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Fishy Smell Coming from Beagle's Vagina


Female dogs can develop an odd smell in the vaginal area for a number of reasons. We received an email from a Beagle owner who was concerned about a fishy smell that was coming from her female dog's back area. Our answer discusses the possible reasons for this.


Hi, I need help, my beagle Zoey sometimes smells like fish. What can I do to stop this happening? It just comes and goes within an hour or so. It is coming from her back area - possibly the vagina.

She has been spayed, but this was happening before that was done. Please help, what can I do to eliminate this foul odor?


There are a couple of common causes for a sudden onset of bad vaginal odor. 
1) Our first thought is that this may be an anal gland issue. The scent oil that is within the glands can be very smelly and it can come and go as you described. The odor is usually VERY overpowering. 

Some say it smells like rotten fish... others will say it smells like a skunk, or worse. But one thing is for sure, it is a smell that can't be ignored. 
female Beagle
The glands (one on each side of the anus) hold a liquid that is normally released in very small amounts (like when dog's smell each other). Some is also released, again in very small minute amounts, when a dog has a bowel movement.

In some instances, the scent oil may not be slowly released as normal, causing it to 'over-fill'. One cause is soft stools, but it can happen randomly in any event.

When there is an accumulation of oil, the glands become engorged. Normally the size of small peanuts, these will swell to two or three times larger than normal.

The swollen glands may break open when a dog rubs her/his butt on the ground (referred to as scooting).
If so, you would notice a rather good sized spill of a dark, smelly liquid.  Some owners mistake this for heat discharge; however, it is typically a dark brown, slick, thin liquid. 

But in some cases,  if they are swollen, and just tiny splits have developed, this can cause that oil to slowly drip out.  

Because it is such a strong odor, even small amounts of this would be enough for you to take notice. It is similar to a skunk times 100. 

With this, it is possible for the odor to come and go. The split may be tiny tiny, leak some oil, and then the body will make repairs, and the skin will start to heal up. Any movement may re-break the gland, releasing another small amount. 

This can cause problems other than just the smell, because when the skin breaks open, bacteria can get in there and cause a nasty infection.

For this, you would want the veterinarian to examine the glands. If they are engorged, he can express them. If there are tears in the skin, a topical antibiotic may be prescribed. 

In the future, you will want to take note of their normal size, so that upon examination you will be able to recognize if they are swollen. Checking them once a week or so, you can prevent future issues. 

2) The other possibility that comes to mind is a re-occurring bacterial or yeast infection (Vaginitis - an infection of the vagina). This can occur secondary to bladder infections (cystitis), which are more common with spayed females. 
Vaginal infections with female Beagles can be due to bacteria, yeasts, or viruses. Aside from a bad odor, there can be itching and/or some discharge (ranging from light to heavy). 

With some Beagles, the smell can spread to any place that the dog sits or lies down on like the sofa, bed, carpeting, etc. Even if the discharge is not noticeable, the odor can linger on fabric for quite a while.  
This can be successfully treated with a course of prescribed antibiotics. 

In any case, a fishy type smell coming from the back end or vagina of a female Beagle is not normal. It does point to a medical (though not typically very serious) condition. 

We should mention - for the sake of other owners - that a bad, fishy smell from the dog's vagina could be pyometra. Though many people think that pyometra cannot happen to spayed dogs, there are cases of it developing in the uterine stump. 

Though, in your case since this was happening before having her spayed and continues to happen now, this should not be a concern for your Beagle. 
female Beagle in flower bed
Since this is not an acute case of a strange smell and the issue is chronic, we highly recommend bringing your Beagle for a full checkup and evaluation to diagnose if this is anal glands, an infection or other health problem. 
Other topics of interest:

Why Beagles smell bad - Whether it's a musty smell coming from the coat, an odd odor that you only notice once your Beagle comes back in or any other strange stinky issue, this article covers the possible reasons, ways to keep your puppy or dog smelling great and discusses what - exactly - is a 'hound dog smell'. 
Beagle is always hungry - If your Beagle is an endless eating machine and you worry that he or she may have some sort of appetite issue, this article will go over all the reasons why a Beagle may want to eat all of the time and some helpful feeding tips. 
Beagle vaccination schedule - The expected vaccinations that a Beagle puppy should have, along with the topic of booster shots. 
Beagle is snoring loudly -  How much snoring is normal for this breed and ways to help cut down on the rumbling and snorting that may be occurring when your Beagle sleeps. 
Beagle keeps trying to escape - In regard to both males and female Beagles, there are several reasons why the dog may keep trying to run away.  Ways to prevent this from happening and what to do if your Beagle is successful. 
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