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This review guide was updated in February 2019.
Halitosis is a dental problem that breaks the normal scent of the breath causing it to emit a foul smell.
It occurs in human just as it does in dogs and according to Dr. Brook, a certified veterinary dentist is a condition that’s mostly caused by periodontal diseases.
These are infections of the structure around the teeth, which can cause your dog’s breath to smell like fish.
In fact, it is estimated that by the age of two, 80% of dogs have some form of periodontal disease and it is the most common oral condition seen in domestic pets.
However, halitosis is not as potent as problematic anal glands in dogs, which is estimated to be rare in cats but common in dogs. It is the most common ailment in dogs and often leads to great discomfort.
In this article, you are going to learn about how a problematic anal gland can be responsible for your dog’s breath going bad. You will also learn other causes and how to tackle them.
Table of Contents
Looks Look at The Most Common Reasons Your Dog’s Breath Smells Like Fish
1. Blocked Anal Glands
Anal gland problems are the most common culprit for dog’s breath smelling like fish.
It is the primary cause of the bad breath in your dog and the first thing you should consider when your dog exhales offensive scents.
Look at your pooch’s bum and you will see two small holes around the anal opening…that’s your dog’s anal glands. Naturally, they produce a foul-smelling fluid that’s released into the sacs when your dog poops.
Usually, this is healthy but when it becomes infected, your dog will become uncomfortable.
When this pain grows, your dog tries to curb it by licking and biting around the anus. Excessive biting and licking in this way breaks the sacs and release some of the liquid into your puppy’s mouth.
If you didn’t feed your dog fish pills or sardines but the breath smells like fish, then this may be the reason.
Some of the symptoms include scooting (where your pup drags its rear across the floor), red skin on the anus, and excessive bleeding.
Now that you know the symptoms, check if your dog is exhibiting any of them. If a blocked anal gland is the culprit, you have to option to treat
Treat at home or visit a veterinarian.
In most cases, if you’re a new dog owner and your pet’s breath has only just started to smell like fish then we do advise to visit your veterinarian just to be on the safe side.
If you decide to administer your dog at home, the most recommended solution is to express your dog’s anal. A detailed guide to the process can be found here.
On another note, if you’d rather not take the risk or fear you don’t have the experience, visiting your nearest vet is the next best solution. The vet will check your puppy, determine the problem and prescribe the necessary solution for you.
What if blocked anal glands aren’t the issue causing a fishy smell? Then you should look at these other scenarios – all of which have been linked to the issue of bad breath in dogs:
2. Gum Disease
If you don’t give your dog proper dental care, it is easy for a gum disease to develop and affect your dog’s breath.
“I take proper care of my dog’s dental needs.” Well, you may but there are certain things you may also be neglecting.
Don’t worry; no one blames you for being careless or the cause of your dog’s woes. But what if this is the problem; don’t you think you need to know?
Tartar (brown stained teeth, which visible when your dog pants or yawns) is a dental issue that can easily sneak up on your dog’s teeth when you are not paying close attention.
This starts out as plaque – which starts out some hours after your dog eats. When it’s neglected, it mixes with the salt in your dog’s saliva (and just like it happens in human) it builds up and hardens and looks harmless enough. However, the problem arises when it aids bacteria development, which then leads to a “fishy breath”.
Fortunately, it is not a serious issue – and a few proper steps can curb the development of tartar. To cure this in your dog (and prevent a future attack), do these:
Use toothpaste formulated for dogs – As much as your imagination can go, you don’t want to use just any toothpaste for your dog. These products are non-forming and are safe for ingestion. And they are designed specifically for preventing gum diseases, plaque build-up and tartar formation in dogs.
Toys or dental treats – Buy some of these for your dog to chew on. Because of the way they are molded, they are easy for your dog to bite and chew on, providing a natural teeth cleaning mechanism. Give this to your dog hours after eating to clean the teeth and eliminate an environment where bacteria can thrive.
Raw bones – These bones can scrape off plaque before they develop on your dog’s teeth. But if you can afford it, then you should do the next one:
Get scaling and cleaning from the vet. If you can afford it, this can often give you the best return on your money. Your vet knows how to perform a perfect cleanup of your pup than you (except if you have gained a lot of experience through years of rearing).
What you feed your dog determines what your dog becomes. I’ve seen some dog owners feed their dog whatever comes their way – leftovers, unhealthy bones, home-made diets. You can guess it…their dogs don’t become healthy at all.
To block another avenue through which your dog’s breath starts to smell like fish, you must watch what you are feeding your dog closely.
If you feel that your dog’s diet may be the reason your dog breath smells like fish, take note of the following:
If you buy commercial dog food products, check the content and ingredients. Most brands use fish products (such as salmon which supplies Omega 3/6) in their dog food. If this is what your dog has been consuming, it may be the cause of your dog’s foul smell.
Don’t dump this kind of food for your dog though (your dog will lose the nutrients from the fish product) but just change brand to test this.
Make sure your dog only consumes high quality, easy to digest food. As mentioned above, you can do this and never worry about your dog’s breath going bad.
Buy some treats occasionally to reduce odors (veggies, fruit, low-calorie dog treats, snacks are some of the things you can try for your dog. Because these treats should be easy on your dog’s teeth, avoid those that have bones or antlers.
4. Kidney or Liver Disease
According to WebMD (an online authority on health and medical news and information), bad breath can be a result of a problem with your dog’s digestive tract, liver or kidney.
This is most unlikely because these diseases rarely come up in dogs. But when you have a dog with a breath that smells like fish, you have to cover all grounds.
First, let’s look at the signs that could signal your canine is suffering from a failed liver.
Symptoms of Liver Disease
Jaundice. Just as it occurs in human, it also occurs in pets too. It is a condition that causes the skin to appear yellowish, usually in the eyes but possibly on the gums and skin too.
Hepatic encephalopathy. This is a liver disease that’s signaled by seizures, blindness or disorientation in dogs.
Another possible sign could come from gastrointestinal disease which reduces dog’s appetite.
Why Your Dog’s Smells Like Fish – Possible Symptoms
Think it is responsible for the fishy smelling breath? Then your best bet is to visit your vet. Your vet may recommend some blood tests, x-rays, urinalysis to determine the cause of the problem and prescribe necessary medication.
What about the kidney? Symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Other conditions similar to a failed liver
Also, if your dog is any of the following breeds, your dog is prone to renal failure:
- German Shepherd
- Samoyed Cairn Terrier
- Bull Terrier
What’s the solution then?
Still, the remedy is not to be self-diagnosed and requires the help of your vet. Kidney disease (or renal disease) needs a thorough blood profile check and count as well as urinalysis before any medication is prescribed.
What if you could prevent your dog’s breath smelling like fish?
Prevention, as the popular adage goes, is better than cure. If you take this to heart, you can prevent future occurrence of this malady.
The most important step towards prevention is to keep underlying medical issues checked which means you have to do the following:
Regular medical checkup
- Watch out for possible issues that could cause halitosis such as plaque build-up and formation of tartar.
- Ask your vet to recommend home-use oral health products
- Regularly provide your pup with dog treats that can reduce bad odor
- Get some safe, hard chewing toys for your dog to help with natural cleaning
- Control tartar from growing on your dog’s teeth
Most importantly, don’t ignore bad breath. If your dog’s breath smells like fish, then take immediate action by going to see the vet or carry out your own investigation to identify the cause.