Why does my dog smell of fish?
What are a dog’s anal sacs?
What issues can dogs have with their anal sacs?
Issues with the anal sacs include:
- Anal sac impaction - These account for nearly 80% of anal sac disorders and are caused by the anal sacs not completely emptying each time your dog has a poo. The remaining liquid can dry up and cause a blockage that prevents the sacs from emptying. Impacted anal sacs can be incredibly painful and if left untreated can lead to infection and abscesses
- Anal sac infections and abscesses - These account for around 9% of cases, causing the anal sacs to become discoloured or swollen and sometimes even rupture, leading to extreme pain and further complications
- Tumours - Dogs can be affected by tumours of the anal sacs or of the glands that line their walls. Tumours of the anal glands are usually benign (they don’t spread), are a relatively common tumour and usually affect entire males. Tumours of the anal sacs are different; they tend to be rarer and may spread to other parts of the body. Any abnormal swelling around your dog’s bottom should be examined by your vet.
Signs of anal sac disease
- A strong fishy smell, particularly around your dog’s bottom
- Scooting on the floor
- Biting or licking at their bottom
- Problems going to the toilet
- Signs of pain when they sit
- Yelping in pain
- Hard or discoloured lumps around their anus
- Blood or pus in their stool
- An open wound or abscess on their bottom may suggest a ruptured anal sac
If you think your dog may have problems with their anal sacs, it’s important that you speak to your vet before the condition becomes more painful and severe.
Which dogs are prone to anal sac disorders?
The study found that:
- Breeds with an increased risk of anal sac disorders compared with crossbred dogs included:
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- King Charles Spaniels
- Shih Tzus
- Bichon Frise
- Cocker Spaniels
- Breed types with an increased risk of anal sac disorders included:
- Flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs
- Spaniel types
- Dachshund types
- Poodle types
- Breeds with a reduced risk of anal sac disorders compared with crossbred dogs included:
- German Shepherd Dogs
- Staffordshire Bull Terriers
- Border Collies
- Labrador Retrievers
What should I do if my dog smells of fish?
Although some groomers offer the service of expressing your dog’s anal sacs, it’s always best to speak to your vet in the first instance, as there could be an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed.
How do I squeeze or empty my dog’s anal sacs?
Some dogs need to be treated more than once and your vet may decide to express your dog's anal sacs, but this should never be done without your vet’s guidance. Some groomers may also be able to express anal sacs, but if your dog does need additional help, then you should speak to your vet about the best ways to manage their issue first. Expressing your dog’s anal sacs too often, especially when it's not necessary, can cause further harm or future complications.
How can I prevent anal sac disease?
- Feed your dog a good quality diet that contains the right amount of fibre
- Make sure they’re getting enough regular exercise
- Give your dog access to water so that they stay well hydrated
- Keep an eye on your dog’s stools to ensure they’re not too soft
- Keep your dog at a healthy weight. Some vets have suggested that dogs with obesity are more likely to develop anal sac issues, while others dispute this. Nonetheless, keeping your dog at a healthy weight is one of the best ways to maintain their overall health
- Know the signs to watch out for that your dog may be beginning to suffer from anal sac issues
Speak to your vet to ask for further advice about diet, exercise and the steps you can take to reduce the risk of anal sac impaction.
Why does my dog smell of fish when they’re scared?
Why does my dog’s breath smell like fish?
Why does my dog’s urine smell like fish?
Why does my female dog smell like fish?
If your female dog smells of fish, they may have a problem with the natural balance of normal yeast or bacteria in their vagina. It may also be a sign of a urinary tract infection or pyometra (infection of the womb). If your dog smells unpleasant or different, has any unusual discharge, or seems unwell, then contact your vet.
Find out more
Think your dog may be affected?
If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately!
We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information
Find a vet near you
If you're looking for a vet practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a vet page.