Dogs can have stinky breath for a number of reasons but when they smell like fish, there could be a few things that you want to be aware of. This article will aim to bring potential red flags to your attention and further address how to tackle that bad breath to try to make it more tolerable. Their health should be the most important thing you are concerned about and we’ll cover what you should have checked and why.
Fish Breath – Where is it Coming From?
You’ve checked the house from top to bottom and you know their dog food has no fish in it. There is no fish in the house that your dog has access to, so what would their breath smell like fish?
Dogs groom themselves as cats do. If they’ve been grooming their rear-end excessively, they may have blocked anal glands. When this scenario happens, the glands can leave a fishy smell on the breath of the dog. Have them seen at a groomer or the vet to have the anal glands expressed manually and this should stop the problem.
Signs that the anal glands are impacted:
- Redness and swollen anus
- Scooting on their hind end on the floor or ground
- Crying and licking at the anal area constantly
- Obsessed with licking the anal area
If it isn’t the anal glands…
Their diet is the next likely suspect. Even though their food has no fish in it, it will likely have Omega 3 and 6 oils in it because they need this for a balanced and healthy diet. Consult your veterinarian to find sources of Omegas that are not from fish oil, which is likely added to your dog’s food. You can find foods that are formulated without fish oil for their Omega-rich oils.
Don’t make drastic switches to your dog’s food as it can upset their stomach. Make changes slow by adding some new food to the regular food and gradually adding a little more each day until they are totally eating the new food. This will help them to avoid diarrhea and stomach upset. (That is just as beneficial to you).
After several days to a few weeks, you should notice a difference in their breath. The fishy smell should gradually go away and start getting better very quickly. If the issue still isn’t solved, then it is definitely time to get your veterinarian to do a very complete check-up, including the mouth and gums.
The fishy smell can potentially be a sign of kidney or liver disease. Some bloodwork from the vet can confirm this or rule it out. If it is the issue, your vet can help determine the best treatment and help fix the issue or treat it in the best way possible.
If this is not the issue and tests rule it out, then the mouth and gums will also need to be completely checked to see if there is a sign of bad teeth or gum disease. The gums may be red and show signs of periodontal disease, which can cause bad breath – halitosis.
If your dog has any issues in the mouth that are going on, they can be treated and addressed. Your dog may need a tooth pulled to rectify the smell, for example. If they don’t necessarily have any tooth problems but have tartar build-up, this can be the source of the smell. Getting their teeth cleaned should help immensely.
Keeping the smell from coming back is a matter of keeping their teeth clean and you can also give them some things that promote fresh breath. Some finely chopped parsley in their food will promote better breath, as a suggestion
Giving your dog crunchy food instead of soft will help keep teeth clean. Consider providing them with a hard bone, sans fat. This will provide them something to chew on that will scrape tartar off teeth naturally. Some dogs will chew on Nylabones and other hard toys made for dogs. Soft toys may be fun but do not promote clean teeth.
You may give your dog Dentabones which are good for cleaning their teeth and also have additives to give them fresher breath. Some products exist that can be added to the water bowl to promote fresh breath as well.
Brushing Their Teeth
You can purchase a brush that fits on your finger and toothpaste made especially for dogs. Do NOT give your dog fluoridated toothpaste made for humans, this is toxic for them. Their toothpaste will be chicken, liver, or beef flavored so they view it as a treat.
They will happily let you stick your finger in their mouth and gently massage the teeth and gums. This will help get tartar destroyed in the mouth. Don’t worry if the dog doesn’t let you do much brushing. The enzymes in the toothpaste will do the work as long as you get it in the mouth and on the gums.
The more often you do this with your dog, the healthier their teeth will remain and the bad fish smell should eventually go away completely.
Make sure that you are always providing plenty of water for your dog. They should have a bowl of clean, fresh water at all times where they can reach it. Bacteria in the mouth builds up and causes smells and will also promote tooth decay.
Dogs can have many dental problems that people do but if you live in a rural area, getting dental care for them will be harder. Many vets can pull a tooth and do teeth cleanings but they are not set-up with equipment to do anything more advanced than that. Most owners will opt for pulling the bad teeth.
Some dogs are more prone to bad teeth genetically. Yorkshire Terriers rarely have a tooth left in their head on the day they die. When you see a small dog with their tongue hanging out the side of their mouth, this is typically due to the teeth missing and there is nothing to hold the tongue in place inside the mouth.
This can cause the tongue to get overly dry and cracked and also cause bad breath but it doesn’t smell like fish. These dogs will need to eat soft, canned food for the rest of their lives and this usually makes breath smell more strongly.
You should do all that you can to avoid your dog having to need all his teeth pulled. You should also be aware that if he is in pain, you must have the tooth removed to give them relief and to avoid infections that can turn deadly.
Many people are completely unaware of the damage that can happen in the body from infected teeth. It can cause death. The infection from the mouth is capable of spreading to internal organs. If it reaches the heart, it will cause death.
The kidneys and liver can be affected, causing renal failure which will lead to death as well. The health of the teeth, mouth, and gums is paramount to overall good health. You can’t even eat properly if your teeth hurt. Soft foods are harder on the body because they tend to be higher in calories and full preservatives that wreak havoc on the body as well.
Fish Mystery Solved
With your fish mystery of the breath solved, you can move forward and make better health decisions for your dog from then on. If it is anal glands, you’ll know how to address it properly and before it gets overly infected. All dogs can experience this from time to time and it is just a part of grooming them.
If the teeth are dirty with tartar build-up, you know now that you can also address that and keep it from coming back. Your dog will come to enjoy getting his teeth brushed and you’ll find it only takes a few moments while watching television one night each week. You don’t have to do it daily. If your dog has bad teeth that need to come out, you may notice that he perks up a lot and you hadn’t realized that his slowing down had anything to do with mouth pain. Many times dogs hide mouth pain so well that we don’t notice they have bad teeth until it becomes obviously discolored or they stop eating, or as in your case, the breath is very bad.
Dawn Greer is a passionate blogger and animal rights activist. She is a pet lover, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, pet nutritionist, and former veterinary technician. She continues her work while writing blogs for pet lovers around the globe.