell fishy.
Heather Abraham is a professional blogger who owns two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and a leopard gecko. She has a connection with animals since she was a child. She shares her love for all pet breeds and provides information on pet food, toys, medications, beds, and everything else.
She is committed to learning about the internal workings of animals. Her work permits her to work closely with knowledgeable vets and obtain practical expertise in animal care. When she is not working, her love of animals continues in her writing. Her goal is to educate and uplift readers who also have a passion for animals through her writing.