I am Dana, a Veterinary Doctor who studied Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida. For years, I have got common questions from friends and family about their pets. So, I decided to open up this website and answer all those frequently asked questions. Alongside, here I share my expert knowledge about pet care, pet health and the animal environment. Click Here to read more about me. Thanks for visiting aplaceforanimals.com

Causes Behind Dog’s Breath Smells Like Fish

causes behind dog’s breath smells like fish

Minty fresh breath is simply something dogs do not have. Even some of the best-cared pets can have a foul-smelling breath that can be reduced by regularly chewing on bones, hard treats, and toys, but their breath will never be that pleasant. 

Many dogs will acquire a fishy-smelling breath at some point in their lifetime. It can happen due to ingestion of different foods or trash, diet, mouth or dental disease, infections, upper respiratory tract disease, or diabetes.

Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish? 

This bad breath, or halitosis, in dogs can happen for several reasons. Sometimes it is just a symptom of some serious diseases.

For example, the fishy breath may be caused by an ulcer in the mouth, something your dog ate, or a tooth infection. Though some of the causes of bad breath can be minor, a few causes may indicate serious health conditions that require treatment. 

Oral Problems That Can Cause Fishy Breath

Dogs suffer from as many oral conditions as humans. One of these can cause your dog’s breath to smell like fish.

  • Periodontal Disease
  • Poor Oral Hygiene 
  • Oral Ulcerations
  • Oral Tumors

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is one of the most common causes of bad breath in dogs.

Dogs cannot brush and floss their teeth, so they are more susceptible to tartar, gum disease, and plaque. And all of these contribute to the growth of bacteria that cause fishy breath. 

That is why it is essential for dog owners to keep their pet’s mouths as clean as possible. 

Breeds with flat faces and many of the smaller dogs such as Boston terriers and pugs are more prone to these issues because their teeth are so close together.

Poor Oral Hygiene 

Poor oral hygiene can cause periodontal disease. When too much tartar and plaque build up, they push the gums away from the teeth resulting in new areas for bacteria to grow.

It inflames the dog’s gums and may cause cavities, tissue destruction, infection, tooth loss, and lastly, will lead to bad breath.

Oral Ulcerations

Oral infection, ingestion, reactions to drugs, or licking caustic substances can result in Ulcers in the mouth and eventually cause bad breath.

Some Common household caustic substances are:

  • Dishwashers and laundry pods can look like dog toys because of being colorful and soft. So, dogs can ingest or chew these and suffer from extreme oral ulcerations.
  • Cleaning chemicals such as bleach. If your dog mistakenly ingests those chemicals, he can suffer from oral ulceration and have a fishy smell.
  • Liquid potpourri has an aroma and can attract some dogs. Potpourri has cationic detergents and essential oils in it. These can also cause severe ulceration of the gum tissues, mouth, and esophagus and lead to bad breath.

Oral Tumors

If your dog has tumors in his mouth, they can be infected, and if the parts of the tumor begin to die, it will cause a foul and fishy odor.

7 More Potential Causes of Bad Breath in Dogs

Sometimes problems in the mouth can cause bad breath. But a few more possible conditions contribute to this fishy smell.

  1. Digestive Problems 
  2. Cancers
  3. Kidney Diseases
  4. Respiratory Infections
  5. Diabetes
  6. Liver Disease
  7. Anal Sac Diseases

Now, let’s get to know about these in little detail.

  1. Digestive Problems

Dogs who suffer from digestive problems, including stomach ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux, and hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, can have fishy breath. 

Vomiting can also lead to sour and fishy-smelling breath.

  1. Cancers

Cancer of the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs can cause sour and foul breath in dogs.

  1. Kidney Diseases

If your dog’s kidney doesn’t function properly, his breath can have a urine odor.

  1. Respiratory Infections

If your dog has respiratory tract infections, he can foul breath. You can especially smell the bad breath when your dog exhales or coughs.

  1. Diabetes

Diabetes can also cause an abnormal oral odor. Your dog can have an abnormal sweet, fruity odor, indicating severe diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis.

  1. Liver Disease

If you see your dog has no appetite, has a yellow tinge to his gums, is vomiting, and has a foul breath, he may have a liver problem.

  1. Anal Sac Diseases

Are you sure the problem is in your dog’s breath? Because secretions from your dog’s anal sacs can also cause an unpleasant scent.

The anal glands can be affected by a variety of disorders. Suppose the glands aren’t effectively expressed, and the anal sacs don’t drain completely. In that case, this can lead to abscesses and infections if left untreated. Tumors can also make normal expression difficult and cause the anal glands to emit a fishy odor.

Note: Your dog will need immediate medical intervention for all of the above conditions. So if you see any of the symptoms in your dog, make an appointment with your veterinarian. 

Image credit: Shutterstock

How to Get Rid of Fishy Smells from Dogs?

Once you know the cause behind your dog’s fishy breath, the next important step is to provide the necessary treatment to prevent the bad breath.

  1. Suppose the bad breath is indeed related to clogged anal glands. It should be discussed with a vet. In that case, the owner has a few options when deciding upon a solution. Some dogs in this situation need to have their glands expressed. The vet can do this for them. They can determine if the glands will express on their own. Once the anal glands are empty, the fishy smell on the dog’s breath will go away in time.
  1. If tartar, plaque, and periodontal disease are causing bad breath in your dog, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian and go for a dental cleaning if needed. Depending on how much it is exposed to the periodontal disease, the vet may need to remove damaged or loosen teeth.
  1. In the case of unsupervised snacking, managing the trash properly and restricting your dog’s access to gross outdoor finds will solve the issue. If you place the litter box outside of his reach, it will eliminate the possibility of cat feces consumption.
  1. Diabetes, cancer, liver, and kidney disease require immediate treatment from a veterinarian. Your dog’s bad breath should go away after curing underlying conditions.

Bonus Tips

  • The easiest way to prevent your dog’s normal bad breath is to regularly brush your dog’s teeth. It will reduce plaque and promote better oral hygiene.

Note: Use only DOG toothpaste. Toothpaste meant for people contains ingredients that are toxic to dogs.

  • Provide your dog with plenty of chew toys and dental treats to help him take care of his teeth naturally. Chewing protects from plaque and tartar build-up, along with relieving boredom. So, it keeps your dog both healthy and happy.

Note: Make sure to pick dog chew toys according to your dog’s size and age.

  • Because of having teeth that are closer together, small breeds are more prone to periodontal disease. They require more dental care than large breeds. So, please provide them with enough chew toys and brush their teeth regularly from a young age.
  • Feed your dog a balanced diet. Make him do some exercises regularly, and take him to the veterinarian for regular check-ups to help prevent systemic disorders like diabetes and fishy breath.
  • Take good care of your beloved dog. He won’t be able to express his discomfort and pain to you most of the time, but his bad breath will give you some warning. Be a good dog owner, and try to observe the minor details about your dog.

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