When to be worried
Table of Contents
- 1 When to be worried
- 2 Why Does Your Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish? (And Should You Even Fix It?)
- 2.1 Glands
- 2.2 Is your dog eating a diet high in fish or fish oil?
- 2.3 Internal issues
- 2.4 Inflammation of the upper respiratory tract
- 2.5 Dental disease
- 3 Tactics for keeping your dog’s breath fresh
- 4 Summary
- Excessive urination and drinking. If your dog’s breath has a sweet, fruity smell along with being a bit fishy, it may be an indication of diabetes, especially when paired with excessive drinking and urination.
- Lethargy. If your dog just doesn’t seem as vigorous as usual and their breath smells fishy, this makes it more likely that an internal issue like kidney disease is to blame. Take your dog to the vet if they experience lethargy and fishy breath.
- Vomiting. Vomiting may point to a more severe digestive issue; it may also indicate liver disease in your dog. This is especially true if your dog is jaundiced and they lack appetite. If vomiting accompanies your dog’s bad breath, visit your veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Nasal discharge or labored breathing. Fishy smelling breath associated with difficulty breathing and nasal discharge or sneezing may indicate inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. The inflammation can also cause bad breath. Labored breathing along with a fishy smell is an indication of an upper respiratory problem. Possible issues might include an infection, a tumor, foreign bodies, or parasites, so take your dog to the vet immediately if you see these symptoms.
Why Does Your Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish? (And Should You Even Fix It?)Here are some possible causes for your dog’s fishy breath and advice about what to do about it, if anything.
GlandsThis may be one of the most disgusting but least troublesome reasons for your dog’s mouth to have a fishy smell. Dogs have anal glands that help them excrete smoothly. Periodically, these glands build up fluid, which your dog may empty by chewing them. They will release a fishy smell, which your dog will then have in their mouth.
What to do about fishy breath from glandsIt is healthy and natural for dogs to empty their glands (and normal for it to smell terrible, at least to us). For dogs, the smell carries all kinds of information like age, emotional state, gender, and more. If your dog seems to be struggling to empty their glands, chewing on them, or rubbing their butt on the ground, have your vet check to make sure the glands have not become impacted.
Is your dog eating a diet high in fish or fish oil?Veterinarians recommend fish oil for your dog’s heart and skin health. Fish oil is a healthy source of fat that is also great for your dog’s brain. Dog foods formulated for your dog later in life or for dogs with skin issues often have fish or fish oil. If your dog is eating a diet high in fish, it makes sense that they would have fish burps or that their breath would generally smell like fish.
What to do about fishy breath because of a diet high in fishIf your dog is digesting their food well and the only problem is some fish breath, you may just want to live with the smell. It may help to brush your dog’s teeth after a meal or after they have a fish oil supplement. Feeding your dog a probiotic will help them digest their food better, which may result in less gassiness. If your dog is having trouble digesting their food, it’s probably best to switch to a different diet.
Internal issuesInternal issues are much less likely to be at fault for your dog’s fish breath than other things on this list, but they are worth mentioning. If your dog has an organ that is struggling, it may cause your dog’s breath to smell strange or even fishy. Both liver and kidney failure disease can result in breath that smells fishy to some people. Kidney disease may also make your dog’s breath smell like urine, while liver disease produces a distinct foul odor that many people think is fishy. If your dog’s bad breath is associated with vomiting, you need to be especially careful about internal diseases. Your dog may also simply be having trouble digesting their food, which can result in a fishy smell even if there isn’t much or any fish in your dog’s food.
What to do about potential internal issuesIf you suspect that your dog has serious and chronic indigestion or that they may have internal issues, it is important to seek out the help of a veterinarian as soon as possible. Dogs are good at hiding when they feel sick, and an internal issue can go from non-symptomatic to serious very quickly. Your veterinarian can determine whether anything is going wrong by using tests like blood testing or imaging. If you believe the culprit is indigestion but it is not so serious that you want to seek out the help of a veterinarian, consider adding some probiotics to your dog’s diet to aid in digestion.
Inflammation of the upper respiratory tractInflammation of the upper respiratory tract can be caused by a number of things, including parasites, infection, foreign bodies, and tumors. If your dog’s fishy breath is associated with labored breathing or nasal discharge, as well as sneezing and inflammation of the area around the eyes, they may be suffering from an upper respiratory tract issue.
What to do about inflammation of the upper respiratory tractInflammation of the upper respiratory tract can be very serious. It may be caused by an infection that is highly contagious to your other dogs. An upper respiratory tract infection can make your dog seriously sick or permanently injure or even kill your dog. If you see signs of upper respiratory distress like nasal discharge and labored breathing, it is best to go to the vet. If you see these symptoms associated with an unusual fishy smell to your dog’s breath, it is even more essential that you go to the vet as soon as you can.
Dental diseaseBy far the most common reason for bad breath in dogs is dental disease. Excess bacteria lead to bad breath directly and can also result in gingivitis and periodontal disease, which will cause your dog’s breath to smell bad. As many as 80% of dogs over three years old have dental disease. Most dogs don’t show clear signs, but one of the best indications is bad breath. Periodontal disease occurs when plaque and tartar accumulate around where the tooth attaches to the gum. The tissues around the tooth become infected and inflamed. The infection can even spread deep into the socket and destroy the bone so that the tooth falls out. Throughout the stages of dental disease, your dog’s mouth may smell like fish.
What to do about bad breath from dental diseaseIf the smell doesn’t go away with a month or so of regular teeth brushing, it may be time for you to take your dog to the vet and consider having a dental. Many dogs need to have a dental performed to remove the mineralized plaque and prevent periodontal disease from worsening. Your dog may also need to have dead or cracked teeth removed. Regular tooth brushing is the best way to prevent dental disease and the fishy smell that comes from it. Specially-designed foods and chew toys can also help.
Tactics for keeping your dog’s breath freshThe best way to know if your dog’s fishy smelling breath is a problem for their health is to know that your dog’s teeth are cared for regularly and know exactly what your dog’s mouth is supposed to smell like. Even if you use dog food with fish ingredients or give your dog a fish oil supplement, as long as you know the fish smell you should expect, you will recognize if a new problem arises. Here are some techniques to keep your dog’s breath fresh and identify problems early:
Brush oftenVeterinarians agree that brushing your dog’s teeth frequently is the best way to maintain dental health and avoid periodontal disease, yet very few people do it. If you can’t stick to daily brushing, try to brush your dog’s teeth every time you give them a bath or brush their coat, so that teeth brushing remains a part of your regular routine. Use a toothpaste specially designed for dogs so it will be safe for your dog to swallow. Experiment with toothpaste until you find one that your dog loves. This way, neither of you will dread tooth brushing time. The younger you start training your dog to accept teeth brushing, the easier this activity will be, but all dogs can learn to have their teeth brushed.
Use teeth-cleaning chews and toysOne of the easiest ways to encourage dental health in your dog is to encourage them to play with chews and food-distributing toys that clean their teeth. You can find a wide range of toys on the market designed for this purpose. Choose toys made of materials that are designed to break down very slowly or made of rubber soft enough that it won’t damage your dog’s mouth. Toys that distribute food, like the classic Kong toy, do an excellent job of keeping your dog’s interest so that they effectively and regularly clean your dog’s teeth.
Give your dog probioticsProbiotics help your dog digest food and balance the good and bad bacteria in your dog’s digestive system. They cause good bacteria to grow while preventing odor-causing bacteria that can live in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract and mouth. If a lot of your dog’s bad breath comes from burps, probiotics might prove even more useful for you.
Feed kibble and food designed to freshen breathSome kibble is designed to make your dog’s breath fresher. Kibble may be larger so that it does a better job of scratching off plaque and tartar before it can cause periodontal disease. Kibble may also have ingredients that are beneficial for your dog’s teeth, gums, and gut.
ChlorophyllYou can also give your dog food that tends to freshen breath. Chlorophyll seems to be absorbed relatively well in dogs. Besides having potential cancer-fighting properties, chlorophyll is also a powerful deodorant. The deodorizing effects of chlorophyll and its derivatives have been observed since the 1940s. At that time, topical chlorophyll was used on foul-smelling wounds to deodorize them and was also taken orally to control fecal odor. Chlorophyll is found in all plants but is especially abundant in dark green leafy vegetables. Spinach is a great source of chlorophyll that your dog can eat daily in small quantities. Parsley is another wonderful source of chlorophyll, which also tends to freshen breath because of its fresh smell. Unlike most herbs, which dogs tend not to like, dogs seem relatively indifferent to parsley, especially when it is added to something yummy. If your dog is particularly resistant to eating foods rich in chlorophyll, try green beans or sugar peas, both of which have lots of chlorophyll but that dogs usually love.
Coconut oilCoconut oil has many benefits for your dog when used orally, topically, and internally. Most dogs love coconut oil, so it is very easy to add it to your dog’s daily routine. A great way to use coconut oil is by coating something healthy that your dog may be less excited about, like chlorophyll-rich vegetables. Keep consumption to a teaspoon at a time, as coconut oil can have laxative effects when given in larger quantities.
Apple cider vinegarApple cider vinegar is good for your dog in a variety of ways. It is a natural disinfectant that can improve the balance of bacteria in your dog’s gut and act directly to disinfect your dog’s mouth. Simply add a teaspoon to your dog’s water or to a damp treat or wet food.
SummaryYou want to enjoy your doggy kisses as much as your dog does, but breath that smells like fish can really put a damper on things. Sometimes the fishy breath isn’t anything to be concerned about, while other times it may point to a serious issue. Carefully consider your dog’s overall health. Look for other issues when determining whether the fish breath might indicate some underlying problem. If there is no obvious cause for the fish breath, you might want to seek out a veterinarian’s opinion to help you determine why your dog’s breath doesn’t smell as fresh as it should.
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