Fishy Smells in Golden Retrievers: Causes, Prevention & Cures

Golden retrievers are well-known for their friendly personalities and their glimmering golden coats. However, these furry friends can develop an unpleasant fishy smell that is difficult to ignore.

While some of the causes of this odor are minor and can be easily fixed, others can indicate more severe health issues.

In this article, we’ll look at the possible causes of fishy smells in Golden Retrievers, prevention, and treatment options to keep your furry friend smelling fresh and feeling healthy.

Top 7 Causes of Fishy Smell In Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are prone to certain factors that can contribute to fishy odors. Understanding these causes is essential for effectively addressing the issue. Here are the top 7 causes:

  1. Skin Infections: Skin infections, such as bacterial or yeast infections, can lead to an unpleasant odor. The damp and warm environment created by a Golden Retriever’s dense coat can promote the growth of these microorganisms.
  2. Anal Gland Problems: Golden Retrievers have anal glands that produce a scent. When these glands become impacted or infected, they can emit a fishy smell. Expressing the anal glands regularly can help prevent odor-related issues.
  3. Dietary Factors: Certain foods, especially those high in fish-based proteins, can contribute to fishy-smelling breath or body odor in Golden Retrievers. The digestion of these proteins can result in a lingering smell.
  4. Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal imbalances, such as thyroid disorders or reproductive hormone issues, can affect a Golden Retriever’s skin and coat health. This can lead to an increase in oil production, resulting in an odor.
  5. Ear Infections: Golden Retrievers are prone to ear infections, which can produce a distinct odor. Bacteria or yeast overgrowth in the ears can cause discomfort and emit a fishy smell.
  6. Dental Problems: Poor dental hygiene and oral health issues, such as gum disease or tooth decay, can contribute to bad breath and an overall fishy smell in Golden Retrievers.
  7. Environmental Factors: External factors, such as exposure to fishy-smelling substances like fish oils, stagnant water, or certain outdoor elements, can temporarily impart a fishy odor to a Golden Retriever’s coat or skin.

Understanding these causes will help you pinpoint the source of the fishy smell in Golden Retrievers and take appropriate measures to address them effectively. Continue reading as we give you tips on how to prevent the fishy smell in Golden Retrievers. 

Preventing Fishy Odors in Golden Retrievers

  1. Regular Grooming: Establish a regular grooming routine for your Golden Retriever. 
    • This includes brushing their coat to remove loose hair and prevent matting, which can trap odors. Use a high-quality, breed-appropriate brush and consider professional grooming services as needed.
  2. Bathing: Bathe your Golden Retriever regularly, but not excessively, as frequent bathing can strip their coat of natural oils. Use a mild, dog-specific shampoo that helps eliminate odors. 
    • Be sure to rinse thoroughly to avoid residue that may contribute to lingering smells.
  3. Oral Hygiene: Pay attention to your Golden Retriever’s dental health. Brush their teeth regularly using dog-friendly toothpaste and provide dental chews or toys to help reduce plaque and tartar buildup.
    •  Good oral hygiene can minimize fishy breath odors.
  4. Ear Care: Keep your Golden Retriever’s ears clean and dry. Regularly check for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge. 
    • Clean their ears gently with a veterinarian-recommended ear cleaning solution and follow any specific instructions provided.
  5. Healthy Diet: Provide a balanced and high-quality diet for your Golden Retriever. Choose dog food formulas that are free from fillers and artificial additives. 
    • Some owners find that switching to a diet with alternative protein sources, such as poultry or lamb, can help reduce fishy odors.
  6. Proper Anal Gland Care: Regularly check and express your Golden Retriever’s anal glands as needed. If you’re unsure how to do this, consult your veterinarian or a professional groomer for guidance. 
    • Proper anal gland function can help minimize fishy smells associated with glandular issues.
  7. Environmental Control: Minimize exposure to fishy-smelling substances or environments that could transfer odors to your Golden Retriever’s coat.
    • Keep them away from stagnant water, strong fish scents, or other potential odor sources during walks or outdoor activities.

By following these preventative measures, Golden Retriever owners can help keep their dogs smelling fresh and minimize the occurrence of fishy odors. Remember to tailor these tips to your specific Golden Retriever’s needs and consult with a veterinarian for personalized advice.

Cures and Remedies for Fishy Smells in Golden Retrievers

Addressing fishy smells in Golden Retrievers requires targeted cures and remedies. Here are some effective solutions to consider:

  1. Veterinary Consultation: If your Golden Retriever is experiencing persistent or severe fishy odors, consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. They can identify any underlying medical conditions that may contribute to the smell and recommend appropriate treatments.
  2. Medicated Shampoos: Use specially formulated medicated shampoos designed to combat skin infections and reduce odors. These shampoos often contain antibacterial or antifungal agents to help treat underlying causes of fishy smells. Follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian or the product manufacturer.
  3. Dietary Supplements: Certain dietary supplements can help promote healthy skin and coat, reducing fishy odors. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, have anti-inflammatory properties and can improve overall skin health. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations on suitable supplements for your Golden Retriever.
  4. Specialized Grooming Techniques: Consider using specific grooming techniques that help address fishy smells. For example, regular ear cleaning using veterinarian-recommended solutions can prevent or treat ear infections that contribute to odor. Additionally, proper anal gland expression performed by a professional groomer or veterinarian can help alleviate odor issues.
  5. Addressing Hormonal Imbalances: If hormonal imbalances are causing fishy smells, your veterinarian may suggest appropriate treatments or medications to restore balance. This could involve hormone replacement therapy or other medical interventions. Follow your veterinarian’s guidance closely.
  6. Allergy Management: Allergies can contribute to skin infections and odors. If your Golden Retriever has allergies, work with your veterinarian to identify and manage the allergens. This may involve dietary changes, allergen avoidance, or medications to control allergy symptoms and prevent associated odor issues.
  7. Environmental Hygiene: Ensure your Golden Retriever’s living environment is clean and well-maintained. Regularly wash bedding, vacuum areas where your dog spends time, and keep their living space free from excessive moisture or odorous substances that could contribute to fishy smells.

Remember, the appropriate cure or remedy depends on the underlying cause of the fishy smell. It’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan for your Golden Retriever.

When Should I See My Vet?

Understanding when it’s necessary to seek veterinary attention for your Golden Retriever is crucial. If your dog’s fishy smell persists despite regular grooming and dental care, or if it’s accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it may be time to schedule a vet visit. Here are some scenarios in which you should see your vet:

  1. Persistent Bad Smell: If your dog continues to smell fishy after you’ve tried at-home remedies such as bathing, grooming, or improving diet, it’s time to see a vet. This could indicate a chronic issue like a skin infection or an anal gland problem.
  2. Changes in Behavior: If your dog is licking or scratching excessively at one area, or if they seem more tired than usual, these could be signs of an underlying problem causing the odor.
  3. Physical Changes: Redness, swelling, or discharge in any area of the body, particularly around the ears, mouth, or anus, should be evaluated by a vet.
  4. Digestive Issues: Issues like constipation, diarrhea, or unusual stool (such as very hard, very soft, or oddly colored stool) can be signs of a larger problem. These symptoms, especially when accompanied by a bad smell, should prompt a vet visit.
  5. Eating or Drinking Changes: If your dog has suddenly lost their appetite, or seems to be drinking an excessive amount of water, these changes could be indicative of a health issue.

Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your pet’s health. If you’re unsure whether you need to visit a vet, it’s a good idea to call your vet’s office and describe the situation. They can give you guidance based on their knowledge of your dog’s health history and the specific symptoms you’re noticing.


Managing and preventing unpleasant odors in your Golden Retriever is an important part of maintaining their overall health and wellbeing.

Regular grooming, a balanced diet, and attention to dental hygiene can go a long way in preventing fishy smells. However, if the odors persist, it’s important to consult with a veterinary professional, as it could be a symptom of a more serious underlying issue.

While a dog’s scent may never be a bouquet of roses, a strong, persistent fishy smell is not normal. Always pay attention to changes in your pet’s smell, behavior, or physical appearance, as these can be the first signs of a health issue.

Remember, Golden Retrievers are not just pets, but members of our families, and their health and happiness directly contribute to our own. Ensuring they smell good is not just about having a fresher environment at home, but also about keeping them in the best health possible.

Trust your instincts – you know your dog better than anyone else. If something feels off, it’s always best to seek the advice of a professional. With a little diligence and a lot of love, your Golden Retriever can stay happy, healthy, and fresh-smelling!

FAQs About Fishy Smell In Golden Retrievers

Can Fishy Smells Indicate a Severe Health Problem in Golden Retrievers?

It’s natural to wonder if fishy smells in your Golden Retriever are a sign of a severe health problem. While this is not always the case, the smell may indicate an underlying issue such as allergies, hormonal imbalances, or a skin infection. However, if the smell persists or your dog exhibits other concerning symptoms, it’s always a good idea to schedule a check-up with your veterinarian.

How Often Should I Bathe My Golden Retriever to Prevent Fishy Smells?

Bathing your Golden Retriever regularly with mild shampoo can help prevent fishy smells. The frequency of baths, however, will vary depending on your dog’s activity level and environment.

Are There Any Home Remedies to Eliminate Fishy Smells in Golden Retrievers?

There are a few home remedies you can try if you want to get rid of fishy odors in your Golden Retriever. Grooming your dog regularly, using deodorizing sprays or powders, and washing bedding and fabric items can help. 

Galen has been connecting quality Golden Retriever breeders with loving families since 2012 and is the founder of My Golden Retriever Puppies. He and his wife have four children and love spending time together, traveling (lived oversees for 4 years), enjoying the outdoors and connecting Golden families.