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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 27363
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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Our german shepherd is 11 years old now. About 2 years ago

Customer Question

Our german shepherd is 11 years old now. About 2 years ago her breath started smelling like urine. We researched on line and almost everything we found talked about liver problems. We are on such a limited income that we have not been able to afford to take her to the vet to find out what was wrong. We started her on some probiotics and it has helped a lot.
But now she is eating grass, throwing up, hacking and coughing a cough that seems to sound like it is chest congestion but it is dry.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. Breath that smells like urine is called uremic breath and refers to failing kidneys rather than the liver. Failing kidneys will cause increased thirst and volume of urine, inappetence, and weight loss. Her eating grass may represent gastrointestinal irritation from the uremic toxins - those toxins in the blood that failing kidneys can't remove efficiently. Please let me know if you're seeing these symptoms. Her cough, however, isn't expected to be due to her kidneys. At 11 years of age, such coughing can represent both cardiovascular (congestive heart failure, heartworm disease, e.g.) and respiratory (pneumonia, chronic sterile bronchitis, cancer, e.g.) disorders.

I understand your financial constraints. Unfortunately, at Eve's age there's likely to be more than one thing going wrong and a thorough physical exam including diagnostics in the form of blood and urine tests as well as X-rays of her chest would be necessary to clarify what's going on with her.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your response. In going over it, we still are not clear on a couple things. She is drinking a lot of water at once but not all the time. She is also not loosing weight, in fact we have to limit her food to keep her from porking out. We have her on a no grain dry food and I cook ground meat for her along with a little taste of raw meat. We feed her two times a day to avoid her anxiety over not eating. She gets a cookie for a snack at 2pm each day. We raise our own beef, lamb, and chicken so she gets what we get. She is not fond of eggs so we had to stop giving her that except for the occasional raw egg. She is unable to digest the grissle type stuff unless we put it thru meat grinder. We do not let her have bones of any kind. It only takes one little thing away from her normal diet to set her off into being up all night with gas and runs. Of course, I think it is because she puts something in her mouth that she should not have, like sheep poop or cat poop or even a bite of cow poop. Unfortunately when she is out with my husband helping with the animals, he does not have his eyes on her the whole time.We are into alternative therapies for ourselves and the dog when we can figure out what will help. Is there anything we can try to help her body get rid of the toxins that you speak of?The coughing could be related to the digestion and grass eating but not sure.
Her emotions play a big part in how the rest of her body does, we have noticed. We finally got her a hug vest/thunder shirt and it has helped a lot when we have to leave and during the thunder storms we have been having this summer.
We were giving her Content-Um to calm her but it is not available anymore. Have tried some others but they did not work. Trying a new one that is a chew and it seems to help.She also has two bad, maybe ruptured, disks in her back from an injury when she was a couple years old. She pants a lot and I am suspecting it is from pain cuz the house is cool enough, about 60-70 degrees, that it should not be an issue.So, is there anything we can do for her to ease her issues before we can afford to take her to the vet?
She is the last of our 3rd. set of shepherds as we always buy in pairs, they are our babies.
Thanks,
Katie
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

It sure doesn't sound like kidney failure, Katie! Her breath may smell like urine but I don't see dogs with failing kidneys eating you out of house and home. In fact, her eating the way she does is a positive prognostic sign and I don't see the need to be thinking of encouraging toxin removal. Yes, panting can indicate pain but also respiratory and cardiovascular compromise. Her coughing supports either and so until that can be clarified I'd only be guessing what you might do in addition to what you're already doing at this time. I can only encourage your saving up to have her attended to by her vet. I would be pleased to review any test results and X-ray findings with you.