I remember it like it was yesterday—happily hopping into the car with my parents and their dogs as we headed to the beach. Just a few minutes into the ride, though, my happy meter plummeted. Something fishy was going on … and it was a dog booty! My parents’ oldest poodle (who is no longer with us – but forever in our hearts) reeked of fish. It was one of the most unpleasant odors I had ever smelled. Do you know the putrid stench I’m referring to? If so, know you’re not alone. So the big question is: Why does my dog smell like fish? Well, the most common cause is your dog’s anal glands.
What Are Anal Glands?
All dogs—no matter their size or breed—have two small sacs located on each side of their anus, sitting at around 4 and 8 o’clock. You’ll hear them referred to as anal sacs or anal glands. Their purpose? They produce an oily and smelly excretion that is used to identify and mark territory. Get this—each dog’s excretion has its own unique and distinct scent. According to the AKC, this fishy-smelling fluid “tells other dogs such things as your dog’s sex, health, and approximate age.”
Usually, your dog’s anal glands drain themselves when your pooch passes a healthy bowel movement of normal consistency. However, poor diet or an inherited biological problem can cause something called Anal Sac Disease (that’s the term used to describe problems with the anal glands).
When anal glands don’t empty properly, they can become inflamed, impacted, and abscessed. This causes a lot of discomfort for your canine.
Symptoms Of Anal Sac Disease
- Fishy odor coming from your dog’s rear end
- Scooting his butt across the floor
- Chewing or licking the area
- Swelling around the anus
- Trouble defecating
What To Do
If you’re up for the challenge, you can learn to drain your dog’s anal glands yourself. An experienced groomer or your local veterinarian can step you through the process in person to help you feel comfortable. However, many people opt for their groomer or vet to do it for them. There are benefits to enlisting the help of a professional. Afterall, your vet will be able to assess if your dog’s glands are impacted, abscessed, or infected. If they are infected or abscessed, your dog may also need an antibiotic. Impacted sacs feel hard to the touch, painful, and are more difficult to express.
How To Prevent Anal Sac Problems
Good nutrition and a high-fiber diet can help prevent a dog’s anal sacs from becoming impacted. High fiber creates bulk and promotes healthy stools, which in turn promotes natural anal sac excretion when your dog has a bowel movement. It’s important to note that soft or loose stools do not promote emptying of the anal sacs. The key is making sure Fido has a healthy formed stool.