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Halitosis (Bad Breath) in Cats

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Halitosis, or bad breath, is an unpleasant odor coming from your cat's mouth. Usually halitosis had oral causes, although sometimes it can be caused by other disease processes.

There are several products on the market to help you deal with bad kitty breath including cat toothbrush and paste, cat treats that can help minimize tartar or freshen cat breath as welll as kitty breath drops.

It is first important to understand and treat any underlying diseases that may be causing the foul odor. These include:

  • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
  • Abscessed tooth or teeth
  • Bone or hair stuck in mouth
  • Oral ulceration
  • Foreign bodies in the mouth (such as plant material or grass awns)
  • Oral neoplasia (tumors of the mouth)
  • Lung diseases, such as lung cancer
  • Severe kidney disease
  • Periodontitis (inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the tooth)

    What to Watch For

  • Oral discharge
  • Oral pain
  • Bloody oral discharge
  • Drooling
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Difficulty eating
  • Depression

    Diagnosis

    Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the bad breath and help guide subsequent treatment recommendations. Some tests may include:

  • A complete medical history and physical examination
  • A complete oral exam, which may require a brief anesthetic
  • Full-mouth radiographs (X-rays) with a dental machine
  • Periodontal probing (a blunt probe that is used to check the gum/tooth interface) to identify gum and periodontal diseases

    Treatment

    Optimal therapy of any serious or persistent medical condition depends on establishing the correct diagnosis. There are numerous potential causes of halitosis and before any treatment can be recommended, it is important to identify the underlying cause. Initial therapy should be aimed at the underlying cause. This treatment may include:

  • Removal of foreign object if present
  • Treatment of any oral tumors as needed
  • Periodontal therapy and root planing (cleaning/scraping the teeth under the gums)

    Home Care

    Home care recommendations will depend on the underlying cause of the problem. Some steps that you can take to help eliminate your cat's bad breath include:

  • Brushing your cat's teeth daily. Tooth brushes/finger brushes and special toothpastes are available from your veterinarian.

  • Spraying 0.12 percent chlorhexidine (prescribed by your veterinarian) into your cat's mouth once a day for seven to fourteen days.

  • Following dietary considerations recommended by your veterinarian. Special diets that may be beneficial include Hill's Prescription Diet T/D®.

  • Evaluation by your veterinarian if the bad breath persists.

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