My Dog Smells Like Fish When She Licks Herself

My Dog Smells Like Fish When She Licks Herself

Dogs and fishy odors are not a good mix. This unpleasant smell is enough to turn your stomach, particularly when you smell it on your dog’s breath after she has licked herself, and then tries to lick you!

If you’ve ever wondered why your dog smells like fish when she licks herself, read on. I will explain what this fishy smell is all about, why it happens, and whether it can be the sign of a health problem.

Why dogs smell like fish when they lick themselves

There are many reasons your female dog might smell like fish after licking themselves. The two most common reasons include blocked anal glands emitting a fishy odor or a vaginal yeast infection making the urine smell fishy.

It is worth noting, however, that some types of dogs are more likely to smell than others. Factors like gender, age, breed and conformation (the way your dog’s body is formed) can all have an impact on how likely it is for them to develop a fish smell after licking themself.

For example, if your female dog has an oily coat, which is common in breeds like retrievers and cocker spaniels, then she is more likely to produce a fishy smell to go along with the increased oil production.

And if she’s licking the places where the fishy smell is, that will transfer to her mouth, giving her foul smelling breath.

Further to this, if your female dog smells like fish and has a lot of skin folds – like a Shar Pei or English Bulldog – they are more likely to smell because yeast can develop within those folds and consequently give off a bad fish odour.

Oftentimes, the source of your female dog smelling like fish when she licks herself can be solved with either a bath or a quick trip to the vets. However, if you want to know more about some of the reasons why your female dog might smell, keep reading!

Handy Hint: Dogs that like to lick floors will often be looking for crumbs. But if it starts suddenly it can be the sign of a health issue.

1. Anal glands are secreting fishy smells and she’s licked to wash herself

These anal sacs are located either side on your dog’s anus. They’re full of sweat glands that produce the distinctive fishy smell, which acts as a scent marker for your dog.

If your dog is washing and licking her backside, the fishy smells will then transfer to her breath.

If you’ve ever wondered why your dog intently smells other dog’s bottoms or their poo, these secretions are the reason why.

They tell your dog everything they need to know about the other dog.

Did You Know? Dogs can also smell like fish when they get scared. It’s all do with their anal sacs and you can read more about it here.

 Her anal sacs can become impacted or infected, making the fishy smell worse when she licks at the area.

2. She has a gum condition that smells like fish

Another reason your dog smells like fish when she licks herself could actually be due to a condition inside the mouth.

There’s the possibility that it’s a gum condition like periodontal disease or gingivitis, which is caused by poor oral hygiene.

More specifically, the fishy breath smell could be the result of bacterial metabolism that lives on your female dog’s gums, the top of their tongue and plaque on their teeth.

If you want to get rid of your female dog’s fishy smelling breath after she licks you, a simple solution is to brush their teeth with enzymatic toothpaste two to three times each week. You can buy one on Amazon which is said to fight fish smelling breath.

You might also want to try chewable dental sticks (view on Amazon) to help fight oral bacteria in between brushes.

3. She has a problem with her urine which she has licked

Dog urine can also be a source of fishy smells. For example, it could be due to: 

  1. Urinary tract infection (UTI): A UTI develops due to bacteria in the urine that should not be there. This can cause the female dog’s urine to smell like fish. Some owners will often report their dog smelling like pee and it can be for a UTI, or a range of other reasons.
  2. Yeast infection: If your female dog’s UTI isn’t adequately treated, they may develop a yeast infection in their vagina, which will result in a fishy odor coming from her genital area.
  3. Pyometra: In very extreme cases, the fishy smell might occur because of something called pyometra. This is an infection that, contrary to popular belief, can affect both unspayed and spayed female dogs’ wombs.

The last one, pyometra, is very serious. The PDSA say the following:

“A pyometra is an infection inside the womb. Any unneutered dog is at risk of developing a pyometra, especially if they are over six years old. Hormonal changes during heat put your dog at risk of a womb infection. Once the heat is over, the majority return to normal, but unfortunately, some dogs develop complications, which lead to an infection (pyometra). As a pyometra develops, the womb fills with pus. A pyometra can lead to blood poisoning, kidney failure, peritonitis and even death.”


If your dog still smells like fish after she licks herself, and if that odor is going onto you when she gives you a lick, get in touch with a vet. Be aware that some owners also describe this smell as being metallic, which can be the same thing as the fishy odor. It could be that they can express the anal glands, check the vaginal area, or prescribe a doggy dentalcare routine.

Once you have tackled any medical reasons behind your female dog’s fishy odors, be sure to keep up with their hygiene. Through regular baths with teeth brushing, your dog will be smelling fresh as a daisy in no time!

Please Note: This article is not intended to replace professional veterinarian advice but is my own opinions and research as a dog owner. You should always seek an expert opinion.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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