Dogs sometimes smell a little weird. They tend to get into things they aren’t supposed to play with (often eating things they aren’t supposed to eat, as well) and when your doggie is a little stinky generally you just give puppy a bath and be done with it. So, what if you give them a bath and still end up asking yourself ‘why does my dog smell like fish’? If your doggie has a persistent fishy smell then we may have some bad news for you. Let’s discuss why your dog smells fishy and if it might be time for a trip to the vet.
Is this fishy smell normal?
Well, yes and no. Have you ever noticed how dogs seem to be very interested in other dog’s excrement and they tend to sniff each other’s rear-quarters a lot? That is due to the anal sacs. These are two glands which your dog has on either side of their anus and they produce secretions. These secretions give a ‘chemical signature’ for your dog and so when you see other dogs sniffing poo then what you might be seeing is them reading information about another dog. Now, if your dog becomes frightened, these glands can produce a scent that some describe as ‘fishy’, however if your dog doesn’t seem to be overly nervous and exhibits some other symptoms that we will discuss then your pup may need a visit to the vet.
What’s wrong with my dog?
If your dog seems to smell like fish all the time then it might be a case of Anal Sac disease. Most commonly seen in the smaller breeds of dogs, Anal sac disease sounds scary but it is actually quite common and treatable and the blanket term is used to describe a few different issues that can occur with your dog’s anal sacs. Issues such as:
- Tumors – Sometimes elusive enough to require a biopsy to find, anal gland tumors affect your dogs ability to express themselves through scent.
- Infections –Anal glands can occasionally become infected, turning into abscesses if they are left untreated. Abscesses are painful, can rupture, and are generally recognized by swelling or discoloration.
- Impactions – Whenever your dog poops the anal sacs express a small amount of scent marker to go along with the droppings. Occasionally, if the anal sacs are not fully emptied then the remaining fluids can dry, causing blockage. Anal sacs which are blocked harden up and your Vet can recognize this and even gently massage the glands to release the blockage.
Are there other signs to look for?
Yes. If your dog is whining or seems to be in pain and there is also a fishy smell then anal sac disease is a possibility. Also watch to see if your dog is scooting around a lot with their front legs and dragging their rear end across the floor. While sometimes this behavior is normal, if you notice the fishy scent or you can tell that your dog is in pain then get them to the vet to get it checked out.
Is Anal Sac disease treatable?
Yes. In the case of impaction the vet may express the excess fluid as described, generally utilized a saline rinse. If there is an infection then this can be treated through cleaning, antibiotics, and the occasional application of a compress if needed. In a worst case scenario your dog’s anal sacs may need to be removed. This can have potential complications which your vet will discuss with you but should not affect the overall quality and duration of your dog’s life.
Yikes! Is there anything I can do to help prevent this from happening?
A little bit of ‘preventative maintenance’ goes a long way and there are definitely some things which you can do to help to keep Anal Sac disease at bay (or at least to minimize the chances of it occurring). Some things which can do are as follows:
- Make sure that your doggy’s water is always fresh and clean. You wouldn’t want old water, after all, would you? Clean water helps to ensure that your doggies system gets flushed cleanly of toxins just like it does with us so make sure you are only giving your doggy water that you would trust for yourself.
“Make sure that your furry friend gets lots of exercise”
- Make sure that your furry friend gets lots of exercise and keep a careful eye on what you feed them. Better general health means a better immune system so make sure that your dog is well-exercised and has a shiny, clean coat.
- Make sure that your doggy’s droppings are what you are used to seeing. If you start noticing problems in your dogs stool then this is an early warning sign if it keeps recurring. Don’t ignore it, if you see strange droppings more than once and you are sure it’s not because the dog stole your curry or your custard then it’s time for a visit to the vet.
- Make sure that your dog is getting the proper amount of fiber in their diet for their size and breed.
Are there any other anal sac conditions to worry about?
If your dog is an older dog then there is always a possibility of the Anal Sacs developing Adenocarcinoma, another type of cancer. If you are worried and noticing discomfort in your dog that seems to be focused on their rear then get your dog to the vet for a checkup. Like standard tumors, this is treatable if caught early on.
Some final words on fishy smells
In this article we have discussed reasons why your dog might have a fishy scent. While this is most common in smaller dogs, Anal Sac disease can also occur with larger dogs but thankfully it is quite treatable. So if you notice a fishy scent and your furry friend isn’t getting into the catfish that you baked for dinner then visit your vet and get things checked out!