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How to Fix Fishy Dog Breath: Tips and Tricks for Fresher Smelling Pups - PawSafe

How to Fix Fishy Dog Breath: Tips and Tricks for Fresher Smelling Pups

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

how to fix fishy dog breath

Tips on how to fix fishy dog breath come in handy when you are hit by an unforgettable gust of funky doggy breath. While dogs don’t exactly give off minty fresh, smelling like seafood isn’t normal either. Not to mention, the smell could be a sign of an underlying health issue. So, what can you do to fix it?

Firstly, it’s essential to understand what could be causing the fishy smell. One common culprit is dental issues, such as gum disease or tooth decay. Another possibility is your dog’s fish-based diet. Additionally, certain medical conditions, such as kidney disease or diabetes, can lead to halitosis in dogs. It’s also important to make sure it’s your dog’s breath that smells because anal gland issues can also make your dog smell like fish.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to address the issue. We’ll cover everything you need to know to fix your dog’s fishy breath using veterinary research and expert sources on smelly canine breath, such as Dr. Wu from the University of Otago. So, let’s dive in and explore some effective solutions for this stinky problem.

Annual medical check-ups are also vital for oral health. 

In my many years as a dog trainer, I’ve developed a keen sense for when something is amiss with my canine companions. So, when my old dog suddenly developed mouth funkiness, a departure from the norm, it immediately caught my attention. Based on my experience, I knew that such changes, especially in older dogs, often point towards underlying health issues. Trusting this intuition, I didn’t hesitate to seek veterinary advice.

The visit to the vet revealed that my dog was experiencing kidney issues. This early detection was crucial. Kidney problems can be silent but progressive in dogs, and catching them early often makes a significant difference in treatment efficacy and quality of life. Thanks to recognizing this early warning sign, we were able to start treatment promptly. This timely intervention allowed us to manage the condition effectively, giving us precious additional years together. 

Identifying Fishy Breath

A black dog with visible fishy breath that smell bad

We all love to cuddle with our dogs, but it’s a dangerous mission when they have foul-smelling breath. While it’s normal for dogs to have a certain level of odor in their breath, a scent like fish could mean a mouth or health issue. Here are some ways to identify this issue:

Smell Test

The first and most obvious way to identify this musty breath is to smell it. Get up close and personal with your dog’s mouth and take a whiff. If the smell is reminiscent of fish or anything else that’s not normal for your dog, it’s time to take action. Getting this close will also help you note any abnormalities like bumps or swellings on the lips or mouth.

Behavior Changes

If you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior, it could be a sign. Dogs with dental issues may start to paw at their mouth or avoid eating altogether. You may also see some drooling and licking. Keep an eye out for any changes in their behavior and take note of any unusual symptoms.

Dental Checkup

If you suspect your dog has abnormal breath, it’s important to schedule a checkup with your veterinarian. They can examine your dog’s teeth and gums to determine if there are any underlying health issues causing the odor. Regular checkups can help prevent these issues and keep your dog’s breath fresh.

By identifying dog mouth odor early, you can take the necessary steps to address the issue and keep your dog healthy and happy.

Causes of Fishy Breath In Dogs

“Doggy breath” can be a common issue for pet owners. The smell can be unpleasant and can make it hard to enjoy time with your dog. Here are some of the common causes of foul canine breath:

causes of fishy breath in dogs

1. Kidney Disease (Uremia)

If your dog’s breath smells like ammonia or urine, it could be a sign of kidney disease. Uremia is a condition that occurs when the kidneys are unable to filter waste products from the blood properly. As a result, these toxins build up in the body and can cause foul breath with a distinctive marine-like smell.

To help manage uremia and improve your dog’s breath, your veterinarian may recommend a special diet that is low in protein and phosphorus. This type of diet can help reduce the workload on the kidneys and prevent the buildup of toxins in the body.

In addition to dietary changes, your veterinarian may also prescribe medications to help manage uremia. These medications can help control blood pressure and reduce the amount of protein in the urine, which can help improve kidney function.

It’s important to note that kidney disease cannot be cured, but it can be managed with proper treatment. If you suspect your dog may have uremia, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment can help prevent further damage to the kidneys and improve your dog’s overall quality of life.

2. Gastrointestinal Issues

If your dog’s breath stinks horribly, it could be a sign of gastrointestinal issues. When dogs have upset stomachs or digestive problems, it can cause stinky breath. They may also start licking themselves and even surfaces like the floor a lot. Here are some tips to help fix your dog’s oral situation caused by gastrointestinal issues:

  • Change their diet: Switching to a high-quality, easily digestible dog food can help improve your dog’s digestion and reduce stinkiness. Look for dog foods that contain high-quality protein sources, like chicken or fish, and avoid foods with fillers or artificial preservatives.
  • Probiotics: Adding probiotics to your dog’s diet can help improve their gut health and reduce halitosis. You can find probiotic supplements made specifically for dogs at your local pet store or online.
  • Slow down feeding: If your dog eats too quickly, it can cause digestive issues and mouth stinkiness. Try using a slow feeder bowl or feeding smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.
  • Consult with your vet: If your dog’s halitosis persists even after making dietary changes, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian. They can help identify any underlying health issues and recommend appropriate treatment options.

By following these tips, you can help improve your dog’s gastrointestinal health and eliminate any odors.

3. Prolonged Urinary Tract Obstructions

Filthy mouth smells could also be due to a prolonged urinary tract obstruction. This occurs when there is a blockage in the urinary tract, preventing the normal flow of urine. As a result, bacteria can build up and cause a foul odor.

There are several reasons why a urinary tract obstruction can occur, including bladder stones, tumors, and infections. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems, such as kidney damage.

4. Dietary Issues

When it comes to fixing mouth stench, dietary issues can play a significant role. Nutritional deficiencies can cause early onset of gum disease, which can lead to smelly breath in dogs. Thus, it’s essential to ensure that your dog is getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals in their diet.

A well-balanced diet that includes all the essential nutrients can help prevent halitosis in dogs. Make sure that your dog’s diet includes enough vitamin A, vitamin B2, B3, and B5. These vitamins are essential for maintaining healthy gums and teeth, and if your dog has any deficiencies, you may smell it on their breath.

You can also consider adding some fresh fruits and vegetables to your dog’s diet. These foods are rich in antioxidants and can help fight off bacteria that cause the issue. Some examples of fruits and vegetables that are good for dogs include carrots, apples, and celery.

In addition to a balanced diet, it’s also important to ensure that your dog is drinking enough water. Dehydration can lead to dry mouth, which can cause halitosis. Make sure that your dog always has access to fresh, clean water to keep their kidney healthy, too.

5. Diabetes

Diabetes is a common condition in dogs that can cause foul-smelling breath. When a dog has diabetes, their body cannot produce enough insulin, which leads to high blood sugar levels. This can cause a sweet or fruity odor on their breath.

If you suspect your dog has diabetes, it’s important to take them to the vet for a proper diagnosis. Your vet may recommend a special diet and medication to manage their blood sugar levels.

In addition to managing their diabetes, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene for your dog. Regular brushing and annual cleanings can help prevent the buildup of bacteria in their mouth and reduce odor.

Some other tips to help manage diabetes and improve your dog’s breath include:

  • Providing fresh water at all times;
  • Feeding your dog small, frequent meals throughout the day;
  • Avoiding high-carbohydrate treats and snacks; and
  • Monitoring your dog’s weight and exercise levels.

Working with your vet and taking steps to maintain good oral hygiene, can help manage your dog’s diabetes and improve their breath.

6. Dental Diseases

Dental diseases are often the culprit in a dog’s poor oral hygiene. These can range from abscesses and cavities to gum and periodontal disease and even foreign bodies in teeth. It’s important to address any issues your dog may have to improve not only their breath but also their overall health.

One common disease is periodontal disease, which is caused by a buildup of bacteria and tartar on the teeth and gums. This can lead to inflammation, infection, and even tooth loss. Regular cleanings and at-home care like brushing can help prevent and treat periodontal disease.

Another issue to look out for is tooth decay, which can cause smelly breath and discomfort for your dog. This can be caused by a poor diet or lack of oral care. 

Foreign bodies in teeth, such as sticks or bones, can also cause mouth issues and halitosis. It’s important to supervise your dog while they chew and play to prevent them from ingesting anything harmful.

Fixing Fishy Dog Breath

Comic of dog growling at fish bowl asking

If you’re like us, you love your dog, but you don’t love their fishy breath. Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to help freshen up their breath and keep them healthy.

By following the simple tips below, you can help keep your dog’s breath fresh and healthy so you can enjoy plenty of snuggles and kisses without any unpleasant odors.

1. Oral Hygiene

When it comes to fixing your dog’s stinky situation, oral hygiene is essential. Just like humans, dogs need to have their teeth brushed regularly to maintain good oral health.

We recommend brushing your dog’s teeth at least twice a week using a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for dogs. Be sure to use a gentle touch and reward your dog with a treat afterward to make the experience more enjoyable.

In addition to brushing, there are other ways to maintain your dog’s oral hygiene. Providing your dog with chews and toys can help remove tartar and plaque buildup. You can also add water additives to your dog’s water bowl to help freshen their breath and promote healthy teeth and gums.

It’s important to note that if your dog already has significant issues, such as gum disease or tooth decay, brushing alone may not be enough to fix their odorous mouth. In these cases, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian for a professional cleaning and treatment plan.

By prioritizing your dog’s oral hygiene, you can help prevent fish-like breath and promote overall health and well-being.

2. Diet for Kidney Disease and Stones

If your dog has kidney disease or stones, it’s important to adjust their diet to help manage their condition and prevent further complications. Here are a few dietary tips to keep in mind:

  • Low protein diet: Dogs with kidney disease should consume a low protein diet, as protein can put extra strain on the kidneys. Talk to your vet about the appropriate amount of protein for your dog’s condition.
  • Low phosphorus diet: Phosphorus is a mineral that can build up in the blood of dogs with kidney disease, leading to further complications. A diet low in phosphorus can help manage this issue.
  • Increased water intake: Encouraging your dog to drink more water can help flush out toxins and prevent dehydration, which can further damage the kidneys. Consider adding water to their food or offering fresh water throughout the day.
  • Supplements: Certain supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins, can help support kidney function and improve overall health. Talk to your vet about which supplements may be appropriate for your dog.

3. Natural Supplements to Cure Your Dog’s Fish Breath

One study had a lot of success tackling fish-like breath in dogs with some natural supplements. Here’s a simple way to add them to your dog’s diet:

  • Fish Proteins: Choose dog foods with fish or add some fish supplements. Fish is not only good for their breath but also great for overall health.
  • Herbs Like Sage and Thyme: Sprinkle a bit of these herbs, finely chopped, on your dog’s meals. They’re good for the breath and help with digestion too.
  • Blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum): A small amount of blackcurrant fruit or extract is rich in antioxidants and can freshen breath.
  • Propolis: This bee-produced substance is available in natural dog supplements and is good for oral health.
  • Egg Whites: They contain lysozyme, an enzyme that fights bacteria. Adding a bit of cooked egg white to your dog’s food can help.
  • Bioflavonoids: Found in citrus fruits, they’re beneficial but make sure to moderate and that they’re free from seeds or peel.

4. Professional Teeth Cleaning

If your dog’s breath is consistently smelly, it may be time for a professional teeth cleaning. A veterinarian can perform a thorough cleaning of your dog’s teeth and gums, removing any built-up tartar. This can help improve your dog’s breath and overall health.

During the cleaning, the veterinarian will use specialized tools to remove any tartar and plaque from the teeth and gum line. They may also perform a full physical exam to check for any signs of teeth disease or other issues.

It’s important to note that professional teeth cleaning for dogs requires general anesthesia. This is to ensure that your dog remains still and calm during the procedure, as well as to protect their airway and vital signs.

After the cleaning, your veterinarian may recommend regular at-home care to help maintain your dog’s teeth health. 

5. Regular Vet Check-ups

Regular vet check-ups are essential to maintain your dog’s teeth hygiene. During these check-ups, the vet will examine your dog’s teeth, gums, and mouth for any signs of infection or disease. They may also recommend a professional dental cleaning to remove any tartar buildup, as well as a home care routine.

6. Diagnosing and Addressing GI Tract Issues

When it comes to fetid canine breath, one of the potential culprits is an issue with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. If your dog’s breath smells like fish and they are experiencing other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lack of appetite, it’s important to get them checked out by a veterinarian.

There are a few different GI tract issues that can cause off-putting canine breath. These include:

  • Gastrointestinal infections: Bacterial or viral infections in the GI tract can cause inflammation and an overgrowth of bacteria that leads to the problem. These infections can be caused by a variety of factors, including parasites, contaminated food or water, or exposure to other sick animals.
  • Pancreatitis: This condition occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed, which can cause a variety of symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In some cases, pancreatitis can also cause a smell on the breath.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): This is a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the lining of the GI tract. Symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss, and, in some cases, halitosis.

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to take them to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet will be able to diagnose the underlying issue and recommend a course of treatment. In some cases, addressing GI tract issues can help improve your dog’s breath. 

7. Treating Underlying Diabetes

Diabetes can also cause a sea-like smell. Treating diabetes can help improve your dog’s breath and overall health. The first step is to work with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan. This may include insulin injections, dietary changes, and exercise. It’s important to monitor your dog’s blood sugar levels regularly and adjust the treatment plan as needed.

Home Remedies for Smelly Dog Breath

If your dog’s breath smells like fish, it could be a sign of dental issues or other health problems. However, before you take them to the vet, you can try some home remedies to freshen up their breath. Here are some effective ways to fix dog halitosis at home:


Parsley is a natural breath freshener that can help reduce mouth odor. You can add some chopped parsley to your dog’s food or give them a small amount of fresh parsley to chew on. However, be careful not to give them too much, as it can cause an upset stomach.


Probiotics can help balance your dog’s gut bacteria and improve their digestive health, which can cause smelliness. A study published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science found that Lactobacillus acidophilus, a type of probiotic, can be a potential probiotic for oral health in dogs. You can give your dog probiotics in the form of supplements or by adding probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt to their diet.

Apple Slices

Apples contain enzymes that can help break down plaque and freshen up your dog’s breath. You can give your dog a few slices of fresh apple as a treat or add it to their food. However, be sure to remove the seeds, as they can be harmful to dogs.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a natural odor neutralizer that can combat this problem. You can mix a small amount of baking soda with water to make a paste and apply it to your dog’s teeth and gums. Leave it on for a few minutes and then rinse it off with water.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties that can help kill the bacteria that cause smelly puppy breath. You can add a small amount of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s water or mix it with their food. However, be sure to dilute it with water, as too much vinegar can be harmful to dogs.

Why You Should Not Use Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has been touted as a cure-all for many health problems, including mustiness in dogs. While there are some benefits to using coconut oil, it’s important to understand why it may not be the best choice for fixing teeth problems in dogs.

Firstly, coconut oil is high in fat and calories, which can lead to weight gain in dogs if not used in moderation. Additionally, too much coconut oil can cause diarrhea and upset stomach in dogs, which can actually make their breath worse.

Furthermore, while coconut oil has antibacterial properties, it may actually make oral issues in dogs worse. This is because the lauric acid in coconut oil is inflammatory and can cause inflammation in the gums, letting toxins through the gum mucous membrane. Secondly, the lauric acid kills bacteria that release something called endotoxins. 

These toxins then slip through the gums into the bloodstream and cause inflammation throughout the body. This can affect the heart and even cause kidney issues, leading to additional mouth smells.

When to Seek Veterinary Help

If you have tried all the methods we have suggested and your dog’s breath still smells like fish, it may be time to seek veterinary help. A strong, persistent odor could be a sign of an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed.

Here are some signs that indicate it’s time to schedule a visit to the vet:

  • Your dog’s breath smells extremely strong and unpleasant, even after trying all the home remedies we’ve suggested.
  • Your dog’s breath smells different than usual, and the odor is particularly strong or foul.
  • Your dog is showing other symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or lethargy.
  • Your dog’s gums are inflamed, bleeding, or discolored.

When you bring your dog to the vet, be sure to mention any changes in your dog’s diet or behavior, as well as any medications or supplements your dog is taking. The vet will perform a thorough examination and may recommend additional tests or treatments to address the underlying cause of your dog’s problem.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your dog’s health. Don’t hesitate to seek veterinary help if you have any concerns about your dog’s breath or overall well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can I freshen my dog’s breath naturally?

There are several natural ways to freshen your dog’s breath. You can give your dog raw carrots, apples, or celery. These fruits and vegetables help to remove plaque and freshen breath. You can also give your dog fresh parsley, which contains chlorophyll that neutralizes smells.

What are some home remedies for bad dog breath?

There are several home remedies for dog mouth stinkiness. You can add a teaspoon of baking soda to your dog’s water bowl to help neutralize odors. You can also make a mouthwash for your dog by mixing equal parts of water and apple cider vinegar. You can also give your dog a small amount of plain kefir which contains probiotics that help to reduce the stench.

What foods can help improve my dog’s breath?

There are several foods that can help improve your dog’s breath. You can give your dog dry dog food that is formulated to help reduce foul-smelling breath. You can also give your dog fresh fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, apples, and celery, which help to remove plaque and freshen breath. You can also give your dog fresh parsley.

What are some dental care tips for dogs with bad breath?

There are several care tips for dogs with halitosis. You should brush your dog’s teeth at least twice a week using a toothbrush and toothpaste that is specifically designed for dogs. You should also give your dog chews or toys that help to remove plaque and freshen breath. You should also take your dog to the vet for regular checkups and cleanings.

What are some common causes of fishy dog breath?

Some common causes of a dog’s fish smells from the mouth include gum disease or tooth decay. Other causes include kidney and digestive problems, such as an upset stomach or gastrointestinal issues. Certain foods, such as fish-based diets, can also cause the stench.

How often should I brush my dog’s teeth to prevent bad breath?

You should brush your dog’s teeth at least twice a week to prevent stench. However, if your dog has severe halitosis or other teeth problems, you may need to brush their teeth more frequently. It’s important to use a toothbrush and toothpaste that is specifically designed for dogs to prevent any harm to their teeth or gums.

Final Thoughts

We hope that this article has been helpful in addressing your dog’s noxious breath. Remember that tooth hygiene is crucial in maintaining your dog’s overall health and well-being.

Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Regular brushing and professional cleanings can prevent stinkiness.
  • Feeding your dog high-quality food and treats can also improve their health.
  • Avoid giving your dog table scraps or human food that can contribute to halitosis.

If your dog’s problem persists, it may be a sign of an underlying health issue, and you should consult with your veterinarian.

By following these tips and incorporating them into your dog’s routine, you can help keep their breath fresh and their teeth healthy. Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and we wish you and your dog all the best!


Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.