Unlike “dog breath,” cats aren’t really associated with having bad breath. However, if you smell something you would describe as dog breath emanating from your kitty, that’s a sign that something isn’t quite right and it’s time to check her health.
What Are the Causes of Bad Breath?
If you start noticing that your cat has bad breath, her breath is indicating she has tartar and plaque buildup, a periodontal condition or other health problems including respiratory, diabetes, kidney dysfunction, skin or a type of oral trauma.
She may just have something caught between her teeth.
Is Something Stuck Between Her Teeth?
It happens to humans all the time. You chew something, and pieces get caught between your teeth. It’s why they made dental floss and special toothbrushes. The same thing can happen with felines, but since cats are so curious, they may get foreign objects like hair, yarn, or string caught between their teeth or under their gums.
A good brushing may dislodge the object; however, if it’s lodged in the gums and starts to decompose, an infection may set in and around the surrounding gum tissue. If left untreated, it can cause an infection, ultimately leading to more serious problems.
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Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth
If you start your kitten out brushing her teeth as a daily routine, you shouldn’t have a problem with her as she gets older. Older cats, on the other hand, could pose a problem and need training to accept having their teeth brushed.
One way to get your cat used to teeth brushing is by using a treat as a reward for allowing you to brush her teeth. Keep oral hygiene chews on hand to give her right after the teeth brushing. In time your cat should learn that if she lets you brush, she’ll be rewarded.
Dental chews last longer than little treats that your kitty will gobble up quickly. Chewing on the treats promotes better oral hygiene for your cat, and it’s a longer-lasting reward. Oral health chews are also a great treat to give your kitty any time and will help keep her teeth fresh and healthy between brushings.
Periodontal Disease in Cats
Proper dental hygiene is just as important with cats as it with humans. Periodontal disease will cause your kitty pain and the infection may spread to her other organs causing more problems.
Certain breeds of cats are more susceptible to periodontal diseases, for example, Persians and Himalayans. These smaller cats have flat-faced, and short-nosed features and their teeth are set closer together than other breeds, making them more prone to contracting dental diseases.
If you notice your cat’s gums swelling, it could be a sign of gingivitis and, like in humans, could result in bone and tissue loss if not treated. Noticing the signs of potential dental issues with your cat and getting early treatment will prevent plaque buildup and avoid any further health issues with your cat.
Early Treatment Requires Professional Teeth Cleaning
If you’re not able to regularly brush your cat’s teeth, you may need to take her to the veterinarian for professional teeth cleaning. The vet will be able to dislodge any foreign materials between her teeth or under her gums and remove any plaque buildup.
If your kitty has any loose teeth or teeth with damage beyond repair, he can extract them while your cat is under anesthesia. The vet will also be able to tell if your kitty needs any additional medications to treat possible infections, so they don’t become more serious to her health.
Your vet can advise you on proper care for your cat’s teeth at home regularly to prevent any further issues from returning. If brushing your cat’s teeth is just not possible, you can wipe her teeth with dry gauze pads or a washcloth to remove some plaque and prevent buildup.
Like with dental dog bones, giving your cat treats specifically made for removing plaque will help keep her teeth clean and keep her breath smelling fresh. Ask your veterinarian for suggestions based on your type of cat and her age.
Kidney Disease: Yes, Cats Get It Too!
Unfortunately, kidney disease in felines is rather common in older cats. If you have a senior cat, eight years old or more, and you notice her breath smells like urine or ammonia, it could indicate the early stages of kidney disease.
In addition to her breath, she may seem to drink more water than normal, urinate more often, start to lose weight and seem lethargic.
You can manage kidney disease with changes to your cat’s diet and making sure she stays properly hydrated. Changing from dry food to wet food increases the amount of water in her diet also.
Feline Leukemia and Other Viruses
Bad breath in cats is also a symptom of lymphocytic plasmacytic stomatitis, a condition associated with viruses including feline leukemia, calicivirus, Bartonella, feline immunodeficiency virus, or viruses.
Lymphocytic plasmacytic stomatitis is a serious inflammatory condition in a cat’s mouth that is extremely painful for your cat and causes bad breath. If you notice your cat’s breath gives off a stench, check her gums for swelling. You may also notice it’s painful for her to open her mouth or her gums are bleeding.
Treatment involves professional teeth cleaning, tooth extractions and feline antibiotics to cure the virus.
Besides bad breath, if you notice other symptoms in your cat like trouble breathing, sneezing or she has ulcers on her tongue, she may have feline calicivirus, a condition that your cat should be vaccinated against when she’s young.
It’s especially important that you vaccinate your cat against this virus if you board her frequently or she was in a rescue shelter with other cats before you adopted her. Feline calicivirus is easily transmitted to other felines, and if she’s housed with many other cats and one of them has this virus, vaccinations prevent your cat from contracting it.
Bad Breath and Oral Cancers
If you practice good oral hygiene with your kitty and she still gets bad breath, have her checked at the vet as quickly as possible to make sure she has no tumors in her mouth. If the tumor grows, the infection will cause bad breath.
Unfortunately, cats who are not diagnosed until the later stages of squamous cell carcinoma or other oral cancers, have little life left as it’s too late to treat them properly. If you take your cat to the vet as soon as you notice her bad breath, she has a better prognosis.
Diabetes in Felines
If you smell your cat’s breath and it’s fruity, she may have feline diabetes. Other indications of diabetes include drinking more and urinating more than usual. If she is always hungry and eats more but loses weight, your kitty may have diabetes.
Like with humans and canines, the most common treatment for diabetes is insulin to stabilize her condition, followed by regular checkups with her doctor.
Liver Disease in Cats
If you look into your kitty’s eyes and the whites of her eyes have a yellowish tint, or you notice her skin, gums or ears have a yellowish tint take her to her doctor immediately as these are indications of possible liver disease.
Other indications of liver disease besides bad breath include drinking and urinating more often than normal, lethargy, and loss of appetite. The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the better treatment and outcome for your cat. Treatments vary depending on the cause of the disease.
Prevention and Early Treatment of Bad Breath
Just because your kitty has bad breath once in a while doesn’t mean something dire is happening to her. She may eat something that simply smells bad, and the odor lingers until she eats something regular or you brush her teeth.
Brushing her teeth regularly or swabbing to remove any plaque buildup, and giving her dental health treats should keep her breath smelling like roses, or at least not give off a stench, and prevent anything more serious from developing.
However, if you notice that none of your at-home daily routines resolves her bad breath issue, she may need a professional dental cleaning and an oral checkup at the veterinarian. Again, the sooner your vet diagnoses and treats a condition, the better.
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Most often, an antibiotic and good teeth cleaning will cure an infection that, if not diagnosed soon enough, could culminate into a more serious condition. The healthier your cat, the happier and she’ll make for a happier companion for you, too.
Product data was last updated on 2023-05-27.
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"In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this."
-- Terry Pratchett