If you are a dog owner, you know all too well what “doggie breath” is—a foul-smelling odor, emanating from your dog’s mouth, that is usually caused by the last thing your pooch ransacked and ate.
You also know that doggie breath is not the only malodorous smell that can waft from your dog—waft from his breath, coat and even urine.
One such smell, although rare, is the aroma of maple syrup, a smell that is often reported to veterinarians across the country by the owners of affected dogs.
Whether you are smelling the coat, breath or urine of your dog, in some cases you may actually notice the sporadic scent of Mrs. Butterworth’s in the air, and yes, that smell can be coming from your beloved four-legged pal.
So what’s this “maple syrup” stuff all about when it comes to dogs?
And if you pick up on this sweet bouquet, does it always mean that your dog must have licked the family’s plates after a waffle or pancake breakfast?
These are the questions we will address in detail in the article below.
Here we will outline both the primary and secondary causes of a maple syrup odor in dogs and explain what you should do once you notice the smell.
First, however, we will disprove the myth that dogs can actually suffer from a recognized and diagnosable human condition known as “Maple Syrup Urine Disease.”
Confronting the Myth about “Maple Syrup Urine Disease” in Dogs
Before we get to the actual reasons why your dog might smell like maple syrup, let’s first consider the following scenario as we disprove a growingly popular myth.
You are at the dog park, enjoying a little peace, quiet and relaxation as your pooch socializes with old and new friends.
While there, you are joined by one of your neighbors for a quick little chat as your respective dogs run freely about.
During the course of your conversation, you happen to mention that your dog has suddenly taken on a new odor—the oddly sweet smell of maple syrup.
“Aha,” your neighbor chimes in, “your dog must be suffering from “Maple Syrup Urine Disease.”
As you begin to scratch your head, wondering mutely whether your neighbor has just solved this puzzling enigma, you remember this particular neighbor’s ‘addiction’ to the online website, WebMD (it’s her screen saver).
“She must have learned about this rare disease there,” you say to yourself, as the two of you leash-up your dogs and part ways.
If you have ever had this conversation (or one like it), let’s dispel the myth right now.
While there is a rare (less than 1 in a million people) condition in humans called Maple Syrup Urine Disease, the condition cannot affect dogs.
Predictably, this is also the case for thousands of other human-based diseases, which similarly do not affect canines.
The moral of this story is this: You would not, we’re guessing, depend on an unqualified person to diagnose your child.
Well, this is the same mindset you should have when you suspect something is medically wrong with your dog.
Instead of heeding advice from the local rumor chain, take your dog to the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
Why Does My Dog Smell Like Maple Syrup?
Now that we are done preaching about myths (and those who fall for them), we can now address our title question: “Why does my dog smell like maple syrup?”
There are actually a few possible reasons why this may happen, although the last one we will talk about in this section is much more plausible than all the rest combined.
Here are the potential reasons that might explain away the maple syrup odor on your dog’s breath, coat or urine.
Your Dog Ate Maple Syrup
If your furry compadre has a chance to eat maple syrup, believe me, he will do it.
And who wouldn’t?
Maple syrup is sweet and scrumptious.
However, for this to be the reason for the syrupy scent on your pup’s breath, he would need to have gained access to the stuff.
Most dogs will not be able to climb into cabinets or refrigerators to help themselves to the product, so that leaves two other options.
Your pooch either licked maple syrup off your breakfast plates, or he found some of the honied substance in the trash can.
If you can rule out both of these possibilities, then this is not the culprit behind your dog’s maple syrup breath.
Your Dog Is Naturally Sweet Smelling
It’s been said anecdotally that some dogs simply smell sweet all the time, regardless of what they eat and in the absence of any disease or other circumstances.
Although I have personally never met a dog that meets those sugary standards, I suppose anything could be true.
The California Cudweed
If you have a pet that spends a lot of time outdoors, and the smell of maple syrup is only noticed on your dog’s coat, there is a microscopic chance that he got into some California Cudweed.
This sweet-smelling Western plant definitely gives off a maple syrup-like scent, but unless your dog spends a lot of time around this specific plant—perhaps even rolls in it—this is probably not your cause.
Yeast infections are gross. Can we all agree on that?
But disgusting as they may be, at their core, yeast infections do give off a sickly-sweet scent that can sometimes be mistaken for maple syrup.
Yeast infections thrive in dark and/or moist areas.
In dogs, they are most common in and around the nose and mouth, where moisture can build up, and sometimes around the genitals.
This is why it may appear like the smell is coming from your dog’s breath, coat or even urine.
Although not the most common reason for a maple syrup smell in dogs, yeast infections are a distant number two in this respect, and definitely more likely than the previous three causes.
Canine diabetes is a serious and sometimes life-threatening disease, just as it is in members of our human family.
It is also the number one reason for the sweet scent of maple syrup in dogs.
At its core, “diabetes” means high blood sugar, a condition caused by an insufficient amount of insulin in the body to counteract it.
This high concentration of blood sugar is why a dog’s breath or urine (and sometimes his coat) may smell like maple syrup.
While canine diabetes can only be diagnosed by a licensed pet care provider, if you notice this “maple syrup” smell, coupled with one or more of the following symptoms, it may be time for you to take some quick action.
These symptoms include:
- Increased thirst/drinking
- Frequent urination
- Increased (and sometimes decreased) hunger
- Weight gain
Collectively, these symptoms, which are similar to those in humans with the disease, are tell-tale signs of canine diabetes.
So, when you notice sweet-smelling breath or urine in your dog, coupled with any of the following symptoms, you definitely need to make an appointment with your vet.
While indeed serious, diabetes is also a treatable condition, and the sooner you seek treatment for your dog, the less chance the disease will have to wreak havoc in his body.