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Many cats subsist on a diet of canned fish. It’s only natural that their breath would smell a little funky, right? Wrong. While an occasional whiff of nasty feline breath may not warrant a call to the vet, persistent halitosis often indicates a major health concern.
Why Does My Cat’s Breath Smell?
Oral Causes of Bad Breath
A staggering number of adult cats suffer from oral and dental diseases that can potentially cause bad breath. Between 50 and 90% of cats aged four years and older have experienced at least one disease of the mouth and/or teeth.
- Periodontal disease: Gum disease is the most common cause of bad breath in cats and, untreated, can lead to additional complications like tartar buildup, pain, and tooth loss. The most well-known periodontal disease is gingivitis. Look out for bleeding, redness, or swelling of the gums. Untreated, gingivitis can evolve into periodontitis, the effects of which are irreversible.
- Stomatitis: A catch-all term for inflammation of the mouth, stomatitis can refer to a range of conditions. Certain breeds of cats experience higher rates of stomatitis than others.
- Oral cancer: When tumors in a cat’s mouth grow, they can become infected and cause bad breath. Generally, the prognosis for cats with oral cancer is not good.
- Tooth resorption: Veterinarians don’t know what causes tooth resorption. The most common cause of tooth loss in cats involves the gradual breakdown of the tooth. Though the tooth’s structure begins to fall apart internally, visible signs of resorption begin around the gumline. Resorption is painful for cats and may lead to drooling and food avoidance.
More Potential Causes of Bad Breath in Cats
Bad breath doesn’t always start in a cat’s mouth. In certain instances, foul odors have their origins elsewhere.
- Diabetes mellitus: While potentially fatal, diabetes can be managed with medication if pet owners spot it in its early stages. The disease occurs when the pancreas fails to regulate blood sugar production.
- Kidney disease: When the kidneys begin to fail, impurities like urea can accumulate in the bloodstream and cause bad breath.
- Bowel obstructions: Serious issues further down a cat’s gastrointestinal tract could result in vomiting that causes lingering bad breath.
- Liver disease: In addition to yellowing throughout the body, liver ailments can cause symptoms including loss of appetite and bad breath.
What Does Your Cat’s Breath Smell Like?
You can help your vet get to the bottom of bad breath more quickly by paying close attention to the particulars of its scent. Check out this quick guide to recognizing the source of your cat’s halitosis.
- Human halitosis: Feline breath that smells similar to human halitosis typically indicates issues with a cat’s mouth, tongue, teeth, or gums. This could be light plaque buildup or a serious disease.
- Fruit or syrup: A sugary smell may indicate that a cat is suffering from diabetes. Watch out for other warning signs like excessive thirst and urination.
- Ammonia: A strong smell of ammonia or urine on your cat’s breath could be a sign of kidney trouble.
- Vomit: A foul, vomit-like odor could have its roots in your cat’s liver. Other signs of liver disease include abdominal swelling and yellowing of the eyes, skin, and gums.
Fighting Bad Breath in Cats
If your cat’s breath smells especially foul, make sure to contact your veterinarian to ensure halitosis isn’t a symptom of serious trouble in their mouth or elsewhere. They’ll consult your cat’s health history and conduct a thorough examination to determine the appropriate next steps.
At home, supporting your cat’s oral health is a crucial part of pet care. It’s generally easier to prevent the health issues than cause bad breath. Regular brushing from a young age can help. Your cat will probably never enjoy having their teeth brushed, but introducing the process early can ensure it’s as low stress as possible. Never use human toothbrushes or toothpastes on your cat’s mouth! In the pet aisle, don’t forget to look for special food and treats that can help promote a healthy mouth and fresh breath between brushings.