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How to Get Rid of Fishy Smell from Dog?

Written by Kelvin LowMay 6, 2021

Pet odors are a natural part of being a dog owner. Sometimes it is no surprise to us if our pets smell funny. Unlike humans, dogs don’t mind their own stink and are even attracted to strange smells. However, if you notice an abnormal and persistent smell coming from your dog, it can be a cause for concern and should be evaluated as soon as possible. Any strange smell could be indicative of a variety of conditions ranging from periodontal disease to bodily infections. In the following article, you can learn more about how to get rid of fishy smell from dogs.

Why does my dog smell like fish?

To determine why your dog smells like fish, it is important to first evaluate the source of it. Possible causes of fishy smell include periodontal disease, acid reflux, or yeast infection in the ears or feet. More often than not, the smell is coming from their butt, specifically the anal glands (also known as anal sacs). These are small sacs located on both sides of the dog’s anus and secrete fluid from specialized sweat glands. Usually, this fluid marks a dog’s territory and can tell other dogs the gender, health, and age of your furry friend. If the secretions smell fishy, then your dog may be affected by anal gland disease.

Anal gland disease is a common condition in dogs that happens when the sacs are filled or infected, such as in instances of impaction, abscesses, and anal sac tumors. These issues prevent the anal glands from emptying properly and can even block the openings for proper drainage. Whatever the cause, it is crucial to have your dog examined by a veterinarian who can give you a more specific diagnosis.

What gets rid of the smell of fish?

While normally the fluid from your dog’s glands does not smell pleasant, it can have an overwhelming fishy smell if your dog is suffering from anal gland disease. If you suspect that this may be the case, please first consult a veterinarian for advice. Your dog may need their anal glands manually expressed and potentially a prescription antibiotic for infections to eliminate the odor. In severe cases, the anal sacs might need to be removed surgically.

How to know if your dog needs his glands squeezed

The anal glands naturally drain themselves when your dog defecates, but sometimes this process doesn’t occur in certain dogs or due to anal gland disease. As you can imagine, having full or infected anal glands can be a very uncomfortable experience. Dogs will most likely attempt to relieve or reduce the pressure around the rectum in various ways. Watch for the following behaviors and signs that could be indicative of anal glands needing to be expressed or squeezed.

Fishy smell

One of the more noticeable symptoms of full anal glands is a fishy and pungent smell. Examine your dog from head to tail to make sure that the smell is coming from their butt rather than their mouth, ears, or paws.

Scooting or dragging their rear end across the floor

While it may be funny in the moment, your dog could be telling you that their anal glands are irritating them by scooting or dragging themselves along the floor. While many people associate this behavior with worms, it is more likely a result of full anal glands.

Biting and licking around the anus or base of tail

Sometimes your dog may try to relieve the discomfort by biting and licking around the anus or base of tail in an attempt to release the fluid.

Sensitivity around the anal area

Full or even infected anal glands can be very painful. When examining their butt, your dog may be more defensive and not let you touch the tail or anus. While this is out of the ordinary behavior, please be reassured that it is more likely due to the pain rather than you.  

Difficulty pooping

The pressure, pain, and irritation from full anal glands can make it difficult for your pup to poop and can lead to constipation if it persists.


Another visible sign of full anal glands is blood or pus in your dog’s poop or around their anus. Owners have observed a brownish fluid in spots where their dogs were previously sitting or laying down. You may see blood if the anal sac ruptures.

What happens if you don’t express your dog’s glands?

Every dog’s needs for anal expression can vary based on its anatomy, size, or diet. Usually, your dog expresses themselves when they poop but may need help when they cannot do this on their own. Depending on your situation, you may or may not need to express your dog’s glands on a regular basis. However, if your dog is already showing some signs of an anal gland issue, failure to treat it can result in infection and it can even escalate to an abscess. Pressure will continue to build within the abscess until it ruptures and cause drainage. This will most likely require more extensive treatment, including surgery and medications. To save you and your dog from unnecessary stress and suffering, you should intervene early and express your dog’s glands if necessary.

What steps can you take to prevent the fishy smells from dogs?

There are a few measures that you can take to prevent the fishy smell that results from anal gland disease. However, it is best to seek personalized advice from your veterinarian on what you can do to manage the condition, especially if it will be a long-term issue for your dog. Your veterinarian might recommend more consistent anal gland expressions, the fiber in your dog’s diet, and regular exercise. Recognizing the fishy smell early on will also help you and your dog get the treatment needed if anal gland issues occur again in the future.

Final Thoughts

If there is a fishy smell emanating from your dog, anal gland disease may be the culprit. It can develop due to various reasons, but early recognition of symptoms and adequate treatment is key to getting rid of the bad odor. Your dog may need to be manually expressed by your veterinarian and even treated with antibiotics if the anal glands are infected. For some dogs, anal gland issues may be a one-time event or a lifetime chronic issue. No matter the situation, this condition is easily treatable but not one that should be taken lightly.

About The Author

Kelvin Low

Kelvin Low has more than three years of experience in taking care of pets at home - ranging from dogs, hamsters, to cats and hedgehog. His passion and care towards animals has motivated him to create educational content online to more more pets owners in need.

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