Why Does my Dogs Breath Smell Like Fish? Causes & Solutions

Why Does my Dogs Breath Smell Like Fish photo

Your dog’s breath may smell like fish due to poor oral hygiene or gland issues. Regular dental care and vet check-ups can help address the problem.

Dog owners often face the perplexing reality of their pet’s fishy breath. This malodorous mystery can be unsettling and is typically a sign of underlying health concerns. Oral hygiene is paramount in canines, as it is in humans, and neglecting it can lead to the accumulation of plaque, tartar, and harmful bacteria.

These bacteria can emit sulfur compounds that resemble the smell of fish. Another less obvious culprit is the glands, which can become impacted and secrete a fishy odor that lingers around the mouth when a dog licks its hindquarters.

Causes Of Fishy Breath For Dog

Many dog owners notice a fishy odor on their furry friend’s breath and wonder why. Fishy breath in dogs can arise from various issues, from what they eat to health problems. Understanding the causes is the first step to freshening up your pooch’s breath. Let’s dive into the reasons behind this unpleasant smell.


What your dog eats significantly impacts how their breath smells. Some foods naturally produce a fishy odor when digested. Here’s a look at diet-related causes:

Food TypePossible Odor Result
Fish-flavored kibbleFishy breath
Low-quality commercial foodBad breath due to poor digestion
Chews with fish oilFish-scented breath

Switching to a high-quality diet with fresh ingredients may help reduce fishy breath in dogs.

Dental Issues

Dogs often suffer from dental problems that lead to bad breath. Plaque, tartar, and gum disease are common culprits:

  • Plaque build-up: This sticky film can harbor bacteria, causing a foul smell.
  • Gum disease: Inflamed gums can trap food and bacteria, leading to a fishy scent.
  • Tooth decay: Decaying teeth can release a bad odor, similar to fish.

Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are essential. Brushing your dog’s teeth daily prevents these issues. Chew toys and dental treats can also help maintain oral hygiene.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Gastrointestinal issues can cause bad breath too. A dog’s digestive system might be struggling with:

  • Anal gland issues: These can give off a fishy smell when your dog licks their rear.
  • Infections or diseases: Illness in the digestive tract can produce unusual odors.
  • Food intolerance: Some dogs react badly to certain foods, leading to smelly breath.

Consulting a vet is vital if you suspect gastrointestinal problems. They can diagnose and treat the issue, improving your dog’s breath and overall health.

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Symptoms Of Fishy Breath For Dog

Ever wondered, “Why does my dog’s breath smell like fish?” It’s a common question among pet owners. Several reasons can cause this fishy odor, and it’s essential to identify them. Recognizing the symptoms of fishy breath is the first step to finding a solution. Let’s dive into the signs that your furry friend might be experiencing this.

Strong Odor

A strong, fish-like odor coming from your dog’s mouth is the most noticeable sign. This smell can be overwhelming and is not something to ignore. Here are key points to remember:

  • It’s different from normal dog breath.
  • The smell is persistent and strong.
  • It often indicates dental or health issues.

Why does this happen? The main culprits include:

Dental ProblemsPlaque, tartar, and gum disease can lead to bad breath.
DietCertain foods can cause a fishy smell.
Health IssuesProblems with internal organs might result in bad breath.

Tackling this issue involves regular dental check-ups and proper diet management.

Excessive Drooling

Excessive drooling is another symptom that can accompany fishy breath. It’s important to understand why your dog might drool more than usual:

  • It can be a reaction to the discomfort caused by dental issues.
  • Some health conditions lead to increased saliva production.
  • Stress or anxiety might also cause excessive drooling.

Managing this requires:

  • Visiting the vet for a thorough check-up.
  • Ensuring your dog’s comfort and reducing stress.
  • Keeping up with dental hygiene.

Remember, addressing the root cause is key to reducing excessive drooling.

Loss Of Appetite

A loss of appetite can sometimes accompany fishy breath. This is worrying because it affects your dog’s nutrition. Reasons for a reduced appetite include:

  • Dental pain making eating uncomfortable.
  • Underlying health issues affecting the desire to eat.
  • Possible obstructions in the digestive tract.

To encourage eating, you might:

  • Offer soft, palatable food that’s easy to eat.
  • Consult with a vet for appetite-stimulating solutions.
  • Ensure a stress-free eating environment.

Monitoring and acting on these symptoms early can prevent more severe issues.

Diagnosing The Problem

Fishy dog breath can be puzzling for pet owners. It’s not just unpleasant; it often signals an underlying issue. To tackle this smelly mystery, proper diagnosis is crucial. Here’s a guide to understand and resolve the fishy breath problem in dogs.

Veterinary Examination

To get to the root of your dog’s fishy breath, start with a veterinary exam. A vet can spot signs that you might miss. They will look for clues in your dog’s mouth, behavior, and diet. The vet will ask about your dog’s history, such as eating habits, oral hygiene routines, and recent health changes. This info helps to narrow down the cause. Your vet will check for:

  • Gum disease: Red, swollen gums can mean trouble.
  • Plaque and tartar buildup: These often lead to bad breath.
  • Foreign objects: Sometimes dogs get things stuck in their teeth.
  • Diet: Certain foods can cause bad breath.

Based on the findings, the vet might suggest a change in diet, better oral care, or further tests.

Dental Check-up

Next, a dental check-up is key. Dogs need their teeth checked just like we do. The vet will look at each tooth and the gums. They are looking for signs of dental problems that could cause fishy breath. These include:

  • Tooth decay: Cavities aren’t just a human problem.
  • Periodontal disease: This is common in dogs and leads to bad breath.
  • Oral infections: These can spread and cause more issues.

Your vet may suggest a cleaning or treatment plan. This could include brushing your dog’s teeth, using dental chews, or even professional cleaning.

Diagnostic Tests

If the cause of the fishy breath isn’t clear, diagnostic tests may be needed. Your vet will decide which tests are best. These might include:

  • Blood tests: To check for health issues like diabetes or kidney problems.
  • Urine tests: To look for signs of infection or disease.
  • X-rays: To see below the gum line and check for hidden problems.

Results from these tests will give your vet a clearer picture. With this info, they can create a plan to freshen your dog’s breath and keep them healthy.

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Home Remedies For Fishy Breath In Dogs

Dog owners often wonder why their furry friend’s breath smells fishy. This unpleasant odor can be a sign of health issues. Good news: there are home remedies to help clear up that fishy breath. Let’s dive into some of these solutions and get your dog’s breath smelling fresh again!

Improving Dental Hygiene

One key reason for stinky dog breath is poor dental hygiene. Just like in humans, plaque and tartar build-up can lead to smelly bacteria. Here are some steps to improve your dog’s oral care:

  • Brush their teeth regularly with dog-specific toothpaste.
  • Introduce dental chews that clean teeth as they chew.
  • Schedule regular veterinary check-ups for professional cleanings.

Here’s a simple table to track your dog’s dental hygiene routine:

Teeth brushingDaily
Dental chews2-3 times per week
Vet visitsEvery 6-12 months

Changing The Diet

What dogs eat greatly affects their breath. Poor-quality foods can contribute to digestive issues, leading to fishy breath. Consider these diet changes:

  • Switch to high-quality dog food with wholesome ingredients.
  • Reduce fish-based treats which may cause the fishy smell.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water to aid digestion and hydration.

Assess your dog’s diet with this guide:

  1. Check food labels for real meat as the first ingredient.
  2. Avoid foods with artificial additives.
  3. Consider adding probiotics to support gut health.

Using Breath Fresheners

Besides cleaning and diet, breath fresheners can be a quick fix. Here’s how to use them safely:

  • Choose dog-safe breath sprays to instantly freshen breath.
  • Look for toys infused with mint for playful breath cleaning.
  • Make homemade breath treats with parsley and mint.

Remember, these are temporary solutions. Always prioritize dental care and proper diet for long-term results. For homemade breath treats, try this recipe:

  1. Mix chopped parsley and mint into plain yogurt.
  2. Freeze the mixture in ice cube trays.
  3. Give your dog these refreshing cubes on hot days.

Professional Treatments

Many dog owners wonder why their pet’s breath smells like fish. The answer often lies in dental health or diet. But sometimes, home remedies don’t cut it, and professional treatments are necessary. Let’s dive into what these treatments involve and how they can help.

Dental Cleaning

Professional dental cleaning is a key step in tackling bad breath in dogs. This process removes plaque and tartar buildup that can cause a fishy smell. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Veterinarians perform cleanings under anesthesia.
  • They use special tools to clean above and below the gumline.
  • Regular cleanings can prevent periodontal disease.

After a cleaning, dogs often have fresher breath and healthier gums. Let’s look at a table comparing before and after:

Before Dental CleaningAfter Dental Cleaning
Fishy breathFresher breath
Plaque and tartar buildupReduced plaque and tartar
Possible gum diseaseHealthier gums


Sometimes, medication is necessary to address the root cause of fishy breath. This could include:

  • Antibiotics to fight infections causing bad breath.
  • Probiotics to balance the mouth’s bacteria.
  • Special mouthwashes designed for dogs.

Dogs might need medication alongside other treatments. Always follow the vet’s instructions carefully.

Here’s an easy guide on how medication can help:

  • Antibiotics clear up infections.
  • Probiotics improve overall oral health.
  • Mouthwashes freshen breath quickly.


In severe cases, surgery might be the best solution. This could be necessary for:

  • Removing deeply lodged teeth.
  • Correcting structural issues in the mouth.
  • Treating advanced periodontal disease.

Surgery can significantly improve a dog’s oral health and breath. It’s a last resort but can have life-changing effects.

Benefits of surgery include:

  • Elimination of fishy breath source.
  • Prevention of further dental issues.
  • Improved overall health and wellbeing.

Dogs typically recover quickly, with many showing immediate improvements in breath odor.

Preventing Fishy Breath

Dogs can have fishy breath for many reasons, including their diet or health issues. Preventing fishy breath is crucial for their well-being. This guide will show you how.

Regular Dental Care

Keeping your dog’s teeth clean is a must. Plaque and tartar can lead to bad breath. Here’s how to do it:

  • Brush their teeth daily with a dog-specific toothpaste.
  • Use dental chews to help remove plaque.
  • Consider dental toys that clean teeth while they play.

Regular dental check-ups with a vet are important too. They can spot issues early.

Dental Care ActivityFrequency
Brushing TeethDaily
Using Dental Chews2-3 times a week
Vet Dental Check-upsOnce a year

Proper Nutrition

What your dog eats affects their breath. High-quality food keeps their mouth healthy. Avoid foods with:

  • Too much fish or oily ingredients
  • Excessive artificial additives

Include foods that promote dental health. Some kibbles are designed to clean teeth.

Always provide plenty of fresh water. It helps wash away food particles.

Consider adding dental health supplements to their diet. Talk to your vet first.

Regular Vet Check-ups

Visiting the vet regularly helps catch problems early. Bad breath can be a sign of health issues. A vet can check for:

  • Gum disease
  • Stomach problems

Annual health checks are recommended. More frequent visits may be needed for seniors or dogs with health issues.

During check-ups, discuss your dog’s diet and dental care routine. The vet may offer additional tips tailored to your dog’s needs.

Remember, prevention is key. By following these steps, you can keep your dog’s breath fresh and their health in check.

When To See A Vet

A dog’s breath smelling like fish can puzzle and concern many pet owners. Dental issues, diet, or even more serious health problems could be the cause. Understanding when to seek a veterinarian’s help is crucial for your furry friend’s well-being. Let’s explore when it’s time to get professional advice.

Persistent Fishy Breath

If you notice your dog’s breath has a consistent fishy odor that doesn’t go away, it might be time to consult a vet. This lingering smell could indicate oral health issues like periodontal disease or a buildup of bacteria in the mouth. Look for these signs:

  • Yellow or brown tartar on the teeth
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Difficulty eating or chewing

Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are essential. They help prevent serious complications that arise from untreated dental problems. Use the table below to track symptoms and decide when to seek veterinary care:

SymptomHome CareSee a Vet?
Mild bad breathImprove dental hygieneIf persists for more than a week
Tartar buildupDental chews, brushingImmediately
Swollen gumsSoft food, gentle brushingImmediately

Accompanied By Other Symptoms

When fishy breath comes with other symptoms, it could signal more than a simple case of bad breath. Watch for:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Excessive drooling

These signs combined with fishy breath can point to digestive system issues or other internal problems. Don’t delay a vet visit if you notice these symptoms. Early detection can lead to a better outcome for your pet.

Changes In Behavior

A change in your dog’s behavior, along with fishy breath, is a red flag. Be alert to these changes:

  • Less playful or active
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Snapping or growling when touched

Behavioral changes can stem from pain or discomfort. These symptoms warrant a prompt vet visit. Your vet can assess your dog’s condition and provide a treatment plan. Early intervention is key to helping your pet stay healthy and happy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Fix Dogs’ Fishy Breath?

To fix your dog’s fishy breath, ensure regular dental care, provide dental chews, and maintain a balanced diet. Schedule a vet check-up to rule out health issues. Keep up with routine grooming and consider using dog-safe breath fresheners.

How Do I Get Rid Of The Fishy Smell On My Dog?

To eliminate a fishy smell on your dog, bathe them using pet-friendly shampoo. Rinse thoroughly. Ensure their diet is balanced and check for health issues. Regular grooming and dental checks can prevent future odors. Always consult a vet for persistent smells.

How Do I Stop My Dog’s Breath From Smelling?

Brush your dog’s teeth regularly using canine toothpaste. Schedule annual dental check-ups with your vet. Offer dental chews to help clean teeth. Ensure a balanced diet for overall health. Combat bad breath with safe, dog-friendly freshening products.

What Does Liver Failure Smell Like In Dogs?

Liver failure in dogs can produce a distinct foul odor, often described as musty or like rotten eggs, due to the buildup of toxins in the body.


Bad breath in dogs, especially with a fishy scent, can be worrying. It often stems from dental issues or diet. Regular teeth cleaning and vet check-ups are key to fresh breath. By addressing the root cause, you’ll enhance your furry friend’s oral health and overall wellbeing.

Keep that tail wagging with a fresher, happier pup at your side.

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