Why Does My Dog’s Butt Smell Like Fish?

Why Does My Dog’s Butt Smell Like Fish

All dogs smell bad occasionally, but most of the time we will bee hit with an odor that is easy to explain. Typically, this will happen if our dogs fart, roll in something like fox poop, or they get soaked after a walk and develop that wet dog smell.

However, occasionally our furry companions will give off an extremely pungent fishy smell that seemingly appears from nowhere. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, this fishy smell will likely originate from our dog’s butts.

If you are unfortunate enough to notice that your dog’s butt smells like fish, I am going to explain why, and what you can do about it. Scroll lower down for the solutions you can take to cure the unpleasant fishy smell on your dog’s butt.

Why your dog’s bum smells like fish

Why does my dogs butt smell like fish? Dog’s bum or butts can smell like fish due to an anal gland infection, impaction, or blockage. Anal sacs are on either side on your dog’s butt. They contain sweat glands that produce the fishy smell, which acts as a scent marker for dogs. 

Dogs can emit a fishy smell form their buts when they are scared. You can read more about that in this additional guide.

What does it mean if your dog’s butt smells like fish?

In general, most fishy aromas emanating from dog butts usually stem from the same issue, a possible problem with the anal glands. (As a word of note, before we go into further detail, we would recommend you put away any food you might currently be eating.)

If your dog has anal sac infection, then the butt will smell like fish. Other things you can also check for include checking if the anal area seems discoloured, swollen or otherwise visually different than normal.

Dogs butt smells like fish
Why your dog’s butt smells like fish will be down to anal gland issues.

It’s important to treat these infections with antibiotics by your vet, or it can lead to painful abscesses or even ruptures.

You dog’s breath might also smell like fish. This will be due to the dog cleaning themselves. If a dog licks their butt that smells like fish, that nasty aroma will transfer to their mouth and breath.

Anal glands (or anal sacs) are located in the anus and contain a liquid that is responsible for creating such a strong and foul-smelling fishy odor. Depending on the dog, this liquid may vary in color and appearance, appearing thick and grey in some canines and thin and yellowish in others.

All dogs possess anal glands and in general, they work efficiently and without problems, being utilized to help dogs mark territory whenever they take a poop. To put it simply, the liquid contained within the anal sacs is released with the feces when dogs relieve themselves – and will act as a scent marker.

However, it is not uncommon for these glands to become blocked in some dogs. For one reason or another, they do not empty correctly, eventually leading to further complications in the future – including making your dog’s bum smell like fish.

Unfortunately, there is no proper consensus on what exactly causes anal gland issues to appear in dogs. Despite this, many experts believe that the root of the problem is connected to other health issues commonly found in canines, such as obesity, allergies, chronic diarrhea, and gastrointestinal disorders.

Therefore, you should be extra vigilant if your dog suffers from any of these related conditions and their bum smells fishy.

Handy Hint: Here are some other reasons why you dog might stink, even after a bath.

What are the symptoms of anal gland impaction?

As previously mentioned, most dog’s anal glands will naturally empty whenever they defecate. However, this process can often go wrong at times, leading to the fluid not being emptied from the glands completely.

If this happens regularly, it can cause the fluid to become almost entirely dry, resulting in impaction.

Sadly, dogs suffering from this nasty condition will often experience severe amounts of pain as a result of this.

Thankfully, spotting the symptoms of anal gland impaction is quite straightforward. First and foremost, affected dog butts will smell like fish – a strong and pungent fishy smell, as is the subject of this article.

Additionally, they will also scoot and drag their butt along the ground, sometimes exhibiting this behavior multiple times throughout the day.

Likewise, they may excessively nibble or lick at their anus, causing it to become red and sore. Lastly, they may show other unusual symptoms or behaviors, such as suddenly sitting down, looking at their back end for long periods, and yelping in pain when they take a poop. If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian immediately and seek advice.

Handy Hint: Dogs like to smell each other’s butts as it gives them lots of information. 

What are the symptoms of anal gland infections and abscesses?

Impactions are not the only problems dogs can have with their anal glands. In some instances, they may also develop infections which can quickly become problematic when left untreated.

In worst-case scenarios, infections may eventually lead to an abscess – a collection of pus that is extremely painful – forming in the anal glands.

If you suspect your dog has an anal gland infection or abscess, seek professional advice from a vet. Without prompt intervention, your dog could be in a lot of pain or depressed, constantly crying out whenever it attempts to defecate.

At the clinic, your vet will treat these conditions with either surgery or a combination of pain medications and antibiotics.

Many symptoms of anal gland infections and abscesses are similar to the ones present in impaction (bum scooting, nibbling or licking at the anus, and yelping when pooping), however, dogs suffering from the aforementioned conditions may also display wounds, blood, discharge, and matted fur around their back ends.

Similarly, they may begin showing mood changes, becoming lethargic, eating less than normal, and acting irritable around other pets and their owners.

What are anal sac tumors?

Anal sac tumors are an extremely serious problem that, thankfully, is a relatively uncommon occurrence in canines. They are still worth knowing though and something your vet can check for.

In general, they have much the same effect as other diseases associated with the anal glands, causing them to stop working efficiently.

However, these tumors are renowned for quickly spreading to other tissues in the body and can be more life-threatening than other anal conditions.

According to research, approximately 25% of cases of anal sac tumors also cause hypercalcemia to occur, which is an extremely dangerous condition that often leads to kidney failure in dogs.

How do I get rid of the fish smell on my dog?

The first thing you should do after detecting a fishy smell on your dog’s butt is to book a vet’s appointment. In many cases, your dog could have its anal glands emptied.

My dog has had this, and it was very quick, and my dog appeared to be in no pain. The vet had gloves and manipulated the rear end, so express some of the fishy smelly gunk onto some tissue.

Once this task has been completed, your dog’ but will stop smelling like fish. Unfortunately, many breeds of small dogs need their anal glands expressed multiple times a year.

Although it is possible to do this yourself with practice (as we will explain later on in the article), it is highly recommended that you call on the assistance of your vet when owning a breed whose anal glands need to be emptied regularly.

Without the proper care and knowledge, dog owners can risk causing inflammation or permanent scarring in their dog’s anal glands.

It’s certainly not something I would recommend doing yourself.


Dogs are smelly creatures so it’s not uncommon for dog owners to become used to their dog’s unique scents and odors over years of ownership, ending up pretty much nose blind as a result.

This is all part of the joys (!) of dog ownership and is easily solvable with some regular and thorough cleaning, as well as a little bit of human ingenuity.

Obviously, no dog owner wants their pooch to have a stinky butt that smells like fish, and as such, being aware of what causes this phenomenon to handy to know.

Although this subject may come across as gross to some readers, it is an important one to cover if they wish to keep their pooch happy and healthy.

Furthermore, being a dog owner naturally comes with its fair share of uncomfortable experiences, however, thankfully, the good experiences far outweigh the bad ones.

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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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