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Why Does My Dog's Breath Smell Like Fish?

April 21, 2023 | 3 min read

Updated April 21, 2023

By Becca Trigg

Published: April 21, 2023

Blog Summary: In this blog, we'll discover why your dog's breath smells like fish. From their diet to oral hygiene, learm how to avoid fishy dog breath below...


Have you ever cuddled up to your furry best friend just to be greeted by a smell that can only be described as a fish market? It's not the most pleasant experience, and you might be wondering why your dog's breath smells like fish...  

Well, don't worry, you're not alone! 

Many dog owners have experienced this peculiar odor, and there are a few common causes behind it. 

What Causes Fishy Dog Breath?

There are several reasons why your dog's breath may smell like fish. Let's take a closer look at some of the common causes:


Your dog’s smelly breath could be down to something as simple as they have eaten fish.  

The food you give your pup can play a huge role in the smell of their breath. Certain types of food, especially fish-based or high-protein diets, can cause a fishy odor in your dog's mouth. When your dog digests fish or other protein-rich foods, it can result in the production of fishy-smelling compounds in their breath – and sometimes their rear end!  

If your pup has a fish-rich diet, or you give them fish-based supplements – including fish oil food toppers - then it is most likely the cause of your pup’s stinky dog breath.

Anal Glands

Sometimes known as ‘fish butt’, when a dog’s anal glands become impacted it can result in a VERY strong odor...  

If your dog is scooting their butt on the floor or licking their rear excessively, the fishy smell may be coming from their anal glands and will need to be checked over by your vet.  

Stomach Issues

Dogs with gastrointestinal problems, such as acid reflux or stomach upset, may also have breath that smells like fish. This is due to the stomach acids that come up during episodes of reflux or upset that can cause an unpleasant odor in your dog's mouth - not very nice at all!


Just like in humans, poor oral hygiene can lead to dental problems in dogs. The bacteria in your dog’s mouth can produce sulfur compounds that give off a fishy smell – yuck! 

If your dog's breath smells like fish, it could also be an indication of a dental issue that requires attention from your veterinarian.

A small gray-haired dog opens its mouth wide, showing their tongue and teeth.

When is Fishy Dog Breath Something to Worry About?

While an occasional bout of fishy breath in dogs may not be a cause for concern (especially if their diet is fish-heavy), persistent and foul-smelling breath can be a sign of an underlying issue that requires attention. If your dog's breath consistently smells like fish, it's essential to consult your veterinarian for a thorough evaluation. Ignoring the issue may lead to further complications and discomfort for your furry friend.

If your dog's breath smells strongly of fish and is accompanied by other signs such as vomiting, loose stools, weight loss, lethargy, or changes in appetite or water intake, it's crucial to seek veterinary attention promptly.

How To Avoid Your Dog's Breath Smelling Like Fish

The good news is that we have some tips and tricks to keep your dog's breath smelling fresh:

A Good Daily Dental Routine

Maintaining a good oral hygiene routine is essential for avoiding bad breath in dogs!  

Make sure you brush your dog's teeth regularly using a dog-specific toothpaste and toothbrush. However, if your dog hates having their teeth brushed, there are plenty of alternatives... 

Dental chews, toys, and specific dog dental washes can also help clean their teeth and gums.  

And don’t forget your regular dental cleanings performed by your veterinarian! Keeping up with your dog’s teeth cleaning appointments can also help keep your dog's breath fresh and healthy. 

Anal Gland Care

If your dog's anal glands are the culprit behind the fishy smell, you may need to have regular expression of the glands by your veterinarian or a trained professional. Routine expressing of the anal glands can help prevent further impaction.  
Top Tip: Unless you have been taught by a professional, avoid attempting to express the anal glands yourself, as improper techniques can cause further complications.

Support Your Dog's Gut Health

Taking care of your dog's gut health can also help impact their breath. Feeding your pup a balanced diet, providing clean water, and avoiding table scraps or human foods that can upset their stomach.  

You could even try adding a dog probiotic to their daily routine to support gut health even further.  

If your dog has frequent episodes of upset stomach or acid reflux, consult your veterinarian for appropriate management.

Always Have Fresh Water

Something as simple as making sure your dog has access to clean and fresh water at all times could be the answer to your fishy dog breath woes.  

Keeping hydrated can help flush out any bacteria or odor-causing compounds from their mouth. You can also add a dental wash for dogs to your canine companion's water that is specifically formulated to freshen your dog's breath. 

Visit Your Vet

As mentioned above, regular visits to your veterinarian for health exams and dental cleanings can help identify and address any underlying health issues that may be causing your dog's breath to smell like fish.  

Your vet can provide professional dental cleanings, recommend appropriate dental care products, and check for any signs of systemic health problems that may affect your dog's breath. 

Final Thoughts

If your dog's breath smells like fish, it's important to identify the underlying cause and take appropriate steps to address it. Dental issues, diet, gastrointestinal problems, and anal gland issues are common causes of fishy breath in dogs, but it could also be a sign of an underlying health problem.  
Regular dental care, a balanced diet, maintaining gut health, regular vet check-ups, and proper anal gland care can all help you to avoid fishy breath in dogs.  
And remember, your dog's breath may not always smell like fresh mint, but it shouldn't have a strong, persistent fishy odor. Keeping an eye (or a sniff!) on your dog's breath and taking appropriate measures to maintain their oral and overall health will ensure that you can enjoy cuddles and doggy kisses with your furry friend without being greeted by an unpleasant smell. 



'Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?', The Kennel Club,

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Becca Trigg

Authored By

Becca Trigg

An all round animal lover, who absolutely adores writing and researching anything puppy! Over the past few years, I have been able to gain ample pet knowledge; specifically joint health and dental hygiene. When I'm not typing away in the office, I can be found sitting in a country pub or growing chillies




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The information contained within this site is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or veterinary advice. PetLab Co. is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If your pet has, or you suspect your pet has any medical condition, you are urged to consult your veterinarian. Medical conditions can only be diagnosed by a licensed veterinarian. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Results May Vary. Not intended for human consumption. Please consult your veterinarian regarding any change in treatment or supplementation.
*In Amazon Pet Health Category in 2022