Why Does My Dog Smell Like Fish in Oak Park, IL?


dog smells like fish in oak park, ilDoes your dog emit a fishy odor? It’s actually a very common thing, and no, it has nothing to do with what your dog ate or rolled in. The odor actually comes from your dog’s anal glands, or sometimes called anal sacs, and it’s often a sign of a problem.

So what are anal sacs? These small specialized sweat glands sit on each side of your dog’s anus, and they release a secretion with this unpleasant odor. The odor actually functions as a scent marker for your dog, and the secretion is released each time your dog poops. That’s why dogs are often uncannily interested in each other’s’ poop — smelling it gives them important chemical information about the other dog. It also explains why the familiar dog greeting of a sniff under the tail is so popular!

Possible Reasons Your Dog Smells Like Fish: Anal Sac Disease

Anal sac disease is a blanket term used for just about any problem with the anal gland. Anal sac disease is particularly common among small dog breeds, and dogs who are obese. In larger breed dogs, the problem is rarer.


Impactions happen when the fluid in the anal sacs is not completely emptied. While your dog will naturally express fluid each time they defecate, sometimes fluid will remain in the sacs. Over time, the fluid becomes dry, causing impaction.

Frenchie looking behind him

The sacs will feel hard to the touch and are very painful for your dog. Impaction can happen for a number of reasons including soft stool, which isn’t firm enough to express the anal glands, abnormalities in the anal sacs, or obesity in your dog. If not treated, the sacs can be abscessed, which is a more serious condition.

Infections & Abscesses

Infected anal glands often form from impactions, and in turn, infected glands can become abscessed. The anal sac will appear discolored and swollen, and if left untreated, abscesses can rupture, causing your dog further pain and complication.

Anal Sac Tumors

Anal sac tumors are luckily uncommon; however, they are serious. They limit your dog’s ability to express his anal glands. What’s more is they can be cancerous and metastasize to other parts of the body. A biopsy and ultrasound may be needed to diagnose the problem. Often, the best treatment is surgery to remove the tumor, and sometimes, the anal glands themselves.

Signs of Anal Sac Disease in Dogs

Your dog smelling like fish is an early indicator of an anal sac problem, so it’s worth making an appointment with your veterinarian if you notice the smell. That way, we can address the problem right away and make suggestions for preventing anal glands in the future.

Yet, the fishy smell isn’t always super obvious, so it’s best to be away of these other signs, too:

  • Scooting their butt along the floor
  • Bite or lick beneath their tail
  • Difficulty defecating
  • Vocalization while defecating
  • A hard lump near the rectum
  • Signs of blood or puss with their stool

If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to call your veterinarian in Oak Park for an evaluation!

Dogs Vulnerable to Anal Sac Disease

Some dogs are more prone to anal sac disease than others.

These include:

  • Small dog breeds, like Spaniels, Chihuahuas, Terriers, etc.
  • Obese dogs
  • Dogs with food or environmental allergies
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Skin mites
  • Bacterial or yeast infections

How to Treat Anal Sac Disease & Your Dog’s Fishy Smell in Oak Park, IL

Anal sac problems can often be fixed easily at your veterinarian’s office. Your vet will likely need to manually empty your dog’s anal sacs, which will resolve the odor. Some dogs more prone to anal sacs may need to be expressed regularly and your vet may also recommend a high fiber diet to encourage natural expression. Vets and many groomers in Oak Park can perform these services, and in fact, your vet can even show you how to do it, as long as you don’t mind the odor.

Some conditions, however, like impacted anal glands, will need your veterinarian’s intervention. These often need to be expressed with a softening agent and possibly a saline rinse. Similarly, infected or abscessed sacs will require an antiseptic as well as an antibiotic to treat the infection.

A few flushing of the area may be needed to fully treat the abscess. In some cases, it may be necessary for your vet to completely remove the anal sacs. Usually, these procedures do not impact your dog’s quality of life, although there is a slight possibility of incontinence. However, the benefits of surgery often far outweigh any risks.

Tips for Preventing Anal Sac Disease

Not all cases of disease can be prevented, but there are some things you can do to help:

  • Feed your dog an appropriate diet with enough fiber
  • Exercise your dog regularly to prevent weight gain
  • Encourage your dog to drink plenty of fresh, clean water
  • Examine your dog’s still to catch any signs of softness, blood, or puss

If you notice your dog smells like fish, give us a call at (708) 248-8888! We can effectively treat your dog’s anal sac problem and get rid of that fishy smell!