Why Does My Puppy’s Breath Smell Like Fish? 7 Surprising Reasons

Puppies are bundles of joy, bringing happiness and endless love into our lives. However, there are times when their puppy breath can catch us off guard. If you’ve noticed a distinct fishy odor emanating from your furry friend’s mouth, you might be wondering why. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! In this article, we’ll explore seven surprising reasons behind that fishy breath and provide practical tips to address the issue. So, let’s dive right in!

Why Does My Puppy’s Breath Smell Like Fish?

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Golden Retriever Puppies

1. Diet Matters

Just like humans, what our pets eat can affect the smell of their breath. For example, if your puppy’s diet consists mainly of fish-based foods, their breath might carry a noticeable fishy odor. The oils in fish can linger in their mouth and cause an unpleasant smell. Consider varying their diet or seeking alternative protein sources to help alleviate this issue.

  • Fish-based Diet: Feeding your dog a diet primarily consisting of fish-based dog food can result in a breath that smells like fish. The natural oils in fish can linger in their mouth and contribute to the odor. While fish is a valuable protein source, consider mixing their diet with other protein options to help minimize the fishy breath.
  • Low-Quality Fish Ingredients: Some dog foods use lower quality or less fresh fish ingredients, which can contribute to a more pungent fishy odor on their breath. When selecting fish-based dog food, opt for trusted brands prioritizing high-quality ingredients and following strict quality control measures.
  • Omega-3 Supplements: Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, often derived from fish oil, can benefit dogs positively. However, excessive supplementation or low-quality omega-3 supplements can intensify fishy breath. It’s important to follow recommended dosage guidelines and consult your veterinarian about the appropriate omega-3 supplementation for your dog’s needs.
  • Treats and Chews: Some dog treats and chews are made with fish-based ingredients. While these treats provide nutritional benefits, they can also contribute to fishy breath. Consider diversifying your dog’s treat options by incorporating different flavors and protein sources to help minimize the impact on their breath.
  • Unbalanced Diets: An unbalanced diet, even if it does not contain fish-based ingredients, can result in poor oral health and contribute to bad breath. Ensure your dog’s diet is nutritionally balanced, providing the necessary nutrients for their overall health and well-being. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate diet for your dog’s specific needs.

Remember, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian when selecting the right diet for your dog. They can provide guidance on choosing high-quality dog food and help address any concerns about fishy breath or other oral health issues.

2. Dental Health

why does my puppy's breath smell like fish
Border Collie Puppy

Poor dental hygiene can lead to various oral problems, including halitosis (bad breath). Puppies, just like adult dogs, can develop tartar buildup, gum disease, or infected teeth. If left untreated, these conditions can result in a foul odor reminiscent of fish. Regular brushing, professional dental cleanings, and providing dental treats can help maintain good oral hygiene.

3. Teething Troubles

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Husky Puppy

Puppies go through a teething phase, which can be uncomfortable and sometimes accompanied by bad breath. During this period, their gums may become inflamed, leading to a distinct odor. Providing appropriate teething toys and soothing their gums with cold items, like frozen carrots, can offer relief and help freshen their breath.

4. Bacterial Overgrowth

Oral bacteria naturally reside in a dog’s mouth. However, an overgrowth of certain bacteria can cause an unpleasant odor. Puppies are particularly susceptible to this, especially if they explore and chew on dirty or unclean objects. Therefore, regularly clean their toys, food bowls, and bedding to reduce the risk of bacterial buildup and combat the fishy breath.

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Weimaraner Puppy

5. Stomach Issues

Sometimes, your puppy’s fishy breath might not directly result from oral problems but rather an indication of an underlying digestive issue. For example, conditions like gastroenteritis or dietary indiscretion can produce a distinct smell on their breath. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect gastrointestinal problems or notice additional symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea.

why does my puppy's breath smell like fish
Border Collie Puppy

6. Anal Gland Problems

The anal glands near a dog’s rectum can occasionally become impacted or infected. When this happens, the glands release a pungent odor that can be mistaken for fishy breath. So if you notice your puppy excessively licking its rear, scooting, or displaying discomfort, it’s crucial to have its anal glands checked by a veterinarian.

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7. Systemic Health Conditions

In rare cases, when a puppy’s breath consistently smells fishy despite addressing common causes, it could indicate an underlying systemic health issue. For example, specific disorders like liver disease or kidney problems can produce distinct breath odors that resemble fishy smells. These conditions affect the body’s metabolic processes, resulting in byproducts that can be detected in the breath.

  • Liver Disease: When the liver is not functioning correctly, it may lead to a buildup of toxins in the body. These toxins can be released through the breath, causing a unique and often unpleasant odor. If your puppy’s breath continues to have a fishy smell, particularly when accompanied by other symptoms like jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or gums), loss of appetite, or lethargy, it’s crucial to seek veterinary attention promptly.
  • Kidney Problems: Impaired kidney function can affect the body’s ability to filter waste products effectively. As a result, certain compounds accumulate in the bloodstream, leading to a distinct breath odor. If your puppy’s breath smells fishy and exhibits symptoms such as increased thirst, frequent urination, loss of appetite, or weight loss, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian for a comprehensive evaluation.
  • Other Systemic Conditions: While liver disease and kidney problems are common culprits behind a persistent fishy breath, other systemic health issues may contribute to the odor. Disorders affecting the gastrointestinal, respiratory, or metabolic systems can occasionally produce breath odors that resemble fish. These conditions require prompt medical attention to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

If you’ve ruled out other potential causes of fishy breath, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian for a thorough examination. They will conduct a comprehensive evaluation, including a physical exam, laboratory tests, and possibly imaging, to assess your puppy’s overall health and identify any underlying systemic issues.

Early detection and treatment of systemic health conditions are essential for the well-being of your puppy. Remember, only a veterinarian can provide an accurate diagnosis and develop a suitable treatment plan based on your puppy’s specific needs. Don’t hesitate to seek professional veterinary care if you suspect an underlying health issue contributing to their fishy breath.

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Shih Tzu

Tips to Keep Your Puppy’s Breath Fresh and Fishy-Free

  1. Maintain Good Dental Hygiene: Regular dental care is crucial for keeping your puppy’s breath fresh. Brush their teeth regularly using a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste your veterinarian recommends. Aim for at least three times a week, gradually increasing to daily brushing as your puppy becomes accustomed to the routine. Proper dental hygiene helps prevent tartar buildup and reduces the likelihood of fishy breath.
  2. Professional Dental Cleanings: Consider scheduling professional dental cleanings for your puppy. Veterinarians have the expertise and specialized equipment to perform thorough cleanings, remove stubborn tartar, and address dental issues. Professional cleanings are typically recommended annually, but your veterinarian will advise on the appropriate frequency for your puppy.
  3. Offer Dental Chews and Toys: Chewing on appropriate dental chews and toys can help keep your puppy’s teeth clean and their breath fresh. Look for products specifically designed to promote dental health, such as chew toys with ridges or bristles that help scrape away plaque. Dental treats and chews can also aid in reducing tartar buildup and improving breath odor.
  4. Regular Check-ups: Schedule routine check-ups with your veterinarian to monitor your puppy’s overall health, including oral health. Your veterinarian can detect any dental issues early on and guide you on maintaining fresh breath. Regular check-ups also allow for prompt treatment of any underlying health conditions that may contribute to fishy breath.
  5. Clean Food and Water Bowls: Clean and disinfect your puppy’s food and water bowls regularly to prevent bacterial growth. Bacteria can contribute to bad breath. Wash the bowls with hot, soapy water after each meal, and consider using stainless steel or ceramic bowls that are easier to clean and less likely to harbor bacteria.
  6. Provide Fresh Water: Ensure your puppy has access to clean water. Staying hydrated helps promote saliva production, which aids in washing away food particles and bacteria that can cause bad breath. Replace the water in their bowl daily and clean it regularly to prevent bacteria buildup.
  7. Monitor Their Diet: Take a closer look at your puppy’s diet to determine if it may contribute to their fishy breath. If their food is primarily fish-based, consider introducing alternative protein sources to help mitigate the odor. Consult with your veterinarian to ensure their diet is nutritionally balanced and appropriate for their needs.
  8. Regular Exercise: Engaging your puppy in regular physical activity promotes their overall health and contributes to fresher breath. Exercise stimulates saliva production and circulation, which can help maintain good oral health and reduce the risk of bad breath.
  9. Address Any Underlying Health Issues: If, despite your efforts, your puppy’s breath continues to smell fishy, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian. They can thoroughly examine, identify any underlying health issues, and recommend appropriate treatments or adjustments to your puppy’s care routine.

Following these tips and maintaining a consistent oral care routine can help keep your puppy’s breath fresh and free from that fishy odor. Regular veterinary check-ups and professional dental cleanings are essential to ensure your puppy’s overall oral health and well-being.

why does my puppy's breath smell like fish
Pomeranian Puppy


While puppy breath is generally not the most pleasant aroma, a persistent fishy odor may indicate an underlying issue that requires attention. By understanding the potential causes outlined above, you’ll be better equipped to address and improve your puppy’s breath. Remember to maintain good dental hygiene, ensure a balanced diet, and seek professional advice when necessary. With your care and attention, you’ll soon have a furry friend with breath as fresh as a summer breeze!