How sick is this puppy?
August 2, 2011 6:24 PM   Subscribe

The most wonderful dog in the world, Wrigley, is acting out of sorts today, and has bad breath for the first time ever. How urgent is this?

Wrigley is a 1 1/2 year old hound mix (mostly Beagle) that we rescued last October. She's healthy, happy, and active most days, but today she's been sluggish and just a little off her normal bouncy puppy personality. She will wag her tail and play a little, but wasn't as excited to see us come home as usual. She'll sort of beg for a treat, but not in her cute hyper jumpy way like normal.

And her breath STINKS. This is a new development. More than once, we've gotten compliments on her pretty white teeth and lack of dog breath (most recently from the person whose lap she rode on for 45 minutes in the car). She is a nice smelling dog, on the whole. She's got stinky breath today, out of nowhere, and continues to lick her chops. She'll also open & close her mouth and keeps licking my hands and feet (more than usual). She's a little extra drooly, but still eating and drinking like normal.

Is this emergency vet territory or call the vet tomorrow territory? I can't find much on google that's helpful. A few sites suggest that sudden bad breath is a GO DIRECTLY TO THE ANIMAL HOSPITAL, DO NOT PASS GO situation, but I don't know how reliable that advice is. Plus, the last time we had an emergency situation (pup was vomiting blood) we made the right call and took her in, but also spent $500 and nothing was actually wrong with her. The money's not an object if she actually needs treatment tonight, but, you know, we'd rather not spend it if they can't help her.

So how sick is too sick to wait until tomorrow? What things should we be on the lookout for? Anyone have any advice?
posted by terilou to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
Have you checked her teeth? She may have something lodged in there, a bit of bone or something, or a gum ulcer. Drooly-mouth stuff is generally a sign of a problem with the teeth or gums.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:27 PM on August 2, 2011

posted by tumid dahlia at 6:28 PM on August 2, 2011

Fear can make a dog's breath smell awful.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:42 PM on August 2, 2011

Search your house for anything she might have eaten that might create a blockage. Might not have been today - is there anything missing or out of place from the past 2-3 days? Is her belly tight and does she flinch when you palpate it? Will she lay in the traditional "down" position? Is she pacing instead of laying down or sitting? If you lay a hand on her back or side, is she trembling?

I've never looked it up, but somewhere on the internet there must be instructions on how to count a dog's pulse and respiration.

Worst case scenario is torsion (bloat) or foreign object blockage. If there's any belly tenderness or swelling, go. If you think you're missing a sock, hose, underpants, anything like that, go ahead and go.

It is hard as hell to get a look at a dog's teeth, but it's possible she's got a tooth abscess and that will certainly hurt a lot and you may have a long night without any medication.

One of my e-vet tests is if a dog will eat something really delicious - cheese, weenies, raw ground meat - with a general amount of enthusiasm and, ideally, begging for more.

I think the only time I've ever changed my mind about going to the e-vet once I seriously considered it was one night when one of the dogs must have eaten a bee or wasp. He was clearly very unhappy in his face area, pawing and holding his mouth open and being really clingy, but his interest was sharp as I fed him yogurt and Benadryl and in an hour he was fine again. (And two days later I found ground hornets under a large plant pot, so I think that mystery got solved.) If you still have a bad feeling after 90 minutes or so, at least give them a call.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:44 PM on August 2, 2011

She probably just has a tummyache- must have eaten something weird in the yard. If this persists for more than a few days, consider taking her in, but for now I'd just keep her hydrated and comfy.
posted by samthemander at 6:45 PM on August 2, 2011

Wrigley's other owner here, filling in some details. She seemed a little tired this morning, and we crate her during the day. She was happy to see me this afternoon but not her usual flop over for petting self. And oh boy her breath, I could smell it from six feet up. Her appetite has been normal, and she's been drinking just fine.

No tenderness or hardness in her abdomen, she has been reluctant to let us look in her mouth, but we have, and didn't spot any obvious problems. We gave her a dentastick and watched her chew it with both sides of her mouth, so she's not favoring one side. Also no pacing or other signs of agitation, just a lot of laying around curled up.
posted by borkencode at 8:49 PM on August 2, 2011

Go to the vet. Now. This is atypical and you understandably love this pup. If there is something wrong, you will be in the right place to deal with it. If all is fine, you can stop worrying.
posted by bearwife at 9:02 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Call the emergency vet clinic. Ask them what they think. That one move has saved me loads of emergency vet trips. I'd say it sounds safe to wait until morning, but I understan your anxiety.
posted by pineappleheart at 10:19 PM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sounds like a trip to the vet in that case if you're not seeing any obvious problems in her mouth and her breath is as bad as you say. Are you able to check her poop, to see if there's anything worrying in there?
posted by tumid dahlia at 10:49 PM on August 2, 2011

If this were my dog, I would at least call the emergency vet (assuming she is eating and pooping, not vomiting, and has pink gums). Sudden really bad breath can be a sign of several problems of varying severity, and combined with a dog who is ADR (that means "ain't doing right"), that to me would spell "vet".
posted by biscotti at 5:25 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

What kind of bad is the smell? Does it smell like pus? Rotten meat? Ammonia? Vomit? Blood? Sorry to be so gross, but the type of smell can say a lot about the cause.
posted by troublewithwolves at 9:01 AM on August 3, 2011

Thank you everyone for your answers.

It seems there was nothing really wrong with her after all. We watched her closely and made an appointment the next day. Her demeanor was already improving by the time she was examined. The bad breath took a couple days to fully resolve, but all is well.

The vet's best guess was that she may have eaten something off, and they gave her anti-nausea meds, just in case. She was back to 100% in a day or so.
posted by terilou at 2:59 PM on August 26, 2011

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