Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell So Bad, Like Fish?

Jul 31, 2023 | Dog Health, Dogs

We’ve all experienced it: the nose-wrinkling not so sweet smell of fishy breath on our pup’s morning hello. But why does it smell so bad? Is it something we should be worried about?

In this article, we’ll cover the common causes of fishy breath in dogs, how to eliminate it, and provide some final thoughts on the matter.

Fishy breath in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor dental hygiene, diet, and underlying medical conditions. Unfortunately, if left untreated, it can lead to more serious health issues like liver disease or kidney disease. That’s why it’s important as dog owners to understand what’s causing the smell and how to combat why your dog’s breath smells so bad.

So, let’s look at some of the most common causes of fishy breath in dogs and what you can do about it.

Common Causes Of Fishy Dog Breath

That fishy smell may come from a variety of factors that your dog may or may not be able to control. Some of them are generally health related, while others are choices we’re making as pet parents. But we need to examine each of the following most common reasons to begin ruling them out and get to the bottom of this stinky situation.


Anal Sac Disease

We all know that dogs can have bad breath, but if your pup’s breath is smelling like fish, it could be a sign of something more serious. Anal sac disease can cause your dog’s breath to smell like fish, and it’ll need treatment right away.

Anal sac disease occurs when the two small anal glands, located on either side of the anus, become infected, swollen, or impacted. Your dog’s anal glands produce a smelly fluid that is usually expressed when the dog defecates, but if the glands become blocked, the fluid can back up and cause an infection.

Symptoms of anal sac disease can include fishy smelling breath, scooting, licking or biting at the anus, straining to poop, and blood or pus in the stool.

If you suspect your pup may have anal sac disease, take them to the vet right away. Your vet will be able to diagnose the condition and provide treatment options. These treatments can include manual expression of the glands, antibiotics, or surgery.

With prompt diagnosis and treatment, your pup’s fishy breath should clear up in no time!


Eating Gross Non-Food Stuff

Your pup’s habit of eating gross non-food stuff can have some pretty smelly consequences! Dogs are curious creatures and tend to put anything and everything in their mouths. This can range from garbage, to sticks, to small rocks, their own poop, poop from other animals, and even dead animals.

Unfortunately, many of the things that our pups put in their mouths can cause fishy breath because these things can get stuck in their teeth, leading to dental problems. This can cause the bacteria in their mouth to build up, which can also lead to a fishy smell.

Dog eating trash on the street

Nutritionally Incomplete Diet

Without the right nutrients, a pup’s diet can be nutritionally incomplete, leading to other health problems and even bad breath. A nutritionally incomplete diet often results in dental diseases, which can cause a fishy odor in your pup’s breath. Dog food purchased at a big box store isn’t always the best option for your pup’s diet.

Many of these foods are missing key nutrients that your pup needs for good health. Additionally, many big box store-bought foods contain additives, such as sugar and water, that can also contribute to bad breath.

The best way to ensure your pup’s diet is nutritionally complete is to purchase a balanced formula diet specific feed recommended by your veterinarian. A holistic or raw diet is not needed for most pets, and will often do more harm than good. So don’t be fooled by the slick marketing efforts of those food brands selling expensive “all natural” alternatives. They can be great as a special treat for your pup, but they often lack the proper nutrition your dog really needs.


Foreign Objects Stuck Between Teeth

If there’s something stuck between your pup’s teeth such as food particles, it can cause bad breath that has an unpleasant fishy odor. Poor oral hygiene can lead to the accumulation of bacteria and plaque, which can cause dental issues like tartar buildup and tooth decay. Without proper dental care, the bacteria can cause your pup’s breath to smell strongly of fish.

As bacteria accumulates on the gum line and between the teeth, it can produce a smelly odor that is difficult to eliminate.

Regular brushing and dental chews are a good idea and can help keep your pup’s teeth and gums healthy, reducing the amount of bacteria that can cause stinky breath. It’s important to make sure that your pup’s diet is nutritionally complete, as this can help reduce the buildup of plaque, tartar, and bacteria which are an underlying condition to a dog’s bad breath.

So, if your pup’s breath still smells fishy, it may be a sign that there is something stuck between their teeth. Make sure to check your pup’s mouth regularly and take them to the vet if you notice any signs of dental issues or the foul smell doesn’t go away.


Lack Of Oral Care Or Dental Disease

Neglecting your pup’s oral hygiene can result in dental problems and bad dog breath. Poor dental care can lead to gum disease and plaque build-up on their teeth. If not treated, the bacteria can spread to other parts of their body, causing even more serious health problems.

To prevent this from happening, it’s important to give your pup dental treats designed to clean their teeth and provide them with dental care. Brushing your dog’s teeth on a regular basis also helps, but it’s not always enough. Consider getting a professional dental cleaning to remove any tartar buildup and prevent gum disease. When you do brush your dog’s teeth, remember to not use human toothpaste or oral rinses. You need to purchase dog safe oral care products to prevent additional medical issues from arising.

In cases of permanent teeth problems, such as missing or broken teeth, it’s important to consult with a vet. A vet can diagnose the problem and recommend the best treatment plan. This may include antibiotics to clear up any infection, as well as dental treats, brushing, and even a dental cleaning to prevent future issues.

Owner brushing teeth of cute dog at home

How To Eliminate Fishy Breath In Dogs

We understand that your furry friend’s fishy breath can be a source of annoyance. To help eliminate the fishy smell coming from your pup’s mouth, there are a few steps you can take:


Brush Your Dog’s Teeth Regularly And Use Doggy Mouthwash

Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth and using doggy mouthwash can help keep their breath smelling fresh instead of fishy. This is important in order to maintain your pup’s dental hygiene and overall health.

Using a toothbrush specially designed for dogs, and a toothpaste that is safe for doggie consumption, you can brush your dog’s teeth a few times a week. Additionally, using doggy mouthwash or dental rinses can help even further.

These products can help reduce plaque and tartar build-up, and can help keep your pup’s breath smelling nice. If you’re struggling with your pup’s fishy breath, regular brushing and doggy mouthwash can help keep it under control.


Use Dental Chews And Good Oral Health Chew Toys

Treating your pup’s teeth with dental chews and good oral health chew toys can help keep their breath smelling sweet instead of your dog’s breath smell like fish.

Dental chews are a great way to provide your pup with a form of dental hygiene, as they can help to reduce plaque and tartar buildup. A good oral health chew toy can also help to reduce bacterial infection, as they provide something for your pup to chew on that won’t damage their teeth.

Additionally, fish oil supplements can be added to their diet to help improve their breath. Fish oil is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation, the most common cause of bad breath, in the gums.

Incorporating dental chews and good oral health chew toys into your pup’s daily routine can be a great way to keep their breath smelling fresh and reduce the chances of any unwanted bacterial infection.

Side profile of large puppy dog biting on green rubber dental toy with bristle

Regular Dentals At Your Local Veterinary Office

As pet owners, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our pup’s breath smells fresh and healthy. Regular dental exams at your local veterinarian’s office are essential for maintaining optimal oral health for your pup, as they can help be a first step to identify potential issues before they become serious.

During these exams, the vet will check for any signs of tooth decay, gum disease, or other oral health issues in their adult teeth that are causing your puppy’s breath smells. They may also recommend the best oral hygiene practices for your pup, to give you a good chance of preventing those puppy breath smells we dread.

The most common causes of bad breath for dogs are plaque and tartar build-up, gum disease, and tooth decay. If left untreated, these issues can become more serious, leading to pain and discomfort for your pup, as well as other health issues.

But the good news is regular dental check-ups at your local vet can help identify and address these issues before they become more severe, ensuring that your pup’s breath remains healthy and fresh.

Hardware cleaning tartar on teeth of dog during dental procedure at the veterinarian

Bad Dog Breath Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best type of food to feed my dog to prevent fishy breath?

Feeding your dog a high-quality diet can help reduce fishy breath. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best food for your dog as it will be based on breed, size, and age of your pup. Avoid processed and artificial ingredients typically found in big box store branded foods, which can contribute to bad breath.

Are there any natural remedies to reduce bad breath in dogs?

Yes, there are natural remedies to reduce bad breath in dogs. Brushing their teeth regularly with a pet-safe toothpaste and providing chew toys and dental treats can help reduce plaque and tartar in their mouth. Feeding them a healthy diet can also help.

How often should I brush my dog’s teeth to prevent fishy breath?

We recommend brushing your dog’s teeth at least twice a week to prevent fishy breath. Regular brushing can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup, which can cause bad breath.

Are there any products I can buy to help reduce my dog’s fishy breath?

Yes, there are products available to help reduce your dog’s fishy breath. Look for dental chews specifically designed to reduce plaque and tartar, as well as water additives and mouthwash to help keep your pet’s teeth clean. Talk to your vet about what’s best for your pup.

Does my dog need to see a vet if his/her breath smells like fish?

Yes, depending on the cause of the fishy breath, a vet visit may be necessary. If the fishy smell persists despite at-home remedies, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. A vet can help diagnose the issue and provide treatment.


The Tail End

So, it’s important to keep an eye on your dog’s diet and hygiene habits to ensure their breath doesn’t start to smell like fish. Periodontal disease, a urinary tract infection, anal gland problems, kidney failure, and oral tumors can all cause bad breath in dogs. Properly diagnosing and treating any underlying conditions can help alleviate the fishy odor. But the most common culprit is typically oral healthcare related and can be as simple as your dog needing more brushings or dental chews.

It’s also important to provide your dog with regular dental cleanings at the vet to help keep their breath fresh. Regular check-ups with your vet can also help identify any underlying issues that may be the cause of the bad breath. So, by investing in regular vet visits and dental cleanings, you can help keep your dog’s breath smelling fresh and free of a fishy odor. Let’s all do our part to keep our furry friends happy and healthy!

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