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Ask a Vet: Dog breath changes may be worrisome
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When I meet a person and somehow learn they don’t like puppy breath, I have an innate level of distrust for them.

This is most likely a matter of perspective, as my job entails being exposed to a much wider variety of canine breath than the average person.

I get little puppies with the milky sour smell of puppy breath as they grunt in my hands during an exam. But I also get lots of other versions of dog breath.

Puppy breath typically lasts only 10 or 12 weeks and then it’s gone forever. And dog breath replaces it.

Once it’s there, it’s a good idea to become acquainted with your dog’s breath. Subtle changes can have large implications.

Dog breath is funky. I admit it. But when it becomes more of a bacterial smell, it usually means something. If you’re so lucky as to not be aware of that smell, think road-kill.

Advancing dental disease can make your dog’s mouth a swamp of the same bacteria found in a carcass.

The same goes for a wound or growth in the mouth that becomes infected. And of course, finding a particularly nice dead thing to roll in or chew on can mimic these odors. This doggy cologne is not as concerning.

Another smell is sourness. If your dog is nauseated, you can literally smell the acidic secretions of the stomach.

This is true if you have a dog unfortunate enough to have gastric reflux (looking at you, bulldogs). Buildup of toxins in the blood from kidney disease may give the same odor.

Typically you’ll see other signs, too, such as weight loss or generally poor appearance. All these deserve being checked out.

Finally, an acetone odor is a red alert to get to the vet’s office. It may not be anything, or it may be the accumulation of ketones in the body due to diabetes or other diseases. Ketones in any animal can be rapidly life threatening.

So get to know your dog’s breath. Some day it may help you save his life.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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