What's Causing That Cat's Bad Breath?


If your cat's breath makes you wince and want to turn your head, you'll probably need more than kitty breath mints to solve the problem. While an occasional whiff of tuna breath isn't cause for concern, chronic bad cat breath can be a warning that something is very wrong. These are some of the causes of bad breath in cats.

Dental Disease

Dental disease is the main cause of bad breath in cats. Other signs of dental disease include reluctance to eat, dropping food on the floor, pawing at the mouth or face, chewing on one side of the mouth, and drooling. Some cats with dental disease do not like to be touched around the mouth or face because their mouths hurt.

Dental disease in cats can be serious. Untreated, it can damage the heart, liver and kidneys and can lead to such chronic illnesses as sinus infections, diabetes and cancer.

If you suspect your cat has dental disease, try to look inside his mouth. If his gums are red and inflamed, bleed easily, or form a straight line along the tooth, chances are he needs to have his teeth cleaned very soon. Make sure he goes home with pain meds! If there's a veterinary dentist in your area, I'd recommend going there rather than to a general practice vet.

Foreign Objects

A piece of food, grass, or even a tiny piece of hair or string can get caught between the cat’s teeth and cause bad breath as it begins to decompose and cause infection. An antibiotic can clear up the infection and the cat’s bad breath.

Stomatitis

Stomatitis also causes bad breath. Don’t let the name mislead you. This potentially life threatening disease is all about the cat’s mouth (stoma) and has nothing to do with his stomach.

Cats with stomatitis have painful, inflamed gums. If not treated, the inflammation can spread to the back of the throat, and the gums can become so enlarged it becomes difficult for the cat to eat. Although treatment plans can vary from cat to cat, many veterinary dentists recommend extracting all of the cat’s teeth. While this treatment may sound harsh, most cats do very well with no teeth. They even manage to eat dry food!

Diabetes and Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Sweet or fruity smelling breath can be a sign of feline diabetes. In diabetic cats, breath that smells like acetone is a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA. DKA is life threatening and requires immediate medical care.

Other symptoms of feline diabetes include weight loss despite an increased appetite and excessive drinking and urination. Other signs of DKA are lethargy, vomiting, dehydration and weakness.

Kidney Disease

The breath of cats with kidney disease may smell like urine. In addition to bad breath, signs of kidney disease include excessive drinking and urination, nausea, gagging and licking the lips; vomiting, drooling, hunching over the water bowl, and weight and muscle mass loss.

Although kidney damage can't be reversed, it's possible to slow the progression of the disease. Ask your vet about treatment options and do some research on your own.

Liver Disease

Cats with liver disease can have foul-smelling breath. Other symptoms include jaundice or yellowing of the eyes, mucous membranes, and skin; increased drinking and urination; loss of appetite; lethargy and vomiting.

Oral Tumor

Foul breath can also be a sign of an oral tumor in cats. Other symptoms include drooling, facial swelling, bleeding from the mouth, weight loss and difficulty swallowing.

Always a Warning

Chronic bad breath in cats is almost always a warning that something is wrong. When you’re snuggling with your feline friend and find yourself wrinkling your nose at the smell of your cat's bad breath, it’s time to schedule an appointment with the veterinarian.
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