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Dog Breath Smells Like Ammonia / Urine

by Karen

Mackenzie is our 75 lb, 13 ½ year old black lab mix, whom we thought was healthy for the most part, but was diagnosed in April 2013 with Cushings Disease. She has always been an extremely anxious dog, but recently, when our other dogs (maltese) were diagnosed with yeast infections, we realized that that Mackenzie has probably had yeast overgrowth (smelling like corn chips, licking paws, shaking head, etc.) for years, and because of our lack of knowledge, has suffered while we thought she was just anxious and had “dry skin”…...

When Mackenzie was first diagnosed with Cushings, the vet offered medications that I did not feel comfortable with –or they were extremely expensive. I turned to using essential oils, and have had incredible success in eliminating all of the previous symptoms (GERD/reflux, hind leg weakness, excessively drinking water) up to this point. During the last 3 months, however, her appetite has increased, and the reflux has returned. We started giving her a “snack” of her dry food before bed, which seemed to help the morning reflux, until now……

The evening of January 10, before bed, Mackenzie barked for her “additional” treat, but kept barking for more food. I ended up giving her 2 more helpings, and she continued to bark for more, but I refused to give it to her, thinking that it may cause more harm.

The next morning, she did not get out of bed. Finally, that afternoon, I remembered we had Famotodine for her for GERD, so around 3 p.m., we gave her a pill with cheese, and within an hour, she came down to go outside . She went to the bathroom, drank some water, but would not eat. She did eat some natural chicken jerky treats, but that was it for the day. I also noticed that her breath had an odor similar to urine – or ammonia – so I did research and found that this may be a sign of kidney problems. This strong odor lasted a day – and then seemed to get a little better.

Years ago, she had an episode where she vomited bile, and our vet told us that this was linked to eating a high-protein dog food which could cause kidney problems. We switched to another “lower protein” commercial food (unfortunately) – but she got better. Recently, we have tried to go grain-free, but everything gave such horrible gas, and she was always barking/crying as if she didn’t feel good, so we stopped trying. Back then, we would have never thought that dogfood could cause such problems….

Because of the yeast epidemic we had with the maltese, I started giving all the dogs some soil-based probiotics (human grade), about a week before this happened, and all were doing much better, including Mackenzie - until now. I gave her one probiotic 2x/day for 3 days, since we now realize she has had a yeast problem for quite some time. We started mixing the grain-free food with her regular food, which she was beginning to tolerate without the gas.

Up until this episode, she ate processed canned and dry food (which we want to ween her from) and a homemade “gravy” for the dry food which consists of human grade ground turkey, chicken broth, chopped spinach, coconut flour and water.

Looking back this past year, especially after this incident, we suspect some of Mackenzie’s behaviors were probably indicating that she wasn’t feeling good. She often appears to “bark for no reason” for long periods of time, and will often go to the back door and bark as if she wants to go out, but when the door is open, she sniffs, and refuses to go out. Then, within 2-3 minutes, she will bark to go out – and does. She’s also started whining more, which we thought was a “behavior” used so she could come into the den to eat the other dogs’ food. We realize now (with much sadness) that she was probably trying to tell us she was feeling bad - and this was her way of telling us…..

For the past few days, she has been drinking approximately 3-4 ounces, 2-3x a day. She is eating some canned food from our vet for digestive issues, and also another “natural” canned food we found (with limited “fillers”) – so it is better than the processed food we were giving her, but nonetheless, I know it’s not the best for her either. She either gags –or turns her head - at the smell of any other food, so we have started giving her the Famotodine with cheese again.

The last two days, Mackenzie has avoided the dry food. If she accidentally ate a dry kernel, it was almost as if she were “smacking” her food (similar to a child “smacking” bubble gum) – and then, after she swallowed, she made this “clicking” sound with her teeth. I looked into her mouth (as best I could), and noticed it looked red and inflamed in several places. I used a drop of essential oils diluted with almond oil on a Q-tip and swabbed the inside of her mouth, and continued using the other oils to treat her Cushings and now the possible kidney failure.

Right now, she is lethargic – and has episodes of panting (especially after going upstairs) – and is very weak. For instance, she does not bark when she wants to come in from outside, and when the door opens, she is extremely delayed when trying to start up the step to come in. She is also more anxious – appearing very nervous to pass through certain walkways and doors, as if something were going to jump out at her.

Yesterday, we took her to our vet, and he could not give us any answer. He gave a round of antibiotics – even though she did not have a fever – but we did not feel comfortable giving them, not knowing what was wrong with her.

Tonight, I checked the stools in the yard and found two separate areas that had pitch-black stools, which were significantly different from other stools nearby. They appear to have been there less than 24 hours. It was dark, so I am not sure if there were other ones, too. Fortunately, she has not lost much weight - maybe 3-4 pounds since her last vet appointment – which has been in the last 6-8 months.

I have so many questions – but don’t know what exactly to ask, other than “what can I do to save her?”
1. What foods can I make (on a limited budget) that will not interfere with her Cushing’s as well as this most recent (kidney?) problem – and how can I get her to tolerate these new foods (natural, grain-free) without upsetting her digestive system even more?
2. What are other “signs” of discomfort or pain – other than whining, pacing, panting, or seeing her belch (reflux)? I believe that she may have a certain “bark” for pain as well – is that true?

I realize her condition will never be “cured” – but if we can improve her quality of life without making her more miserable in the process, that is what we want.

I pray that you can give us what we need to help her…… Like so many others, she is our “baby”….. We thank you in advance, and eagerly look forward to your response…..


Comments for Dog Breath Smells Like Ammonia / Urine

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Jan 16, 2015
My Online Vet Response for: Dog Breath Smells Like Ammonia/Urine
by: Dr Carol Jean Tillman

January 16, 2015

Hi Karen,

For MacKenzie, your female 75 lb, 13 ½ year old black lab mix, you wrote,

"When Mackenzie was first diagnosed with Cushings, April 2013, the vet offered medications that I did not feel comfortable with –or they were extremely expensive. I turned to using essential oils..."

I am suspicious that you may have controlled some of her GI issues, but not the excessive cortisone production from the adrenal glands. Excess cortisone can cause gastric ulceration, and bleeding in the intestine, which will be seen as black stool/diarrhea and cause a painful abdomen.

Kidney disease can cause the uremic (ammonia) smell to the breath, and nausea with vomiting.

You did not mention if you had a blood test done to actually diagnose kidney disease. She may have diabetes, a common problem that occurs alongside Cushings disease, and if left untreated will cause keto-acidosis. A condition where fat is metabolized because there is no insulin, and the breath will have an ammonia type odor. Pancreatitis and liver disease will also cause painful abdomen, nausea and vomiting.

She may also be anemic if she has intestinal bleeding, which would make her weak.

A complete blood panel will check for all of the above.

For now:
1. Do not feed her any dry dog food.
2. Feed her BLAND food easy to digest, like chicken or turkey baby food, mixed with a small amount of cooked potato or yam, and cooked egg white.
3. SMALL meals, 4-5 times daily. About 1/3 -1/2 cup of food per each meal. 1 TBSP egg white, 1-2 jars baby food and 1-2 TBSP of potato or yam, per meal.
4. Add acidophilus to each meal.
5. B-12 with B-complex vitamin injection every other day, or two times per week, until her appetite is better.
6. Supplements like Canine Adrenal Support by Standard Process is essential for dogs with Cushings Disease. If she has kidney disease, she will need Azodyl, (a nitrogen absorbing bacteria that is added to the food) to decrease her BUN. (Blood nitrogen level)
7. Get a blood panel done!
This will determine if she needs IV fluids to help flush her kidneys of toxins in her system and maintain her hydration until her GI tract is more stable.

You wrote,
"What are other "signs" of discomfort or pain – other than whining, pacing, panting, or seeing her belch (reflux)? I believe that she may have a certain "bark" for pain as well – is that true?"

Your list just about covers all of the symptoms of pain. If MacKenzie is doing all of the above,
then I would find out what is causing her pain and treat her, not wait for any special 'bark'.

To find a holistic veterinarian in your area click on the link below
Click here to find a holistic veterinarian in your area. Another resource for vets knowledgeable in homeopathy is

Please keep us posted by coming back to this page and clicking the 'click here to add your own comments' link below.

Take care,
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

P.S. If you've found this service or our web site helpful, please "Like" us by clicking the like button at the top of the left margin. Thank you!

DISCLAIMER: The above should never replace the advice of your local veterinarian, as they have the ability to evaluate your dog in person.

Jan 16, 2015
Bloodwork for Mackenzie
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much for your recommendations.

Mackenzie had a regular stool yesterday, but we took her to our other "more modern" vet anyway, and they thought the blood in her stool was from giving the extra probiotics for those few days (which I did not agree with), and that her problems may be from tartar on her teeth and inflamed gums. She recommended a teeth cleaning, and since they have to do the blood panel before the cleaning, (and we could not afford to do both), we opted to wait - since Mackenzie seems a little better. I regret not having it done, but with 6 rescue animals in our home - 4 of which are special needs - we have to make the best of what little funds we have available.

We have an appointment to get her teeth cleaned in a few weeks. If she does not improve - or gets worse, we will most definitely have it done. We want her better before she is put out to have her teeth cleaned.

As far as the cortisol production, the blend of essential oils I use is placed on the top of her head (to be near any possible tumor on the pituitary gland), over the adrenal glands, a drop on each hip, and on her hind feet. Within a couple of days of starting, ALL of the Cushings symptoms were gone - and have been for the last 1 1/2 years, so I felt safe that this was also helping to control the cortisol levels. She has had no significant weight gain or loss in over 5 years (at least) and since doing the oil treatments, she seems to have a more appropriate level of energy with less anxiety overall - except for the barking. That is, of course, prior to this current incident.

I would like to clarify something..... We don't "wait" for any special "bark" and we DO attend to the obvious signs of discomfort - which has led us to learning about the Cushings. My fear - and my question was - COULD IT BE POSSIBLE that her barking may also be an ADDITIONAL sign - and we might be overlooking it, rather than responding to it?

As far as diabetes, this could possibly be the case now....but when she was diagnosed with Cushings in 2013, it was not a concern. We will also have that checked when she has her bloodwork done.

As far as the Standard Process supplements are concerned, I use them now - but I thought you could only get them through a chiropractor. I have never tried to get anything for our pets - where can I get them?

We have used your link to find a holistic vet in our area - and there are none. That is why this website is so very valuable to pet owners like us that don't have access to this customized information. It may not be as good as seeing a holistic vet in person - but it's better than us trying to diagnose and treat using internet information.

A suggestion - possibly include a form that lists all the pertinent information you want and need regarding the pet's history? I'm sure it would help to have all the information up front..... I know I cannot remember to tell everything - so I know it would help me, too.....

Again, I truly appreciate and thank you for your recommendations, and I look forward to hearing from you.

God bless,

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