Jump to content
BC Boards

Odd breath smell...


Recommended Posts

I know that often the first sign of disease can be a change in the way a dog's breath smells and Maggie's seems to have changed recently so I'm worried. Maggie now has breath that smells like cat pee, but I don't have a cat. Looking it up online seems to indicate this might be a sign of kidney issues, which concerns me, but I can't tell if the smell is from eating something odd, tooth issues, licking herself, or something more sinister.


She's acting fine other than the breath issue - normal activity levels, willing to play/train, eating fine, drinking normal amounts, same frequency of peeing and pooping, etc.


She did hold her pee for about 16 hours on Saturday as I was trying to retrain a quick pottying behavior and she ate several pounds of Pedigree about 2 weeks ago (with no ill effects other than a tight tummy and constipation at the time), but nothing else out of the ordinary recently.


Anyone have any experience w/ this symptom before? If need be I can take her to work with me and have the vet see her on Friday, but going to work with me stresses Maggie out and I'm not exactly rolling in money right now since I'm saving up money for boarding and car repairs at the moment, so i'd liek to avoid unneccesary vet visits.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My Bichon, Godiva, has confirmed chronic renal (kidney) failure, but she is now 14.5 yo (diagnosed at 12), so I have been dealing with and have had to be hypervigilant about kidney issues for over two years, now. How old is Maggie?


Yes, a sour-breath smell is one of the signs by which I can tell that Godiva's blood urea nitrogen is high. It is a *very* peculiar, pungent, and specific smell that is well-described by owners of CRF cats/dogs...I think it would be very odd for a young dog to present with full-blown kidney failure, though, particularly with malodorous breath being the first symptom--unless she has known exposure to antifreeze (but then she would be very ill) or leptospirosis (but again, would also be very ill). How long has it been since you noticed the change in breath odor? You say she's eating/drinking normally, so that's good, and if she's urinating/defecating with the same frequency as usual (no diarrhea), it would seem unlikely that the odor is due to something she ate (i.e., burpy indigestion, etc.)


I would say rule out the most obvious culprit of breath odor, first: mouth issues. How often do you brush her teeth? Because of Godiva's kidney problems (and her resultant depressed immune system and greater susceptibility to infections, particularly UTIs), I have to be extremely fastidious about her mouth hygiene, and so I brush her teeth once or twice a day and scale her teeth myself once a week. I have trained both my dogs to allow me to scale just under the gum line, and sometimes there will actually be tiny pieces of tartar there that aren't immediately obvious that can be the source of smelly breath. As a first step, I would try brushing Maggie's teeth with an enzymatic pet toothpaste (I use Petrodex in poultry flavor, and both dogs view it as a treat!) and see if the odor goes away. Have her teeth ever been professionally cleaned? Is there excessive tartar? Will she let you look inside to see if there is food stuck anywhere? While examining her mouth, also look for any areas of redness or swelling that look different from the surrounding areas (particularly if they look like sores or dark pigmented lesions and are bleeding or oozing), including on her tongue and on the roof and sides of her mouth, which could be a first sign of oral malignancy (as cancers often smell bad). Try sliding your finger in her mouth and feel around on top of her gums to see if she has any pain/wincing. If there is a lot of tartar, you will be able to feel the sharp edges of the deposits on the teeth. Food also often gets stuck at the roots of the upper canines on the inner surfaces and by the upper/lower back molars in my dogs, and I have to brush or pick it out. Are her gums red/inflamed/tender? Do her teeth bleed when she chews toys? Check her teeth for chips (if it is large enough, the root could be exposed, and a bacterial infection could have set in, producing odor).


If the mouth does not seem to be the problem, you're correct in that the typical clinical signs one looks for when suspecting decreased kidney function are polydipsia/polyuria first (i.e., excessive thirst and urination). Holding her urine for *sixteen hours* (yikes) shouldn't cause kidney failure, but it could certainly have given her a urinary tract infection (much more common in female dogs than males), and if the infection has progressed to the point of pyelonephritis (ascending upwards to involve one or both kidneys), you might see some azotemia (i.e, high blood urea nitrogen), and hence, the breath odor. You mentioned that she seems outwardly normal to you; does she seem at all uncomfortable when she tries to urinate? Any blood in the urine that you can see in the grass or dirt? Some dogs have a very high pain tolerance, so perhaps you might not notice anything at all out of the ordinary, behavior-wise. Can you take her rectal temperature to see if she has a fever? Does she have any chills/shaking? Make sure she is getting enough water to drink--if she was recently constipated, perhaps she is dehydrated. If finances are a problem, perhaps you could just get a urine sample (wipe Maggie's genital area from front to back with a clean, damp cloth, and then try to catch her urine in a cup as she pees) and try taking that to the vet, and see if they will do a urinalysis for you without having to see the dog?


Hope that helps...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mojo laid it all out very well.


We lost our BC mix Maggie to kidney disease at age 3. Bad breath can be associated with kidney disease...but not necessarily. Our Maggie didn't concentrate her urine...so it was always nearly clear with very little odor. She also drank a lot of water... a lot, and it was consistent over time...along with frequent urination. (She would have accidents quite a bit) Also, she had a few UTIs...also associated with CRF dogs.


The best thing to do if you're worried is get a urine test (to see if she's concentrating urine/rule out UTI...the cheapest route) or a blood test. The vet may want to draw urine directly from the bladder via needle for a sterile sample. A blood test would look at Creatinine and BUN (the primary markers of kidney function), and everything else as well. (My vet ordered creatinine and bun only, and the test was way less expensive)


I'm not trying to scare you...the odds are it's something else or nothing at all. Brush those teeth...might just be some funk. I think Petrodex makes a treated rawhide dental chew that works well also. If you're worried, follow your gut and have it checked out. If it's nothing, you'll know it and won't worry anymore. If it's something...the earlier you catch it the better.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll triple advise checking the mouth but also check the roof of her mouth. I've seen dogs that have gotten sticks or rawhides or bits of bone stuck in the roof of the mouth, wedged between the upper teeth. The owners had checked the mouth but only the teeth, not the whole mouth. Also check under her tongue for something caught there. I also remember one dog who liked to groom himself who had a lot of hair packed around the gum line of his bottom incisors and embedded in his tongue. All smelly.


But if you're worried then that's reason enough to take her in to see the doctor. Better safe than sorry.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, the smell seems to have dissappeared in the last 4 hours or so since I got home. I've only noticed it since Monday really.


I haven't brushed her teeth in a looong time; she had her teeth professionally cleaned about 4 years ago when she was 4.5yo (she's 8 yo now). She does have a small chip on one tooth, but that's been there for at least 3 years with no problem. I will check her mouth tomorrow when i have better lighting.


Urine appears to be concentrated as usual - dark yellow after I got home (about 10 hours since being outside) and then pretty clear later this evening (2 hours since being outside). There have been no accidents in the house and she doesn't appear to be in pain when urinating, so that all checks out.


She and Sasha were wrestling hard this evening, so she certainly doesn't seem to be under the weather. I think I'll wait and keep checking her breath - if it comes back, off to the vet we will go. I'll talk to the vet at work if I can catch her and see what she says. I knew I could count on you guys to give me more things to look for and some firsthand pointers. :rolleyes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...