Foul Breath in Dogs: Lexy’s Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The most common cause of bad breath in dogs is dental disease. Even more serious conditions, however, can be behind your dog’s foul breath.

The more severely your dog’s mouth smells, the bigger and more urgent the problem. Did you know that bad breath can be caused by cancer?

Thank you, Amy Kennedy, for sharing Lexy’s story.

Foul Breath in Dogs: Lexy's Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Lexy’s story

Lexy is an 8 years old Golden Retriever, we have had her since she was 8 weeks old and treated her as part of our family. We actually consider her to be our “other” daughter.

About a year ago Lexy broke one of her back teeth and we took her to our vets to have it looked at.

Not many treatment options for that, basically it had to be removed. We agreed to that and Lexy went in and had her tooth extracted, coming out with no problems. Once her tooth was out the vet sent it away to have it biopsied.

Our vet, whom we had trusted for over 7 years with Lexy and our cats, stated that was nothing to worry about.


Lexy’s mouth was not healing well. 

Being a nurse, I can point out infections or trouble healing really well so I took her back. The vet took a quick look at it and said there was nothing wrong with it. Trusting her we went home and I kept an eye on it.

Foul Breath in Dogs: Lexy's Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Lexy’s breath begins to stink

A month later I could smell this awful odor coming from her mouth telling me there was still something wrong. 

Back we went to the vets. Once there the vet took another quick look at it and said, nothing to worry about and handed me a syringe and told me it had to be cleaned out once a day.

Another month went by and Lexy was still showing complications with her tooth. I told my husband I was taking her somewhere else. It was time for a second opinion.

I made an appointment with another vet who I had seen another time with one of my birds. Got Lexy in ASAP.

Getting a second opinion

X-rays revealed that the infection had gone into her eye socket!!!

The new vet we were seeing told us the best thing to do was ship her to a specialist. They have more experience with issues like this.

We went the next day. Lexy was set up to see a vet who specializes in dentistry.

We had to leave her there for the day, and we waited for a call.

Emergency surgery

Lexy had to have emergency surgery.

Once the surgery was done the biopsy from it got sent to New York City for testing.

Weeks later on a Monday night the phone rang…….

Squamous cell carcinoma

I answered it, the gentleman on the phone said they got Lexy’s test results back and she had squamous cell carcinoma in her jaw!

There we were shocked again with what our poor girl had ended up with. I asked how long has she got. He said straight out he was sorry but without treatment about 1 month!!

My husband and I started to cry.

Foul Breath in Dogs: Lexy's Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The oncologist

I then made another appointment, this time with an oncologist, to discuss what our options were. Speaking to the oncologist was scary but he was very precise and said, we had 2 options, palliative treatment or surgery to try and remove it.

We went home that night full of turmoil. I went to see our normal vet to see what her opinion was and what we should do.

I did not want my baby to die!

We decided to go all out no matter what the cost was and try and save Lexy.

Lexy’s surgery

The next week Lexy went in for surgery. We were told we could pick her up that evening. We found things to do in the city all day and once the time came we went to get our baby.

The girls at the desk warned us of what she would look like, but someone telling you is not the same as the real thing.

The door opened and out came Lexy …

Tears started to roll out my eyes, she looked so horrible. Her face was all swollen and purple but she was so happy to see us!

Journey to recovery

We took Lexy home and started our long journey of recovery.

Three weeks in we got a call for the surgeon telling us the tests were back and that they had gotten all of her cancer! We were so happy!

Lexy had to go back at 3 months for her checkup and passed with flying colors.

This journey was a very long and hard thing to go through but if we had to do it again we would.

I then tried to get a hold of our old vet to let her know what had happened, but since then she retired and I could not get a hold of her. Sitting down one night I wrote her a letter sharing how much we trusted her with our family member and how Lexy almost died. I got her address and sent it. Have heard nothing 5 months later

I want to let everybody know those clean looking teeth do not always mean they are healthy.

Keep an eye on your dog’s breath also.

Update on Lexy

Years later, Lexy is still around and doing well. Getting her cancer treated on time, saved her life.

Related articles:
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Further reading:
7 Reasons Your Dog Has Bad Breath

Categories: Bad breathCancerConditionsReal-life StoriesSquamous cell carcinomaSwellingSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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