Why Do Animals Breath Smell Like Fish?

Have you ever leaned in for a snuggle with your furry companion only to be hit with a pungent aroma of fish? It’s not the most pleasant experience, but don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many pet owners have been perplexed by this strange phenomenon. But fear not, my curious friends, for I am about to unveil the interesting and surprising reasons behind this fishy breath.

It’s important to note that not all animals have breath that smells like fish. However, those that do are usually carnivorous animals that enjoy a diet high in fish or fish-based products. This includes cats, dogs, ferrets, and even some reptiles.

The primary reason for this unique odor is due to the presence of a compound called trimethylamine (TMA). This compound is produced by the breakdown of fish proteins in the animal’s gastrointestinal tract. Once the TMA is produced, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and eventually ends up in the lungs. When the animal exhales, the TMA is released, creating the unmistakable fishy odor.

Interestingly enough, some animals such as sharks actually use TMA as a scent marker for communication and territorial marking. It’s also believed that some animals that have evolved to hunt and eat fish may develop this fishy breath as a way to blend in and avoid detection by their prey.

So next time you catch a whiff of your pet’s less-than-fresh breath, remember it’s just nature doing its thing. Despite the smell, your furry friend is still the same lovable companion they always were.

What Causes Fishy Breath in Animals?

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to fishy breath in animals.

One of the most common causes of fishy breath in pets is their diet. If your animal’s meals consist mainly of fish or seafood, their breath may have a distinct scent. This is especially true if they consume raw or uncooked fish, which can contain bacteria that cause unpleasant smells.

Additionally, poor dental hygiene can also contribute to this problem. Just like humans, animals can develop tartar buildup and gum disease if they don’t receive proper dental care. This can lead to bacterial growth in the mouth, resulting in bad breath.

Certain medical conditions can also be to blame for fishy breath in animals. For instance, kidney disease can cause a buildup of toxins in the body, which can result in a noticeable odor on the breath. Digestive issues such as inflammatory bowel disease and malabsorption syndromes can also cause bad breath due to the fermentation of undigested food in the gut.

Interestingly enough, some pets naturally have a slightly fishy odor to their breath due to their unique biological processes. One perfect example of this is cats. These feline creatures have a high protein diet and a special enzyme in their saliva that breaks down protein into amino acids. These amino acids can have a distinct smell that is reminiscent of fish.

It’s essential to note that if your pet has persistent bad breath, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Whether it’s related to their diet, dental hygiene, or medical condition, there are solutions available to help improve your furry friend’s breath and overall health.

Diet and Fishy Breath

Believe it or not, your pet’s diet plays a significant role in the odor of their breath, especially when it comes to that fishy smell.

The oils and proteins found in fish-based foods can leave a distinct smell in your pet’s mouth and on their breath. And it’s not just fish, certain types of seafood such as shrimp and crab can also leave your pet’s breath smelling like the ocean.

But wait, there’s more. Even if you don’t feed your pet fish-based foods, expired or improperly stored food can cause an unpleasant odor in their mouth. So what can you do to prevent this fishy situation?

Firstly, ensure that your pet’s diet is balanced and includes a variety of different foods. If you do want to include fish-based foods in their diet, consider rotating them with other protein sources. This will prevent the buildup of fishy smells in their mouth.

Secondly, regular dental care is crucial. Brushing your pet’s teeth regularly and providing them with dental chews or toys can help remove food particles and bacteria from their mouth, reducing the likelihood of bad breath.

Medical Conditions That Lead to Fishy Breath

While a fish-based diet or expired food can cause bad breath, there are also medical conditions that can lead to a distinct fishy odor emanating from their mouth.

One of the most common medical conditions that cause fishy breath in animals is periodontal disease. This disease affects the gums and teeth of animals, leading to a buildup of bacteria that produces an unpleasant odor in their breath. If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss and other serious health issues.

Another condition that causes fishy breath in animals is called oral ulceration and chronic ulcerative paradental stomatitis (CUPS). CUPS is an inflammatory condition that affects the mouth and gums of animals, causing painful ulcers and lesions that produce a foul odor. This condition can be caused by a weakened immune system or an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth, which can make it difficult for your pet to eat and drink comfortably.

Respiratory infections are also culprits behind fishy breath in animals. These infections can impact the sinuses, nasal passages, or lungs, causing a buildup of bacteria and mucus that produces an unpleasant odor in your pet’s breath. Additionally, liver or kidney disease can cause a build-up of toxins in your pet’s body, leading to a fishy odor in their breath as their body tries to eliminate these toxins.

If you notice your pet’s breath suddenly smelling like fish, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. It’s crucial to seek veterinary care immediately if you see any sudden changes in your pet’s breath or behavior. Early detection and treatment of these medical conditions can help prevent further complications and improve your pet’s quality of life.

How to Diagnose the Cause of Fishy Breath in Animals

If you notice a distinct fishy odor coming from your pet’s mouth, this may be an indication of an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed promptly. In this blog post, we will explore how to diagnose the cause of fishy breath in animals with 5 sub-sections.

Dental Problems Can Cause Fishy Breath in Animals

Just like us, animals can develop dental problems that lead to bad breath. Tartar buildup, gingivitis, infected teeth, and periodontal disease can all contribute to a fishy odor in an animal’s breath. If you notice a foul smell coming from your pet’s mouth or any signs of discomfort or pain when examining their mouth, it’s important to take them to a veterinarian for a thorough dental checkup. A veterinarian can examine your pet’s teeth and gums to determine if dental disease is the cause of the fishy breath. Regular dental checkups and good oral hygiene can help prevent dental problems and keep your pet’s breath smelling fresh.

Digestive Issues Can Cause Fishy Breath in Animals

If your pet has an upset stomach or is suffering from a gastrointestinal infection, it can cause a fishy odor to emanate from their mouth. In some cases, certain foods can also cause fishy breath in animals, especially those that are high in protein or contain fish products. If you suspect digestive issues may be causing your pet’s bad breath, a veterinarian can perform tests to determine if there are any underlying issues. Changing your pet’s diet or adding supplements may help alleviate digestive issues and improve their breath.

Kidney Disease Can Cause Fishy Breath in Animals

Kidney disease is a serious condition that can cause an animal’s breath to smell like fish. This is because the kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from the body, and if they are not functioning properly, this can lead to a buildup of toxins that can cause bad breath. If you notice any other symptoms of kidney disease in your pet, such as increased thirst or urination, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. Treatment for kidney disease may include medication or dietary changes.

Liver Failure Can Cause Fishy Breath in Animals

Liver failure is another potential cause of fishy breath in animals. The liver plays an important role in filtering toxins from the body, and if it is not functioning properly, this can lead to a buildup of toxins that can cause bad breath. If you notice any other symptoms of liver failure in your pet, such as lethargy or loss of appetite, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately. Treatment for liver failure may include medication or surgery.

Proper Diagnosis and Treatment are Crucial for Your Pet’s Health

How to Treat Fishy Breath in Animals

The good news is that fishy breath in animals can be treated. Identifying the underlying cause is the first step, which can be poor oral hygiene, diet, or an underlying health issue.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Just like humans, animals need regular teeth cleanings to prevent the buildup of bacteria in their mouths. Tartar buildup and gum disease can lead to bad breath. To prevent this, schedule regular dental checkups with your veterinarian and brush your pet’s teeth at home using a soft-bristled toothbrush and pet-safe toothpaste. This will not only help freshen their breath but also promote good dental health.


Certain types of fish-based foods or treats can leave a strong odor in an animal’s mouth. If you suspect this is the issue, switch to a different type of food or treat that contains chicken or beef. It’s also important to provide a balanced diet that meets your pet’s nutritional needs.

Underlying Health Issues

If poor oral hygiene and diet are not the cause of your pet’s fishy breath, it may be a sign of an underlying health issue. Kidney disease, diabetes, and liver problems can all cause bad breath in animals. If you suspect any of these issues, consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Home Remedies

Adding parsley to your pet’s food can help freshen their breath as it contains chlorophyll that neutralizes odors in the mouth. Dental chews or treats designed to promote oral health can also help alleviate bad breath. However, it’s important to note that these remedies should not be used as a substitute for proper veterinary care if an underlying health issue is present.


Prevention is the key to treating fishy breath in animals. Regular dental cleanings, a healthy diet, and good oral hygiene practices can all help prevent bad breath from occurring in the first place. Schedule regular checkups with your veterinarian to catch any underlying health issues early on. With proper care and attention, you can ensure that your furry friend’s breath stays fresh and clean.

Preventing Fishy Breath in Animals

One often-overlooked aspect of pet health is oral hygiene, which can lead to fishy breath in animals if not properly addressed. However, with a few simple steps, you can prevent fishy breath and maintain your pet’s overall health.

Dental hygiene is essential in preventing bad breath in animals. The buildup of plaque and tartar on their teeth can lead to the growth of bacteria that produce a foul odor. To combat this, regular brushing of your pet’s teeth with pet-safe toothpaste can significantly reduce the occurrence of fishy breath.

Feeding your pet high-quality food that contains all the necessary nutrients is also crucial. Cheap brands or poor quality food may contain fillers and additives that can cause bad breath in animals. Feeding your pet dental treats can also help reduce plaque and tartar buildup, leading to fresher breath.

Water intake is another important factor in preventing bad breath in animals. Ensuring that your pets have access to clean water at all times can help flush out any bacteria that may cause bad breath. Additionally, adding fresh parsley to their meals or incorporating parsley-based supplements into their diet can help neutralize any unpleasant odors.

Regular checkups with a veterinarian are essential in identifying any underlying medical conditions that may be causing fishy breath. Conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, or liver problems can cause bad breath in animals and require immediate medical attention.


In conclusion, the fishy smell that emanates from an animal’s breath is not unusual. It can be attributed to various factors, but the primary cause of this odor is trimethylamine (TMA), a compound produced by the breakdown of fish proteins in their digestive system. Nevertheless, poor oral hygiene, medical conditions like liver failure or kidney disease, and specific types of food can also contribute to bad breath in animals.

To keep your furry friend’s breath fresh and clean, it’s crucial to maintain proper oral hygiene practices such as regular brushing with pet-safe toothpaste, providing high-quality food with all essential nutrients, and ensuring access to clean water at all times. Furthermore, scheduling routine checkups with a veterinarian is vital in identifying any underlying medical issues that may cause bad breath.

Although fishy breath may not be pleasant for pet owners, it’s crucial to remember that it’s just nature taking its course. With proper care and attention, you can ensure that your furry companion’s breath remains fresh and clean.