Have you ever noticed how your dog emits a rather unpleasant body odor whenever they are in high stress situations, such as an altercation with another dog?
This smell is like rotting fish and, for most people, is enough to turn your stomach! But why does this happen every time your poor pooch is feeling fearful? And what can you do about it?
Scared or anxious dogs produce a fishy smell because they leak fluid from their anal glands by involuntary contracting their sphincter muscles. This is a perfectly normal reaction in dogs and fortunately this foul odor doesn’t last long.
You should pay attention to the anal glands on your dog, not only to the smell, but if you notice other signs like scooting across the floor or excessive licking in the anal area, as it could mean an issue with the anal glands. If it lingers, it could be a sign that your dog needs veterinary care.
Read on to find out why dogs can smell bad when they are anxious or afraid, and what action you can take to eliminate these disagreeable odors.
Why does my dog smell when it is scared?
Dogs exposed to fear and stress smell like rotten fish, which is not easy for us humans to endure!
But to understand why they produce such a strong odor when they are scared, we need to look in greater detail at the dog’s anal glands, also known as anal sacs, and how they work.
All dogs have two pea-sized anal sacs on either side of their anus, containing specialized sweat glands that produce secretions when they make a bowel movement.
This secretion has a stifling fishy smell that communicates necessary information to curious dogs and other animals when encountering poop.
It also explains why your furry best friend loves to sniff dog poop when out on their walk with you!
Dogs identify each other by their scent, and when dogs smell each other’s butts, it is their anal glands which provide them with essential information, but a dog also produces secretion when they are scared.
Why do dogs express their anal glands when scared?
Dogs accidentally express their anal glands when experiencing fear by contracting the sphincter muscles, giving off an unpleasant odor.
If you are unsure if your dog is emitting foul smells from being afraid of something, then you should look at their body language for extra clues to their emotional state.
Signs to look out for include a hidden tail, lip licking, excessive drooling, stiff fur across their back, shivering, and lowered or crouched body postures with a higher heart rate.
But it is not just dogs that pong when they are afraid. We humans also produce a scent when we feel fear.
Can I prevent my dogs from contracting its sphincter muscles?
Although you cannot prevent your dog from twitching its sphincter muscles involuntarily when they are afraid, you can take measures to reduce the foul smells they produce.
The best way to reduce the stench your dog emits when feeling fearful is by maintaining healthy anal sacs.
You can do this by ensuring your pet has regular exercise, keeps a healthy weight, has constant access to fresh water, and eats a high-fiber diet.
If your dog has a build-up of the fishy smelling liquid, it may be due to impacted glands that need expressing, which your vet can do, or because they have an abscess or an infection in that area.
Can dogs smell fear?
Now, we are all aware that dogs have an incredible sense of smell, but can dogs smell fear in humans?
Some interesting facts discovered by experts who have studied dogs (canis lupus familiaris) report that dogs don’t necessarily smell human emotions like happiness, sadness or fear, but the moisture secreted from the sweat glands of the person in question.
When a person sweats, they give off chemical signals that give dogs emotional information.
Dogs detect these chemical changes and adopt human emotions as their own, known as an interspecies connection.
Studies have found that when you expose dogs to a fear odor from a person who is afraid, they display higher heart rates and stress behaviors and seek more reassurance from their owners.
This bodily response of the autonomic nervous system is essential for a dog’s survival and adaptation.
So, if we are scared, you can guarantee your poor pooch will be scared too, and express an unpleasant body odor.
What can your dog smell like?
Fearful dogs can smell like rotting fish during times of intense strain and tension, which comes from the oil from their anal sacs.
If your poor pooch reveals this pungent odor while at the vet or the groomer, then you know why!
Usually, when a dog is afraid of something or anxious, it smells bad for just a few minutes.
However, if this foul odor fails to disappear, you can be sure something else is going on.
Do all dogs emit disagreeable odors?
All dogs can smell bad, but some breeds smell worse than others. Female dogs that smell fishy may have a problem in the vagina area and need veterinary treatment.
A fearful dog may express their anal glands accidentally and produce a fishy stench that will rapidly dissipate.
However, if it lingers and you notice other behaviors like scooting, they will need to see the vet.
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