Why Does My Beagle Smell Fishy?


Have you noticed recently that your Beagle has started to smell fishy? Are they rubbing their booty across the floor? This might be a sign that your Beagle has issues with their anal glands, but don’t worry, this is a common thing with most dogs and can be easily treated.

Anal glands are small glands (also known as anal sacs) found under the skin either side of your Beagle’s anus. These sacs are full of glands that secrete a fluid with a fishy smell and if they excessively fill-up can lead to discomfort for your Beagle. When your Beagle poops the secretions are passed onto the faeces, which leaves a chemical ‘footprint’ about your dog, which is why other dogs find dog poop so interesting.

Problems with anal glands are quite a common condition in all dog breeds. It can be something that happens at any time during your Beagle’s life. This post will tell you everything you need to know about anal glands in beagles and what to do if you think it’s causing them an issue.

What are anal glands?

Have you noticed that when you Beagle meets another dog, they will often smell each other’s bottoms (yuck!). Well from your Beagles little bottom a scent is produced from their anal glands. And this will identify your Beagle to the other dog. This communication shared between dogs will tell the other dog your Beagles sex, health and approximate age.

You can’t see anal glands as they are located under their skin, but they are two small sacs found either side of their anus. They produce scent in the form of a fluid excreted from these glands and out of their bottom. When your Beagle goes to poop, the bowel movements will essentially squeeze the liquid naturally from their two sacs. 

When the anal glands cannot secrete naturally (i.e. are impacted) during the pooping process, they can become full of the liquid. This will create discomfort for your Beagle and potentially lead to an infection in the anal gland. If untreated the anal glands can turn into an abscess and rupture. This happened to my Beagle Baylee this year. However, we managed to get her to the vet before her abscess ruptured.

Our two Beagles following a scent

There can be several reasons why anal glands can become ‘impacted’ and cannot be expressed naturally through a bowel movement. Below are some possible reasons. 

  • Small, soft or loose stool; this can be down to the diet you feed your Beagle. Ideally, you want a stool to be slightly firm
  • Poor gastrointestinal health
  • Allergies
  • Beagle’s anatomy

What is the cause of anal gland issues in dogs?

I would strongly advise you to consult your veterinarian to diagnose if your Beagle has an anal gland problem and what has caused it. With Baylee, it was unclear what had caused her anal gland problems she is a healthy Beagle as far as we were concerned. However, I did consult our vet to be sure it was nothing serious.

How do I know if my Beagle has a problem with their anal glands?

There are some common things your Beagle might do that could indicate they have anal gland discomfort. Here are some of the things to look out for:

a) a strong fishy or metallic smell coming from their bottom

b) a brown discharge that comes out of their bottom, with a strong fishy smell

c) they drag their bottom along the floor

d) they lick their bottom excessively

e) appear to strain when having a poop

f) swelling near their anus (i.e. where the anal glands are situated)

When Baylee had her anal gland issues last year, the first signs we spotted something was wrong was she looked uncomfortable. She was licking her bum excessively too. She didn’t have that telltale fishy smell and wasn’t excreting any discharge. The licking of her bum gave it away for us. I booked her in to the vet the next day, and overnight it became a lot worse for her. You could see the gland to the left of her anus was swollen and bright pink where she had been licking it. 

If you have any concerns and are unsure if your Beagle has a problem, do consult your vet for advice.

How is it treated

If your Beagle’s anal glands cannot be emptied naturally through bowel movement, your vet can express them with their hands. This is a relatively small procedure that is done quickly, right from the vet’s table. Some Beagle parents will attempt to do this themselves from home. It’s not a straightforward procedure. If done incorrectly, it can cause unnecessary discomfort to your Beagle and scaring to the anal glands themselves, leading to further long term issues.

Leaving an anal gland untreated can lead to further complications as we saw with our Beagle Baylee. If they become infected, it can lead to a gland abscess, Baylee had a large swollen red lump to the left of her anus. Fortunately for us, the abscess hadn’t burst, which can happen if not treated. The vet lanced the abscess which drained the nasty infected fluid from it and sent Baylee home with painkiller and antibiotics. Recovery was slow for us; we cleaned her abscess with salty warm water every night before bed, to keep it clean, and she was on the medication for nearly a month. We also ensured her diet was high in fibre to make her poops a bit softer, so she didn’t strain.

When you pop to see your vet for routine check-ups and vaccinations, ask your vet to check their anal glands. With Baylee when she had her abscess, we had been given no clues that her anal glands were not emptying on their own. From now on, I’ll be asking my vet to do a quick check periodically.

What preventative measure can I take to keep them healthy?

I would always consult your vet for advice on how you can prevent anal gland problems, but here are some things to consider:

a) Diet; adding fibre to your Beagle’s diet can help. Sources of fibre include but not limited to canned pumpkin, high fibre cereals such as bran flakes, high fibre vegetables such as carrots, apples and lettuce, and there are various supplements on the market. Be cautious when introducing additional fibre, adding too much can lead to problems for your Beagle’s tummy. Start small and see what works best for your Beagle

b) Obese or overweight; again connected to diet check with your vet a healthy weight for your Beagle. See our post about What To Feed A Beagle: A Complete Guide.

c) Fish oils; also diet-related omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory can help with anal gland impaction

Relying only on manual expressing of the anal glands is not a recommended thing to do. This intervention can lead to inflammation and scarring of the anal glands, which will cause more problems with them emptying naturally.

Bonnie looking fed up after a trip to the vet to check her anal glands

Summary

It is common in Beagles and most dog breeds for them to have anal gland problems at some point in their lives. The fishy smell is a warning sign that the glands are not emptying properly, but there are other symptoms to look out for. When in doubt consult your vet, emptying anal glands is a straightforward procedure, but don’t leave it too long if you suspect a problem as they can become infected. Which can lead to further complications for your Beagle.

Simon Wilson

Hi, I'm Simon Wilson, one-half of husband and wife team that created My Beagle Buddy. For over 12 years, we have had the pleasure of experiencing life with our Beagles, sharing our joy through the ups and being steadfastly by our side through the tough times. We have learnt a lot in those years, about ourselves and our Beagles. I love to write about my Beagle experiences so that others may find some use in my learnings. In my spare time, I actively maintain the Beagle Welfare website and help with volunteer duties.

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