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6 Real Reasons Why Your Dog Smells Like Ammonia + 5 Tips

Why Does My Dog Smell Like Ammonia

You sense the smell of ammonia. At first, you think your dog had an accident in the house. 

But then you realize…

The smell is coming from the dog itself. Oh-oh! 

The ammonia odor is so strong. And it doesn’t go away. But worst of all? It makes you sick.

So, why is this happening? 

No need to beat your head against the wall anymore.

Here you’ll discover:

  • The 6 main reasons why your dog smells like ammonia. 
  • What examinations you can expect from the vet when you take your dog in. 
  • The meaning of “internist” and why you should seek their help with your dog’s issue.
  • And so much more…

Why does my (female) dog smell like ammonia?

Your (female) dog smells like ammonia for one of the following reasons: they’re suffering from kidney disease, have a new diet, are not hydrated enough, or have a UTI. A kidney disease stops the kidneys from filtering toxins from the blood. One toxin is blood urea nitrogen. It smells like ammonia.

Specific situations:

6 reasons why your dog smells like ammonia

Here you’ll find out the 5 main reasons why your dog smells like ammonia. 

#1: Bladder stones

The first thing you should know about bladder stones is that there are different types. Based on the type, your vet will suggest an appropriate treatment.

According to PetMD, some breeds are more at risk of developing bladder stones than others. 

There’s a condition called a liver shunt. Due to it the ammonia levels in the blood and urine increase. Liver shunts make certain breeds more likely to develop urate stones. 

This issue is seen most often in:

  • Pugs.
  • Maltese.
  • Yorkshire Terriers.
  • Miniature Schnauzers.

Another cause for urate stones could be a defect passed by the genes of the parents. It’s mostly observed in English Bulldogs and Dalmatians.

Age is also related to whether a dog will get bladder stones. Urates are found in dogs that are aged between 4-5 years.

Bladder stones can be very irritating to your dog. That’s why it’s important to notice any alarming signs your dog might be showing.

Symptoms of bladder stones include:

  • Dark urine.
  • Bloody urine.
  • Cloudy urine.
  • Stomach pain.

#2: UTI

UTIs are common in dogs. 

But you have to take measures immediately. Otherwise, recurring infections might damage not only your pooch’s urinary tract but also the dog’s immune system.

You can treat a UTI by giving your dog antibiotics prescribed by your vet. 

After a course of antibiotics, you should notice the symptoms disappearing. If they don’t, it’s worth considering switching the medication. This will prevent the bacteria getting used to the antibiotics. 

The telltale signs of UTI are: 

  • Urine has a fishy smell.
  • Your dog is licking the genital area.
  • Urine appears cloudy and/or bloody.
  • Urinating hurts and your dog whimpers while doing so.

Check out also: 15 Reasons Why Your Dog Suddenly Smells Like Fish + 17 Tips

#3: Kidney disease

Dog Smells Like Ammonia Due To Kidney Disease

Kidney disease, a.k.a. chronic renal failure is a condition that prevents the kidneys from filtering waste in the blood. 

This issue occurs primarily in older dogs. What happens is that the kidney tissues are wearing out. 

Depending on the size of the dog, kidney disease happens at a different age in different breeds. Small dogs are likely to get it between 10-14 years. While big dogs can experience it after they reach 7 years of age.

You can recognize whether your dog has kidney disease by the way their breath smells. If you notice a strong odor of ammonia, you should seek a vet’s help immediately. 

The signs of kidney disease you need to look out for are:

  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Lethargy.
  • Pale gums.
  • Depression.
  • Weight loss.
  • Mouth ulcers.
  • Urine with blood.
  • Increased urination.
  • Foul-smelling breath.
  • Consuming more water.
  • Drinking water too often.
  • Loss of or decrease in appetite.

Warning: VCA Hospitals warns that signs of kidney disease won’t appear until ⅔ of the kidneys have lost their function. This means the process of destruction has been going on for months or even years.

To elaborate, research has found that the clinical signs appear after 75% of the nephron function has been damaged. Nephrons are the filtering units of the kidney. 

Causes of kidney failure include (but are not limited to) ingesting:

  • Grapes.
  • Raisins.
  • Antifreeze.
  • Any type of lillies.

#4: Dehydration

If a dog doesn’t drink enough water, the consistency of the urine will be stronger. And the smell of ammonia too. The color of the urine will be darker. 

Dehydration could be caused by:

  • Diabetes.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Taking certain medications.

Here are the signs of dehydration you should look out for: 

  • Lethargy.
  • No appetite.
  • The skin loses its elasticity.

You can even check for yourself whether your dog is hydrated or not. It’d take you just a few seconds. 

All you have to do is to pull the skin behind the neck and lift it up. Then let go and check if it goes back to its previous place immediately. 

If it does, then your dog is hydrated. But if not, then it’s time to take some hydration measures. 

#5: Food

Your dog’s ammonia smell could be caused by their current diet. This would be the case if the food is rich in protein. 

But if your dog is still a puppy, it’s advisable you keep them on a high-protein diet. This will support their growth. 

Note: Don’t forget to always leave fresh water available whenever you give food to your dog.

#6: Your cat is peeing on your dog

Now, this is something you don’t see every day. But it’s possible nevertheless. 

One dog parent has shared with me how surprised they were when they saw this in action.

Their cat was standing on their old dog’s crate. And was peeing on the dog’s back through the bars. 

This explained why the dog started smelling like ammonia all of a sudden. 

How do you get rid of ammonia smell from a dog? 5 tips

Getting rid of the ammonia smell your dog has can be tricky. Especially if it’s caused by a health issue and not an accident.

In that case, it won’t be as easy as giving your pooch a bath. Because if the foul odor is a result of an organ disease, you should treat the issue internally.

With that in mind, let’s look at the options you have:

#1: Head to the vet

While this article covers different scenarios and aims to explain the reasons behind them, nothing can substitute a check-up by your vet.

Tip: Click here to chat with a certified dog vet NOW.

Here’s what you can expect once you go to the vet’s office:

Urine analysis

You want to know what the exact cause of the ammonia smell is. Then it’s best that your vet takes a urine sample and analyses it.

This can point you in the right direction of treating the problem. The culprits may be bladder stones or crystals. 

Your vet will measure the pH to see if there’s any infection. If the pH is incorrect, bladder stones could form. Then a diet plan will be prescribed. That way the pH of the urine can be controlled.

Blood chemistry analysis

Through a blood chemistry analysis your vet will check the level of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and blood creatinine (CREA). The levels of these waste products will show whether the kidney function has decreased.

Your vet may also run tests to measure the levels of:

  • Sodium.
  • Calcium.
  • Albumin.
  • Globulin.
  • Potassium.
  • Phosphorus.

#2: Take your dog to an internal medicine specialist

Take Your Dog To An Internist

An internal medicine specialist, a.k.a. internist, is just what you need if your dog turns out to have kidney disease.

“So, what is an internist?”, you ask.

Internists specialize in your dog’s organs. They focus on treating the underlying cause of the disease.

These specialists can help with the:

  • Liver.
  • Kidney.
  • Lung/airway.
  • Gastrointestinal tract. 

An internist for dogs is what an otolaryngologist(ear, nose, throat doctor) is to you. 

If you have a problem with your ear, you might go to your general practitioner for advice. But then, you’ll be redirected to a professional in the field. 

That’s how you can look at a vet and an internist.  

#3: Put your dog on a special diet

Did you know that nutrition is essential while treating a dog with kidney disease? 

If your dog is experiencing chronic kidney failure, there are 3 major diet components you should consider.

The diet should be: 

  • Not acidified.
  • Low in protein.
  • Low in phosphorus.

After you switch to this diet, your dog should start feeling better. Plus more energetic.

Then, if the culprit of your dog’s ammonia smell is bladder stones, the diet will depend on the type.

One more thing to consider is whether there has been a diet switch recently. Some pet parents who’ve switched their dog’s food, realize their dogs start to smell like ammonia soon after.

Whatever the reason may be, ask your vet for details on the brand and type of food that suits your dog best.

#4: Make your dog drink more water 

You have to remember that hydration is key to preventing bladder stones.

The intake of water minimizes the chances of bladder stones developing. 

That’s why you should keep your dog’s bowl close to them. And full at all times.

Some dogs might be reluctant to drink directly from their bowl though. 

Luckily, there are ways to get around that. 

One option would be to mix some water with their food. This way the dog will ingest some fluids too.

Last but not least, you should provide your dog the opportunity to pee as much as they need to throughout the day. 

#5: Start home fluid therapy

This is simpler than it sounds. And most dogs are okay with it.

Your role would be to give fluids under the skin. You should do it twice a day or once a week. 

For best results, it’s advisable to give small levels of fluids each day.

The benefits of home fluid therapy are:

  • Hydration.
  • Flushing toxins from the kidneys.
  • Adding more levels of electrolytes.

Consult your vet for more information and the course of action.

#BONUS: Clean the place where your dog peed

After covering the health-related tips, let’s get to the cleaning one. 

A good method to ensure you get rid of the ammonia smell is to use vinegar and water. 

The crate

You can do this when you clean your dogchild’s crate. 

Metal crates usually have a hard plastic liner at the bottom. This could easily be replaced. 

If the crate is made out of plastic, there’s a good chance some old ammonia smell is stuck there to stay. To fix this you can get a new crate.

Don’t forget to also check and wash the bedding, in case the smell is coming from there.

Use an enzymatic spray

Whether you have a pup, or an old dog, the first step would be to remain calm. Otherwise, you might stress out your dog.

Then, grab the enzymatic spray and get down to business.