We love our dogs and hopefully they love us too. But canine halitosis can be a real downer… especially when it’s fishy. If your dog’s breath smells like fish, you may wonder why and how.
Many dog owners realise their dog’s breath smells like fish but are prepared to simply live with it. The truth is though, there are many causes for fishy breath, but some of them can be remedied.
Obviously a dog’s breath is unlikely to ever smell like roses, but IT IS possible to reduce noisome fishy odours.
But first you need to understand why it’s breath smells so fishy!
Table of Contents
- Why Does a Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?
- Poor Dental Hygiene
- Fishy Food
- Anal Gland Issues
- Other Health Issues
- Other Posts That Might Interest You
Why Does a Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?
Does your furry friend’s breath remind you a bit too much of tuna casserole and last night’s fish dinner? Could you do without a fishy waft whenever your dog gets too close?
Let’s dive into the reasons behind this smelly situation and what you can do to fix it.
Poor Dental Hygiene
Can you imagine not brushing your teeth for a week? A month? Pet parents who rarely brush their dog’s teeth should consider a new dental hygiene game plan, especially if that fishy breath is out to play.
Plaque buildup on the teeth can turn into tartar, a calcified substance that eventually leads to teeth decay.
Sounds serious, right? It is.
Tartar can even cause inflamed gums, cavities, and abscesses. These ugly side effects cause that fishy smell. If the damage to the tissues around the teeth is bad enough, the vet may diagnose your dog with periodontal disease or gum disease.
Old dogs don’t learn new dental hygiene habits, or do they? Either way, as a doggie parent, it’s best to start a proper dental hygiene routine as soon as possible, especially if your dog already has fishy breath.
Use canine toothpaste and an appropriately-sized, soft-bristle toothbrush to brush your dog’s teeth daily. At most pet stores, you’ll find a wide array of dental chew toys, dental treats, and water additives. All of these products help remove plaque buildup and bacteria from your dog’s teeth and mouth.
Also, consider adjusting your dog’s daily diet. Excess carbs and sugars in dog food can lead to more plaque buildup. High-carb diets promote bacteria growth in the mouth, which also creates a by-product of sulphuric gas, leading to that stinky breath. When dog-food shopping, look for items that the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) approves. Whole foods (real meat, for example) or high-protein wet food are good alternatives to the standard high-carb kibble diet that may cause bad breath.
The American Veterinary Medical Association advises dog owners to get dental checkups for their dogs once a year. A vet or veterinary dentist can check for abnormalities and administer the proper treatment to solve any oral health issues that come from poor dental hygiene.
Have you ever caught your dog rummaging through the trash? Is she inclined to munch on anything smelly and within reach? If so, there’s a chance that fish was actually on the menu, causing the consequential smell.
It may be near impossible to keep an eye on your little rascal 24/7, but you can tweak your behavior and implement training to stop your dog from ingesting items besides her food. For instance, use trash bins that close securely. Don’t leave human food out where she can get to it. Keep her close to you on walks, so she doesn’t grab a snack off the street.
Use positive reinforcement to train your dog not to put foreign objects or human food in her mouth. When she passes by a potential “snack” without taking the bait, reward her. It’ll take time, patience, and teamwork, but with extra care, you can help prevent your pooch from eating undesirable items.
Brush your dog’s teeth if she’s just eaten something gross. If the fishy breath persists, consider other reasons for her bad breath. Consult with your vet if the issue does not resolve.
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Anal Gland Issues
Have you noticed your pup scooting along the ground after going potty? Have you seen excessive licking in the bum area or even redness or swelling back there? These are potential signs of a health concern with the anal glands.
Dogs have two little fluid sacs on the inside of their anuses called anal glands. These serve important functions, such as scent-marking and providing each dog with her own smell for peer-to-peer identification. Healthy dogs release a bit of this fluid naturally while pooping. However, anal sacs sometimes have problems. Those problems may include anal gland impaction, infection, rupture, or cancer.
So, what do anal gland issues have to do with fishy breath?
Well, your dog will lick the affected area in an attempt to relieve itchiness or pain. Anal sac fluid has a fishy smell, so the smell transfers to your pooch’s mouth. And, there you have it: fishy breath.
Visit your vet if you see any of these potential anal gland health issues and you can smell fishy breath. The vet will assess your dog.
In many cases, the anal glands simply need to be expressed. Anal gland expression is the process of gently applying pressure to the anal sacs to release built-up anal gland fluid.
If the problem continues to occur, consider your dog’s diet. If her stools are constantly mushy, adding fibre can help keep the stools firm, which helps the anal sacs drain naturally.
With the anal issue resolved, the fishy breath should go away.
Other Health Issues Making Your Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish
If the fishy breath isn’t resolved after treating the problems above, your vet may consider more serious health issues, such as kidney or liver disease.
Kidney disease has many symptoms besides smelly breath. They include loss of appetite, vomiting, and changes in water consumption. Liver disease may cause bad breath because the kidney isn’t filtering out toxins as usual. Other symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, and vomiting.
If you notice a few of those symptoms, visit the vet for an assessment. The vet will administer medication or conduct surgery as needed.
Don’t panic, though! It’s far more likely that your pet’s fishy breath is coming from a less serious problem.
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Summary – My Dog’s Breath Smells Like Fish… Why?
Now that you know the most common reasons for fishy breath, you should be better equipped to deal with the problem.
Whether the culprit is fishy food, poor dental hygiene, or something else, always consult a veterinary professional if you have any doubts…
… and hopefully before too long, your pooch’s breath will be fresh and clean… and not fishy!
Has your dog’s breath had a fishy smell? Or perhaps your dog’s breath smells like fish right now? I’d love to hear about your experiences so please share them in the comment section at the bottom of this page.
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