It’s normal for dogs to have a certain natural odor. However, a particularly pungent fishy smell coming from your female dog may indicate a health problem that requires attention. This comprehensive guide covers the possible causes, home remedies, preventive care, and when to seek veterinary help for getting rid of fishy odors in female dogs.

What Causes Fishy Odor in Female Dogs?

There are a few reasons why your female dog may develop an unpleasant fishy smell:

Infographic of the causes of fishy smell in dogs including vaginitis, anal glands, infections, and diet


It occurs when there is a disruption to the delicate bacterial balance in the vagina. Vaginitis can develop from:

  • Urinary tract infections – Bacteria spreads from a UTI to the vagina.
  • Foreign objects – Sticks, grass, dirt lodged in the vagina can cause irritation.
  • Chemicals – Exposure to cleaning products or topical medications.
  • Hormonal issues – Changes in reproductive hormones around estrus cycles or spaying.

Anal Gland Problems

Dogs have anal glands on each side of the anus that release smelly secretions for territorial marking. If these glands become blocked, it can cause leakage and fishy odor. Anal gland impaction tends to occur in smaller breeds or over-weight dogs.


Bacterial or yeast infections on the skin, ears, feet, tail pocket or other areas can contribute to fishy smell. Infected hot spots are a common source of odor.


In some cases, a fishy smell indicates a food intolerance or allergy. Certain ingredients like fish proteins when excreted can cause odor.

How to Get Rid of Fishy Odor in Female Dogs

If the fishy smell persists or comes with symptoms like frequent urination, scooting, or licking the genital area, consult your veterinarian. They can diagnose and treat the underlying cause.

Meanwhile, here are some tips to help control fishy odors at home:

Proper Hygiene

Addressing dog hygiene and grooming can help reduce odors.

  • Use unscented baby wipesto gently clean debris from the vulva. Avoid scrubbing too hard.
  • Give a gentle warm water rinse after walks to wash away irritants.
  • Keep hair around rear trimmed to avoid collecting urine/feces.

Man brushing his female dog's coat

Address Anal Gland Problems

  • Have your vet or groomer express blocked anal glands if they appear full or painful.
  • Add fiberlike pumpkin, sweet potatoes, bran, or psyllium husk to solidify stools for easier gland expression.
  • Keep your dog at an ideal weight to prevent gland impaction.

Improve Diet and Allergies

  • Try an elimination diet trial under veterinary guidance if diet seems to be an issue.
  • Provide excellent nutrition and skin/coat supplements like omega fatty acids.
  • Treat skin infections to stop bacteria/yeast overgrowth. Medicated shampoos, antibiotics or antifungals may be needed.

Female dog eating from food bowl

Freshen Between Baths

  • Use dry dog shampoo to absorb oils and odors in between baths. Focus on the rear, belly and feet.
  • Spritz a dog deodorizing spray on smelly spots when needed. Look for natural options without harsh chemicals.
  • Place zeolite deodorizer rocks in your dog’s bed to absorb odors naturally. Replace weekly.

Bathe Regularly

  • Bathe your dog every 2-4 weeks with a veterinarian-recommended medicated wash for their skin condition. Don’t over-bathe.
  • Allow the dog’s skin to fully dry after bathing before contact with carpets, furniture or grass to avoid odors clinging.

Washing female dog with shampoo during bath

Clean Bedding Frequently

  • Wash your dog’s bed, crate pad, and blankets at least once a week. Use machine-washable covers.
  • Vacuum fabric furniture, dog beds, and carpets thoroughly to remove embedded hair, dander and odor.
  • Replace old beds and throw rugs if they retain smells even after cleaning.

Preventing Fishy Odors

You can help prevent fishy odors by:

  • Scheduling regular vet exams to monitor for infection signs
  • Keeping your dog’s rear, vulva and skin folds clean and dry
  • Expressing anal glands periodically
  • Controlling flea/tick infestations
  • Feeding a high-quality diet tailored to your dog’s needs
  • Managing your dog’s weight
  • Grooming routinely to remove loose hair
  • Cleaning bedding frequently

When to See the Veterinarian

Make an appointment with your vet if:

  • The fishy odor persists more than 2-3 days or keeps returning frequently.
  • Your dog excessively licks or chews at their rear/genitals.
  • You notice bloody, brown, yellow, or green vaginal discharge.
  • Urination seems painful, strained, or more frequent.
  • Your dog is scooting their rear along the ground.
  • There are obvious skin inflammation or infected hot spots.
  • Appetite or energy levels seem decreased.
  • Anal glands are very full, painful, or ruptured.
  • Odor is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea.

Catching and treating infections, vaginitis, impacted anal glands, and other issues early prevents smelly symptoms from worsening.



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