Puppy Breath Smells Like Fish? (Common Reasons and Prevention)

Imagine your puppy jumping at you with a hug and what emanates from his orifice is a rotten-fish-like smell that can make you throw up your intestines. Can you relate?

You're not alone. It's a common problem for not only puppies but adult dogs as well. While you can't expect that poodle's breath to smell mint always, it is, at least, hygienic to help him maintain a natural breath that is very bearable.

So, your puppy's breath smells like fish? There is an array of reasons why it is so. Some of which may be due to some underlying diseases. In this article, you'll learn not only where this problem sprung up from but also how to eradicate it.

Here Are The Common Your Puppy's Breath Smells Like Fish

To begin with, know that dogs naturally go on eating adventure - digging and chewing just about anything that tickles their fancy.

Consider this when your dog's breath smells like fish all of a sudden; what has he been uprooting and feasting on lately? Particularly something that you have not been giving to him to eat.

Having understood this, the following is the most common reason why your puppy's breath smells like dead fish.

1. An issue with the Anal Glands

This is the most common reason for fish-like breath in dogs. While any dog can have issues with their anal glands, it is more common with puppies and overweight adult dogs.

What are anal glands?

Also known as anal sacs, they are the two openings cited on either side of your dog's anus. These sacs discharge fluid that naturally has a foul smell. When your dog defecates, the force causes the fluid to get released and subsequently drops on your dog's excreta.

As a matter of Interest, this fluid, when released, is like a newsletter for other dogs. With it, neighboring dogs can get information such as your dog's gender, emotional state, age, etc., when they sniff your dog's poop.

Fascinating, right?

This explains why you see dogs sniff each other's tails (the area close to the anus) and why you see your dog toil at other dog's excreta with so much enthusiasm; they are often just trying to get certain information about themselves.

Now, the reason why anal glands may be a cause for your dog's fish-like breath is thus: other than defecating, what prompts dogs to express their anal glands instinctively is nervousness.

But sometimes, a dog might not be able to express the glands himself, which will cause the fluid to fill up unfetteredly and lurk around the sac opening. The result is a dog that smells like fish.

When a dog continually defecates less scoop, expressing the glands [1] to release fluid will become difficult; this is largely because less scoop requires little force and strength, of which anal glands need force and strength to open. 

This explains why the issue is common with puppies who usually excrete little feces.

man check dog anal gland for pungent fish smell

When expressing the anal sac becomes a Herculean task for your dog, the anal sacs will get swollen and change color.

When this is the case, you'll often see your dog scooting his rear (anus) on the ground. Don't fret; it's an indication that he is trying to express his anal glands manually.

Swollen glands are very painful for dogs, and the fluid that leaks from them has a pungent rotten-fish-like smell. Naturally, your dog will lick the fluid, making him have a bad fish-like breath.

Sacs can also swell and develop a fish-like smell when they are infected with bacteria. This will cause abscesses to rift through the skin if the infection isn't detected early enough.

In summation, filled-up glands that aren't expressed produce a pungent, fish-like smell, which can be noticed when you're close to your dog. On the flip side, if he licks the fluid from the sacs, his breath will smell like rotten fish.

How Do I Know if My Puppy Has Issues with His Anal Glands?

Thankfully, issues with anal glands can be detected physically, and you only need to pay attention to a few things, some of which are:

Biting and licking of the anus

When rigorous, this behavior means your dog is trying to clean his rear (anus) of the surrounding fluid.

Scooting on the floor

You'll notice your dog dragging his buts sideways while scooting. This is him trying to express his anal glands manually.

Defecating difficulty

If your dog is having issues with his anal glands, he may find it difficult to defecate and may whimper while doing so. This is because the anal glands have swollen after having filled up with no discharging for long.

Blood on stool

When your dog has infected, swollen anal sacs, blood from the sacs will mix with his stool.

Lump

Close to the rectum will be a lump if your dog has an anal glands problem. The lump is an indication that the situation has gone unnoticed for long and gotten really bad.

Most issues with anal glands can be treated easily. However, administering medicine for it yourself isn't advised. You will need to go take your puppy to see a veterinarian for proper treatment.

On the other hand, if your puppy merely has issues expressing his glands and it hasn't gotten that bad, you can manually help him open them up with your own hands, and it's very easy. 

man helping his dog to express his glands

To do this, wear some gloves and pull up his tail, after which you should pull the anal sacs forward with mild pressure. There may be a little resistance from your dog, but hold still till the fluid comes out freely. All this should be done in a bathroom.

How Do I Keep My Dog's Anal Glands Problem-free?

Ensure your dog exercises well enough.

Not only is being overweight unhealthful for your dog, it can also make him experience difficulties expressing his anal glands. Ensure he exercises well.

Ensure his feces forms well and look out for any abnormality.

If your dog's feces come in small droppings than the norm, it could be a sign of anal glands. Before it escalates, make it an obligation to manually ease out the anal glands and make the obstructed fluid flow.

Regulate what your dog eats and ensure he is taking the right amount of fiber

Other Possible Reasons Why Your Puppy's Fish-Smell Breath 

Before you say, 'my puppy's breath stinks', know that unexpressed anal glands fluid which your dog licked is the most common reason . However, it goes without saying that other overlooked habits may be the culprit. Other possible reasons are:

2. Pest Control Poison

Pest controls are usually formulated with compounds such as zinc phosphide and phosphorus.

These compounds, when mixed with your dog's saliva, produces a fish-like smell. Your dog could possibly eat an item a pest control has been sprayed on, thus making even a 6 month old puppy breath smell like fish.

In this case, quick medical attention is needed to save your dog from poisoning. For prevention, ensure pest control items are kept out of reach of your dog and that your dog doesn't chew anything they have been sprayed on.

3. Kidney Disease or Liver Problem

Your dog's liver may need quick medical attention if his liver suffers dimethyl sulfide accumulation; this causes a fish-like odor to emanate from his mouth, and the same thing applies when his kidney has some infection.

A veterinarian will have to diagnose him to ascertain where the problem is coming from.

4. Dental Issues

Given that dogs don't get regular mouth cleansing as humans do, their teeth can accumulate gunk over time, subsequently leading to the dental problem, Gingivitis.

When gunk hardens, some of your dog's teeth will begin to separate from the gum, thereby trapping different bacteria and food, which, in turn, will make your dog's breath smell of fish. Regular brushing of your dog's teeth should streamline the possibility of this issue.

5. Dog Food

Yes, your dog's food may be the reason why his breath smell of fish. Fish is a common ingredient in dog food. It is usually accompanied by formulas such as eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaecnoic acid.

The problem is that some dog food contains an unusually high amount of these compounds, thereby making your dog's breath smell of fish after ingesting the food. Although this particular smell lingers for some time, it usually doesn't last long.

Final Thoughts

A dog's breath can smell for different things; it all depends on what he scoffs with his mouth.

If your puppy breath smells like fish, particularly a very pungent one, the chances are that he's experiencing difficulties expressing his anal glands and have licked the fluid emanating from them while trying to express them manually.

Make it a habit to help your dog, especially a puppy or an overweight dog, express the glands once in a while.

While other things can cause your dog's breath to smell like fish, they are easily avoidable with regular hygiene and precaution. Avoid foods high in eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaecnoic acids, brush your dog's teeth regularly, and be careful with pest control products in a dog environment

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