“My two-year-old Weimar-doodle has recently been smelling like fish? It’s a mixture of poop and fish to be honest. He does not scoot and washing him hasn’t done anything to stop the effect. The smell goes away after a while though. My question is, why does my dog smell like fish?” says Jennie from Ohio.

If your dog smells fishy even if you are giving him regular baths and there is no apparent health issue, it is the red signal that your dog is having difficulty expressing his anal glands.

Dog Expressing Anal Glands

Dog expressing anal glands means that his glands are releasing scent secretions. The anal glands or anal sacs are two scent glands that are located between the muscles just inside his anus at either side, approximately 5 and 7 O’clock. Every time the dog defecates, the pressure of the stool and contracting muscles squeeze the glands, releasing a small amount of the fishy, foul-smelling liquid. The color of this liquid could be thin and yellowish to thick and grayish in appearance filled inside the glands. This is what gives his stool that distinctive stinky odor.

It is also believed that pheromones, a type of chemical released by organisms as a means of communication with organisms of the same species, are released, allowing the dog to mark their territory. Moreover, dogs can also express their anal glands when they are afraid—as a defense mechanism. Therefore, if your dog is scared or startled by something, such as getting chased by a giant dog or hears a loud thunderclap, you will notice a foul fishy smell afterward.

Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish?

Your dog smells like fish because he has trouble expressing his anal gland that leads to impaction and rupture, causing leakage and giving your dog a stinky smell. “Anal gland secretion is often described as fishy smelling,” says Dr. Chris.

A few signs your dog may need their anal glands expressed are:

  1. Excessive licking around the area
  2. Scooting their hind end on the ground
  3. A fishy odorous smell from their hind end or even from their breath.

What Causes Impacted Anal Glands?

According to Dr. Chris, “problems with the anal glands generally involve an inability of a dog to properly express them on her own. Scooting (when a dog puts her weight on her forelimbs and drags her butt across the ground) can be a sign of anal gland sacculitis, an inflammation.  Constant licking or attention to the hind end is also a sign of an anal gland problem… Small dogs and toy breeds tend to have more problems with their anal glands.”

A variety of things can cause an impacted anal gland. So the answer to the question, “why does my dog smell like fish” lies in the following reasons:

  1. Obesity
  2. Diarrhea (soft stools don’t properly express the anal glands during defecation)
  3. Chronic skin infections (bacterial or yeast)
  4. Constipation (no stool, no anal gland expression)
  5. Allergies (environmental and food-related)
  6. Mites
  7. Hypothyroidism

Can I Express a Dog’s Anal Glands Myself?

Now that you know why your dog smells like fish, you might be tempted to help him. But you need to know that many dogs don’t need their glands expressed.

As explained by Dr. Chris, “well-meaning groomers express dogs’ anal glands, although I do not believe this should be done unless routine expression is recommended by a veterinarian.  Expressing the anal glands when there is not a problem can potentially lead to inflammation and anal gland sacculitis in an otherwise healthy dog.

If your dog does need to have their anal glands expressed, veterinarians and most groomers offer this service.  Some brave owners learn to express their dogs’ anal glands themselves. This is fine, but it is always best to do this on the advice of your vet, as there could be something more serious going on. They can also show you the proper way to do this unpleasant task.

But some dogs struggle with their anal glands and need to have their anal glands expressed regularly. If you want to do this yourself at home, spend at least one session with a veterinary technician that can guide you through it first to help both you and your dog together.”

Quick Tips on How to Get Rid of a Dog’s Fishy Smell

First and foremost, as the stinky fishy smell comes from the dog’s sensitive areas, consider consulting a vet if you are a novice and don’t know how to help your dog. However, if you have been guided by the vet, you can grab the following tips to do the job.

  1. Progress slowly and use lubricants
  2. Locate the glands.
  3. Go slow so you don’t make your dog uncomfortable.
  4. Squeeze gently from the furthest end (most interior side) of the “pea” or “grape” towards the opening in the anus.
  5. Give your dog something yummy to eat or fun to play with while you do it, such as a lick mat or peanut butter Kong.
  6. Remember to schedule at least one instructional session with a veterinary technician to help you first.

My Dog Smells Like Fish: Which Products Should I Use?

If your dog is releasing a fishy smell, you can use the following products to help him express his anal sacs and make him smell good.

1. Lubricant

As mentioned earlier, dog’s anal sacs are sensitive. Therefore, before inserting your fingers into it, lubricate your fingers to not hurt your dog. Be careful while choosing a lube—it should be alcohol-free and dog-friendly. Here, we’d recommend using Überlube Luxury Lubricant. Some of its features are as under:  

FeatureRating (out of 5)
For sensitive skin4.6
Easy to clean4.5

2. Nitrile Gloves

As hands carry a lot of germs, wearing nitrile gloves is a must. Plus, it will not let the secretion stick to your hands. While purchasing nitrile gloves, make sure it’s free of natural rubber latex—a common allergen. Though you may not have latex allergies, it’s better to be careful beforehand. Thankfully, nitrile gloves by Dre Health provide that safety, not only to you but your dog as well.

3. Puppy Wipes

When you insert your finger and squeeze the sacs, the stinky fluid will squirt out, puppy wipes will come in handy to clean it. Again, make sure that wipes are good for your dog. Puppy wipes should be soft, hypoallergenic, non-toxic, deodorizing, alcohol- and lanolin-free, and prevent potential cross-infection between the pet and the owner. Else, your dog might get an infection in his sacs, and the situation may worsen. That said, you should never use baby wipes on dogs.

Based on dog owners’ reviews, we recommend using Woosh Pet Wipes as they have all the qualities mentioned above.

Easy to use5.0
Value for money4.5

4. Dog Deodorant and Scented Perfume Body Spray

After you have completely squeezed out the fluid and cleaned the sacs with wipes, your dog’s rump will still release a bad odor which can be neutralized using a high-quality, alcohol-free dog deodorant and scented perfume body spray.

Easy to use4.7
Value for money4.7

So, why does my dog smell like fish? Your dog smells like fish because he is unable to express his anal sacs by himself, and when he defecates, the fluid adds to waste matter, releasing a stingy smell.

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