Why Does My Puppy’s Breath Smell Like Fish? Causes and Fixes

Has a whiff of your playful puppy’s breath ever left you wondering, “Why does it smell like fish?” This isn’t something you’d typically expect from your fur baby, especially if fish isn’t a big part of their diet. However, what you’re noticing is far from uncommon and can stem from a variety of causes.

Like humans, dogs have different smells, and they mean different thing, but a fishy smell is a curiosity, you get used to some level of dog smell, and that certain smell from a dog’s mouth, but the fishy dog breath when they’ve not eaten fish usually gets people wondering. 

Pet health, especially oral health, is as varied and intricate as that of humans. What could be a benign dietary irregularity might be an early symptom of a substantial health concern in disguise. Thus, it’s essential to understand root causes, potential risks, and preventative measures when it comes to our puppies’ oral health.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the perplexing world of puppy oral health, explore the surprising reasons behind your little one’s unexpected marine aroma, and arm you with practical solutions to get rid of it. So, sit tight and journey with us into uncovering the mystery of your puppy’s fishy breath.

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Constipation and the subsequent licking of the butt can be a good reason for your dog’s fishy butt smell to transfer to the mouth.

Common Reasons for Fishy Puppy Breath

​Luckily, there are some really simple, really not-scary reasons that your pup’s foul-smelling breath. 

1. Bowel movements: this is the most common reason we smell fish on our dog’s breath, and why it comes and goes. In young dogs, or in dogs who might be struggling to poop for whatever reason, if your dog’s breath smells like fish, its very likely that it’s to do with the fact they’re constipated or need a poop! This need means they are licking their anal area to stimulate them going to the bathroom and alleviate some of the discomfort too. 

2. Anal Glands: The next most likely reason why your puppy’s breath may smell like fish could be related to their anal glands, or anal gland issues. Dogs have two small glands located on the right and left sides of their rectum that produce a distinctive, usually fishy, odor. This odor is a part of their natural scent-marking process. Normally, these glands are emptied when your dog defecates. However, if they are not expressed as regularly as they should be, the smelly fluid can make its way into your puppy’s mouth during the cleaning process, particularly if your dog has anal glad problems. This can occur when your puppy cleans itself, leading to the fishy smell in their breath. If you notice this alongside your puppy frequently scooting its rear across the floor, it may be best to consult a vet for appropriate treatment. Also good to note that dog owners of small dog breeds are more likely to experience anal gland problems than larger pet parents. 

3. Dental issues: Much like humans, dogs, too, can suffer from a host of dental problems. Poor dental hygiene and dental diseases could be another reason for your puppy’s fishy breath. It’s possible for food particles to get stuck between your puppy’s teeth and, over time, these trapped pieces decay and emit an unpleasant odor. Gum diseases, such as gingivitis and periodontitis, as well as tooth decay, can also lead to a smelly mouth. Regular cleaning of your puppy’s teeth using dog-friendly toothpaste and toothbrush can help counter such issues.

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if your pup is struggling to poop, this could be the reason for a fishy smell

4. Dietary Causes: What your puppy eats plays a significant role in the way its breath smells. If your puppy’s diet consists of fish-based meals or treats, it’s natural for their breath to have a similar fishy odor. Similarly, feeding your puppy aromatic foods such as garlic or certain spices can change the scent of their breath.

5. Kidney or Liver Problems: While this cause is rarer, it’s worth mentioning. Certain health issues like kidney or liver disease can cause a puppy’s breath to smell bad. The odor in such cases may resemble fish or even ammonia. It’s crucial to consult with a vet if you suspect these conditions, as they often require early and expedient treatment.

Naturally, your puppy’s well-being should be your top priority. While the smell of their breath, in most cases, is not an alarm for significant health concerns, you should always consult with a professional vet if the issue persists or if you notice other worrisome symptoms.

6. Coprophagia or scavenging: if your puppy is eating poop (their own poop or other poop) it could also explain your pu[‘s bad smelling breath, and also if they’re scavenging dead animals could explain that too!


How To Combat Fishy Breath

Fishy breath is one of those things we just don’t want to deal with, but it is a really common problem from puppies to adult dogs. So here’s how we should be dealing with it, and of course, it does depend on the reason, but here are your main solutions to get rid of that foul smell.

1. Regular toilet breaks: Regular toilet breaks can help ensure your puppy has more opportunities to empty their anal glands naturally. Remember, problems with anal glands can be a primary reason behind the fishy odor. Having more frequent toilet breaks can help keep their anal glands healthy. If you’re curious find out how long pup can hold their poop!

2. Maintain good oral hygiene: A key to managing and preventing fishy breath in your puppy—or any bad breath, for that matter—is maintaining good oral hygiene. This involves regularly cleaning your puppy’s teeth with a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for dogs. Doing this at least once a week can significantly help in preventing the buildup of plaque and bacteria that typically are behind the foul odor.

3. Adjust your puppy’s diet: The dog food your puppy consumes can directly influence your dog’s bad breath. i.e. if they’re on a fish based food, or you’ve treated with fish skins or sprats, it could be possible they they’re the reason your puppy’s breath smells of fish! It’s also good to note that your dogs diet can also help to naturally empty your dog’s anal glands

Note: Parsley, Apples, and carrots can help freshen breath. Actually, even feeding a raw diet can really help clean up those stinky puppy breath smells!

4. Utilize dental chews toys and treats: There are numerous dental toys and chew treats available in pet stores designed to combat bad breath. They can provide a fun way for your puppy to naturally reduce tartar and plaque buildup, which are significant contributors to bad breath and prevent periodontal disease.

5. Consistent vet visits: Make it a habit to schedule regular vet check-ups, checking for dental disease and even the occasional dental cleaning to ensure your dog’s teeth are heathly. This is the best way to monitor your puppy’s overall health, dental conditions, and promptly address any hidden health issue potentially causing the persistent fishy smell.

6. Consult a veterinarian: If your puppy’s fishy breath continues to persist despite your efforts, it would be worth consulting a vet and discuss things like anal sac disease. The issue could be an indication of serious concerns related to dental health or anal glands, and early professional advice and treatment can be crucial.

The reasoning is simple: a happy puppy makes a happy owner. By taking these steps, you can ensure you enjoy every moment with your puppy – without the fishy breath!

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eating fish is a pretty common reason for smelling like fish!

Other Smells

Your dog’s smell is actually a really great way to read some of their health, so being aware of how they naturally smell is a good thing. If it’s not a fish-like smell you’re catching, you could be smelling yeast infections, bacterial infection, or even an oncoming season. Suffice to say that a new smell is usually a good indicator to underlying issues. 

Bring Back Sweet Puppy Breath!

In conclusion, it’s quite common for pet owners to notice a fishy smell from their puppy’s breath. While this can be concerning, it’s often not a cause for alarm. Regular dental care, diet adjustments, and vet visits can help prevent and treat most cases of bad breath. However, it is always recommended to consult a vet if your pup’s fishy breath persists, as it could be a symptom of a more serious health issue and you’re in need of a vet visit.

Keeping track of your puppy’s health shouldn’t feel like a chore. For the latest tips and guidance delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our Pupdates! Keep your puppy happy, healthy and fragrant, one Pupdate at a time.

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Author, Ali Smith

Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.

Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!

Thanks to for the images!


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