Why Does My Female Dog Smell Like Fish? (Breath, Urine, Butt)

female dog smells like fish

Have you ever had that thing when you’re playing with your female dog and suddenly get a whiff of a horribly fishy odor? It’s enough to make you gag! Even now, all these years later, I can still remember the really intense whiff of fish coming from the behind of my grandmother’s dog when I picked her up for a cuddle.

Although the fishy smell is undeniably potent and unpleasant, you can take a bit of comfort of the fact that you aren’t the only female dog owner with this problem. It’s quite common for female dogs to smell like fish, whether that’s their backside, breath, or pee, as I will explain today.

Why your female dog smells like fish?

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

 A lot of owners, especially owners of female dogs, can relate to the smell of fish at some point in their lives.

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.

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.

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 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!

dog in heat smells like fish
A female dog in heat can smell of fish, or it could be your dog’s pee that has a fishy stink to it.

Why does your female dog sometimes smell like fish?

Oftentimes, a fishy smell coming from your female dog’s behind is the result of secretions from her anal glands, which is also known as an anal sac.

1. Anal glands can secrete fishy smells

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 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.

2. Female dog smells like fish when scared

Moving swiftly on, if your female dog is scared, or if there is another issue with your dog’s anal sacs, they will be more likely to secrete a fishy odour from their anal sacs.

So, if you are wondering why your dog smells of fish, it is probably because something is wrong with their anal sac.

Broadly speaking, problems with your dog’s anal sacs that cause a secreting fishy smell are considered under the umbrella term anal sac disease, but here we will break down what exactly that might mean.

Handy Hint: I’ve written a larger guide about dogs smelling like fish when they are scared and stressed which goes into more detail about how to prevent it.

3. Her anal sacs are impacted

Your dog’s anal glands are normally expressed and cleared of excess fluid when they defecate. However, sometimes, your dog’s glands are not completely emptied.

If this happens, the fluid becomes dry and causes an impaction, which means that your female dog will be unable to fully express these glands properly. This is a prime time for when your dog’s butt will smell all fishy.

4. Her anal sacs are infected

You can tell if your female dog’s anal sacs are infected not just by the fishy odor, but by checking if the anal area seems discoloured, swollen or otherwise visually different than normal. It’s important to treat these infections with antibiotics by your vet, or it can lead to painful abscesses or even ruptures.

5. Her anal sacs have abscesses and tumors

Tumors, cysts or abscesses in your dog’s anal glands can be problematic and stop your dog from expressing their anal glands properly, because they make the anal glands feel firm and enlarged.

Why does my female dog’s urine smell like fish?

If you find that your female dog’s pee smells like fish, here are some of the most common reasons why:

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.

It is a serious medical condition that requires urgent attention. The PDSA dog charity describe is as follows:

“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.”

Given how serious this is, if your unspayed or spayed female dog’s pee smells of fish, I would always get it checked out so you can have the peace of mind it’s nothing serious.

Why does my female dog’s breath smell like fish?

If you notice a fishy smell on your female’s dog’s breath, it could possibly be 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, 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.


Now that have hopefully identified why your female smells of fish, you’re probably wondering: what’s next? Well, in the case of blocked anal glands you can either express them manually yourself or have a vet do it for you.

Generally, however, if your dog has an infection, abscess or other problem in their bottom or vagina that is causing the fishy smell, it is important to take them to your vet’s so that they can either prescribe them antibiotics or solve the underlying issue at hand.

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 are dental care, 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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