Why Does My Dog Smell Like Iron / Metal? (Breath, Pee, Skin, Vomit)


As dog owners we expect our furry friends to smell every now and again. However, when our dogs start smelling metallic, a bit like iron, we can get a bit confused and worried, as this is not one of the smells you would normally expect.

If you are smelling this from your dog, know you are not alone, it can happen for so many reasons and not just because your dog has been outside digging in weird places. But, keep in mind, it is possible that if your dog has a metallic smell then it could even be a sign of a health issue. 

You may leap to conclusions that your dog may be injured. That metallic/ iron-like smell is often associated with blood. So, first off, check your dogs for any injuries, and take a peek in their mouth to check for bleeding too. However, blood is probably not the answer. There are so many reasons, and this is what we will look at today. 

First things to consider

So, why might your dog smell of metal and iron? Well, the most likely cause of metallic or iron smells from your dog will be due to their anal glands. These glands can become full and get a metallic smell, which may also be described as fishy. However, there are many other reasons for this, this is not the only one. 

While impacted anal glands is common in male and female dogs, the smell is not always at the fault of the anal glands. We will share with you today everything that you could possibly want to know about why your dog may smell like iron, what there is to know about your dogs anal glands, and when you should speed off to the vet’s office. 

But, hold up! Before you get worried, take a deep breath and read on, we want to check everything first before we jump to thinking the worst. Let’s take  a look shall we? 

Why does my dog smell like metal?- Many possibilities

Do not jump to worrying the worst. First let us talk you through the reasons for any other metallic smells that you might get from your dog, whether it is from their mouth and teeth, or their vomit, their skin, or even just when they have come in from outdoors.

There are so many possibilities, it is best to consider them all before we come to a conclusion. 

Breath: Why your dog’s breath may smell metallic?

Both males and female dogs can have metallic smelling breath for many reasons. It could simply be as a result of them having chewed on something that has caused bleeding or dental issues, kidney issues, or even an ulcer.

The iron smell could also be a backlash from them having licked their rectum if their anal glands have leaked. 

Plenty of dog owners have spoken about their dog or pup having breath that smells metallic. It can be alarming if you think that there could be internal bleeding. So, let’s have a look at some reasons, so you can better understand the possibilities and problems. 

  • Consider what they have been chewing on! If your dog chews on rawhide, bones, or even a toy, then they could easily get some lacerations in their mouth. These could be bleeding. The most common places this may happen is on the roof of their mouth and their gum lines. 
  • Check for rotting teeth or gum infections! This can easily happen to an older dog where their teeth may rot, fall out or if they have a gum infection. Once more check their gum life, if you are unsure and suspicious of this, then take them to the vet. 
  • Teething in pups! When pups teeth their mouths may smell metallic. This is normal and you should not worry. However, keep an eye on it just in case. If you are considered, get to the vet. 
  • Kidney issues! A metallic smell may be a sign of kidney failure, this will often come with other symptoms so is easier to define. 
  • Stomach Ulcers! Just like it can happen to people, dogs can get ulcers in their stomach, and it can result in metallic breath. 
  • Anal glands! Again, anal glands may have issues, and if your dog licks this, the metallic smell is transferred to their mouth. 

If you are concerned about your dog, make sure you take them to the vet. If the smell is there and does not go away, it is definitely time to see that vet! 

Vomit: Why your dog’s vomit may smell metallic?

Let’s be fair here, no vomit smells like sunshine and roses. However, metallic smells in sick can be a sign of a health problem that will require quick veterinary advice. Sick dogs can even produce vomit that smells like feces. 

Similarly, it could simply be that your dog has been licking themselves where the anal glands have secreted and that is what you are smelling in their throw up. Do be mindful though, if your dog’s sick smells sweet like maple syrup then call your veterinarian.

Urine: Why your dog’s pee may smell metallic?

Urine, whether from a male or female dog, can smell like metal or iron if there are kidney problems. The metallic smell in the urine could be from blood that is getting passed through, which may be the result of internal injuries, possibly involving the kidneys. 

Many of us are familiar with the smell of our dog’s urine, especially if they have a tendency to go in the house. So, if you start noticing a metal smell coming from your dogs pee you may need to investigate further.

Iron is a smell that is oftentimes associated with blood. So, if they have something like kidney disease then they are likely to be urinating blood, which could be the cause of the metallic smell. 

If they do have kidney disease their breath may also smell like ammonia. And if you think it is their urine, be sure, make sure that it is their urine and not their backside, it could always be their anal glands… again. 

Skin: Why might your dog’s skin smell metallic?

There are a few reasons why your dog’s skin may smell metallic. The two primary reasons are their anal glands (yes these again), as they use these to mark their territory, they may have leaked and got into their skin and fur. They may even have rolled in the gland secretion of another dog. The other option is that they may have blood on them, which will smell like iron. 

First of all, check them over for an injury just in case, if you find nothing it is time to act. As it is most likely impacted anal glands, get a vets appointments. It is worth investing in medicated dog shampoos as well. These are powerful and won’t harm your dog but will get rid of unpleasant smells. 

Consider your dog’s anal glands

We have spoken about your dogs anal glands quite a bit already today. Let’s talk more about these some more, as these are the most likely reasons for your dog to smell like iron and metal.

These are a pair of small sacs that sit on either side of your dog’s anus. They are lined by cells and here’s the part you might gag at… they secrete an oily substance that smells a bit like an old fish that has been sitting out in the sweltering summer sun all day. (Gross).

Many people may compare the smell of a dog’s anal glands to a metallic odor too, similar to how blood smells. This is why we recommend that you always check the dog for an injury before you jump to any conclusions. 

If all is fine and well with your dog then this metal smell is not a problem. What it actually is his own personal stamp by which other dogs in your area will know your dog by. It is like a weird, smelly signature. 

What are anal glands and what do they do? 

The primary role of anal glands is to secrete their distinct signature scent. This is how a dog will mark their territory and how dogs identify each other. This is what your dog is sniffing for when they are out on their adventures with you. 

The fluid that is secreted by the dog’s anal glands is brown and sticky, it is released also when your dog defecates. So, net time you see your dog defecating and smell their own fecal matter then it is because he is checking out his signature from his anal sacs in his feces. 

You know how when you take your dog to the park and each dog is smelling each other’s  bums? Like that age-old cliché of ‘butt sniffing’ in dogs that is replicated in TV shows and movies? What they are actually doing is picking up on each other’s scents and identifying who else is in the park from them. They may even recognize each other’s scents from when one of them left a scent on a walk, “Oh, I know you from the bush down on West 42nd.” 

When should you worry? 

A majority of the time, your dog will naturally empty their animal sacs through defecation. However, sometimes it is possible that this does not happen.

If this is the case then the smell can become foul and metallic. In the case that you do notice any of the following things happening as well as the metallic smell then you will need to get your dog’s anal sacs expressed. 

  • If your dog is licking or biting their anal region. Sometimes it may smell fishy. 
  • If your dog is scooting on the carpet floor. 
  • If they seem to be in pain, discomfort, or if they are constipated. 

Impacted anal glands in dogs can also cause obesity, allergies to their food and surrounding environment, or even an abnormal anatomical structure of their gland(s). If their anal glands are impacted, this means that they can become infected and painful. 

It is best not to try and express them yourself, and really, who would want to (gross). Your vet can do this for you and the whole procedure does not take very long, less than a quarter of an hour. 

What is anal sac disease?

If your vet tells you that your furry best friend has anal sac disease then you may get worried. However, this is just a reference to impacted anal glands. Do not worry. It is very common among many dogs, especially in the smallest breeds.

When the ducts get inflamed, because of any possible reason, then the sacs will become impacted making them full and plugged. A good way to understand this is it is a bit like when our tear ducts clog, and we get a stye… except it is a bit more disgusting in dog anal glands. 

Full anal ducts: What happens? 

So, what will happen if the anal ducts fill? The oily fishy smelling secretion will thicken, and the sacs will swell. Every time that your dog will relieve their bowels then pressure against these swollen sacs will cause a lot of pain. 

When this secretion is not released it will continue to build up in the sacs. It will make them more prone to infection and when this happens an abscess can form inside the sacs. If it is not treated, or it does not burst then it can spread an infection throughout your dog’s body.

Take your dog to the vet, and they will assess the state of your dog and treat the swollen sacs with antibiotics if they believe this course of treatment is necessary. They will also express the glands in order to release the build-up of the fluids. You could also learn how to express your dogs anal glands yourself, if you wanted to. Although it is certainly not something that everyone has the stomach for. It is not the most pleasant thing. 

If you do wish to learn how to do this yourself, simply ask the vet to show you how it is properly done, so that should there be issues in the future you can do this yourself. 

While anal glands are likely the most often cause for your dog to smell like iron or metal, there are plenty of other reasons as we have discussed. You can notice the smell coming from all other parts of their body. 

To summarize

So, next time that you smell a metallic or iron-like odor coming from your dog, do a quick check over their body and their mouth for signs of any injuries or infections. If the smell does not disappear after a bath, or if it comes back fast and with a vengeance, then it is worth having your dog checked over by your vet. 

If it is any consolidation, consider how bad the smell must be for your dog if it is bad for you. Dog’s have a very heightened sense of smell, so if we are smelling it strongly, what on earth are they having to put up with?

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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