My Dog Smells Like Fish: Why and How to Fix It

Firstly, it’s essential for you to gain more knowledge about dog odors…

It’s important to know that all dogs have an odour. It’s not bad or good—it just is. As science and nature intended, a dog’s natural scent is derived from oils and secretions in the skin and fur. These are called “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs). Depending on the breed of your pup, VOCs will be found in higher concentrations or lower concentrations than other breeds. For example, Dalmatians produce more VOCs than Basenjis or Chihuahuas.

Dog smell also differs depending on where they live and what they eat! If you’ve ever taken a walk with your four-legged best friend, then you’ve noticed their amazing ability to communicate with each other and interpret the world around them. All this sniffing is not just a natural process—it’s how they gather information about the environment.

Dogs identify and differentiate between themselves or other animals by these scents. And wherever they go, they leave behind a trail of smells that become part of an investigation for any other dogs passing through.

What does all this mean? It means your dog’s favourite pastime is investigating every scent! As already mentioned, whether wet or dry, your pooch can track down an interesting smell in no time at all. But even if you can’t smell it, he can! And unfortunately, those VOCs don’t just disappear after the walk. So what does that mean for your dog’s “natural scent?” It means they are still covered in oils and secretions (VOCs) when you go to bed, eat dinner or wake up in the morning.

And if you’re wondering… yes, your dog smells like fish at night! (Look at his shiny coat.) The oils and secretions from a long day of investigation have settled into your pup’s fur. And now they smell like whatever environment he was investigating—in this case, fish! Sometimes the fishy smell will be stronger after swimming. That is because some breeds of dogs have higher concentrations of VOCs in their coats than others. If your pup has been out playing and gets wet before settling in for the night, then he may smell even more fishy than usual.

Now that you know more about dog smells and what your pooch’s natural scent is all about, it’s time to talk (err… read) about why your pup might be smelling like fish.

Fishy Smell #1: Ear Infections

How this happens: It is not difficult for bacteria or yeast to grow in your dog’s ears. In fact, it can be a common issue that results from swimming in dirty water, ear mites, or allergies. Usually, an infection will cause one or both of your pup’s ears to become red and inflamed.

Meanwhile, the skin lining the ear canal causes wax buildup (which also smells bad) that leads to moisture build-up. If left untreated, you may notice an actual discharge coming out of the ear!

What you can do: To prevent a problem like this from happening again in the future, check your dog regularly. It should only take around five minutes. You can even do this when you’re petting them; make sure there’s nothing in the ear before you start! If you notice your dog shaking their head or scratching at one of the ears a lot, then it is likely time to check them out!

You should also take a look every time you bathe your pup. Allergens tend to accumulate on dogs’ skin and in their ears, which means they might be over-stimulating their poor pup’s itch sensors! It could also mean that the water from baths and swimming pools accumulates in your dog’s ears and causes problems.

Unfortunately, these are some of the most common places for bacteria to grow (under and in between your dog’s folds), so it is important to be proactive about checking them out!

Once you have determined that there is an ear infection:  There are a few ways that you can treat this issue. If it has only just begun, then you may want to visit your vet for some ear drops or ointment. Over-the-counter treatments also exist but should not be used without veterinary approval since they could contain harmful ingredients if ingested (by licking).

Of course, the best way to avoid a problem like this from happening again is prevention! Preventive measures include keeping your pup’s ears as dry as possible after water exposure using cotton balls or wipes. You can also help reduce moisture when your dog sleeps by using a “breathing strip” like a human version of the ones often found in shoes.

During warmer months, it can be beneficial when your pup has more opportunities to get wet and then stay damp!  You could also use a fan or air conditioner to help reduce humidity.

Fishy Smell #2: Bad Breath

How this happens: If you notice an unpleasant odour coming from your dog’s mouth, it might be time for a trip to the vet. The most common reason for bad breath is due to plaque/tartar buildup on their teeth. If left untreated, bacteria accumulates under the gums and creates pus pockets known as abscesses. This can lead to bad breath, swelling and difficulty chewing/swallowing.

What you can do: The best way to prevent plaque build-up is to brush your dog’s teeth daily with pet toothpaste (which is made especially for dogs). Some treats and chews are formulated specifically for this purpose! If the odour comes after a period of being fine, then it may be time to go in for a professional cleaning at the vet.

Fishy Smell #3: Yeast Infections (Fungal)

How this happens: Yeast infections come about when there is an overproduction of yeast on the skin. These kinds of infections usually occur where there are folds or creases in the skin. For example, under your dog’s neck, armpits, and between their toes! They can be especially problematic in moist areas or regions that are warm (like on the ears).

What you can do: If you notice something like this, make sure to keep the area dry by keeping it covered during walks outside and using a towel when drying off your pup after baths. You should also clean the skin folds daily with a gentle towel or use cotton balls/pads dipped in peroxide or witch hazel!

If yeast infections get out of control, they can spread throughout your dog’s body leading to other problems. In worst cases, veterinarians may prescribe strong antifungal medications to treat these issues.

Fishy Smell #4: Yeast Infections (Bacterial)

How this happens: Just like yeast infections, bacterial infections are usually caused by moisture and warmth. The difference is that they have a distinct smell to them! This is most often seen as redness, swelling, and a puss-like discharge around the infected area.

What you can do: It is important to treat these situations as soon as possible with antibiotics or antiseptic washes since if the bacteria spreads, it could lead to sepsis (severe infection of tissues)! Severe cases, such as those that involve abscesses, may also require surgical drainage/removal.


It’s important to keep your pup dry and clean. If you notice an unpleasant odour coming from their mouth, ears or coat, then there are a few things you need to know about what could be causing the problem. This article has provided four different scenarios where fishy smells may come from on your dog–ear infections, bad breath, yeast infection (fungal) and yeast infection (bacterial).

All of these can be prevented by keeping your dog’s fur as dry as possible with regular baths and making sure to brush your teeth regularly.

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