Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?

Why does my dog smell like fish?!

This question comes out of the mouths of many dog moms across the planet.

I remember right after we got Archie as a puppy and one morning my house stank.

My entire living room smelled like the NYC Chinatown fish market on a hot day.

I thought something went bad in the fridge, but it turns out it was my 10 lb puppy stinking up the house.

So what causes a dog to smell so bad?

why does my Dog Smell Like Fish

What Is That Fishy Smell?

Dogs often roll in stinky things outside, but the fish smell coming from your dog is a very different stench than anything from your yard.

The smell is actually coming from your dog’s butt–specifically their anal glands.

Believe it or not, this problem is much more common than you would think. So don’t force your dog to live outside just yet!

What Are Anal Glands?

Anal glands (aka anal sacs), are small sacs of specialized sweat glands on either side of your dogs anus.

These glands produce a smelly substance specific to your dog and act as a scent marker for other dogs.

When your dog poops, small secretions of this substance are left behind, leaving a scent of chemical makeup from your dog.

When other dogs smell that poop, they can tell the health and stress levels of the dog who left it there.

This is also the reason why dogs sniff each other’s butts when they meet for the first time. They are smelling the other dog’s anal glands to see if the other dog is afraid, aggressive, or excited. 

If your dog is healthy, their anal glands will clear themselves out in small amounts whenever your dog poops or gets scared.

However, sometimes these glands can get clogged and you’ll start to notice a fish smell coming from your dog.

This happens more often in smaller dogs than lager breeds, but many dogs have clogged anal glands at some point in their lives. So it’s useful to know what to do if your dog commonly has this problem.

Dog Smell Like Fish and how to clear anal glands

What to Do For Your Dog

Most dog owners take their dog to the vet or the groomers to have their dog’s anal glands manually expressed.

If you really want to, you can even learn how to clear them out yourself.

However, you must be aware to see if your dog’s anal glands look infected. If they have infections, impactions, or abscesses, you should take your dog to the vet so they can express the glands and clean out any infections that are there.

Your vet will also likely give your dog antibiotics to help fight the infection. 

Anal Sac Disease

Mostly common in smaller dogs, anal sac disease is when the anal glands are constantly fighting infections and bacteria. Signs that your dog may have anal sac disease are:

  • Scooting their butt on the floor
  • Fishy odor
  • Licking/biting anus
  • Vocalizing when defecating
  • Hard lump near the rectum
  • Blood in stool

Obesity, food and environmental allergies, hypothyroidism, skin mites, and bacterial or yeast infections of the skin can all increase chances of anal sac disease.

If the disease is not responsive to regular treatment and antibiotics, your vet may surgically remove them all together.

Though some dogs deal with incontinence after the surgery, most live long, healthy lives and are not negatively impacted in any way. 

It is also important to note that if your dog has constant diarrhea, there anal glands are not being expressed because they don’t have solid waste to push on the glands.

If this is the case, consider adding more fiber & water to your dog’s diet to rehydrate them and harden their stool. 

Dog Smell Like Fish conclusion


If your dog smells like fish, their body is telling you something about their health.

Especially with smaller dogs, it is important to make sure their anal glands are regularly expressed whenever they go to the groomers so they can live long, healthy, non stinky lives. (And make sure to tip your groomer!)

Archie’s fishy smell went away after one trip to the vet and hasn’t been smelly since. And thank God, because I’ll remember that gross smell forever! 

Need to clean out that odor from your house? Check out how to get rid of the dog smell in your house here

Want more “pawsome” articles on becoming a better dog mom? Click here!

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