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Cat Bad Breath

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Cat Bad Breath (Feline Halitosis)

Signs and Symptoms

If your cat lovingly rubs its face against yours and all you can think about is the bad smell that makes you wrinkle your nose, you and your pet might have a problem. Cat bad breath or halitosis is quite a common problem and can be unpleasant for both the cat and pet owner. However, halitosis can be more than just unpleasant and troublesome; it can also be a sign that your cat's health is at risk. This is because consistently bad breath is usually a symptom of an underlying medical problem or condition. In fact, many of the causes of bad breath in cats can have a variety of negative impacts upon the cat's body, in some cases even threatening your pet's life. For this reason, feline halitosis should not be ignored.

It's important to note that all cats exhibit bad breath to a certain extent, and this is completely normal. Since cats are carnivores and often eat fish-based diets, it's not unusual for their breath to have a bit of an odor to it, especially after meals. Halitosis, however, refers to consistently bad breath characterized by a particularly foul and offensive odor. If this describes your cat's breath, there is likely to be an underlying problem that is causing this symptom. Often this problem will originate directly from within the animal's mouth and will require improved dental care in order to effectively deal with the halitosis. In other cases, an illness or medical condition primarily located in another part of the animal's body will be at the root of the problem.

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If your cat does suffer from bad breath, there are a number of other symptoms you can keep an eye out for that may provide a veterinarian with additional clues as to the source of the odor as well as the severity of the condition. For example, when a mouth disorder is causing bad breath, there may very well be several other warning signs that will indicate that this is the case. In some circumstances mouth-based halitosis will be accompanied by oral discharge that may or may not be bloody. Signs of oral pain and difficulty with eating are other symptoms to watch for. Excessive drooling, facial swelling, pawing at the face and mouth, and nasal discharge can also be warning signs of a problem with a cat's mouth. If you observe any of these symptoms in conjunction with your cat's bad breath, there's a good chance that the source of the odor is in located in your pet's mouth. However, even if the only symptom that you observe is the bad breath, still be sure to have your cat checked out by a veterinarian so that the underlying cause can be identified and treated, safeguarding your beloved pet's health.


When a cat has consistently bad breath, there are a number of steps that can be taken in order to identify the cause of the foul odor. First of all, a veterinarian will go over the cat's medical history and conduct a physical examination. This will allow the practitioner to check for clinical signs and to narrow down the possible sources of the problem. In the case of a mouth disorder, a complete oral examination may be necessary, often requiring anesthetic. A full set of oral x-rays may also be taken, allowing the veterinarian to form a complete picture of what is going on in the animal's mouth. If a non-mouth related medical condition is suspected to be the cause of the halitosis, a number of other tests may be performed in order to confirm a diagnosis. Such tests may include blood tests and urinalysis.


A healthy cat's breath should have minimal odor and should definitely not be foul or offensive. When a cat does suffer from halitosis, therefore, this is typically a sign that the cat's health is not as good as it could be. With mouth-related bad breath, bacterial buildup is often the culprit. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including as a result of a number of different tooth and gum conditions. Unfortunately, bacterial buildup in a cat's mouth can pose serious problems for the cat's entire system. This is due to the fact that the bacteria can travel away from the mouth, through the bloodstream, having a toxic effect on many parts of the animal's body.

In circumstances where a cat's bad breath is caused by a non-mouth related medical condition, the foul odor originates in a different part of the cat's body and is simply released through the mouth. In such cases, the odor may be transmitted through the bloodstream or may rise up from the stomach or throat. Specific mouth disorders as well as non-mouth medical conditions that can give rise to feline halitosis will be discussed below.


The potential causes of cat bad breath are numerous and varied. As discussed previously, many causes are directly related to the cat's mouth, involving tooth and gum diseases as well as other oral problems. In fact, by far the most common cause of feline halitosis is periodontal disease. Just as would happen with us humans if we didn't brush our teeth daily, cats that do not undergo regular dental care will experience plaque buildup on their teeth. Plaque is a combination of bacteria, minerals, and decomposed food that clings to teeth and causes inflammation of the tissues that support the teeth, such as the gums. The bacterial component of plaque and the subsequent infections are what cause the actual odor associated with periodontal disease-based halitosis. A number of other mouth problems can also cause bad breath in cats, including gingivitis, an abscessed tooth, an oral ulceration, and the presence of a foreign body lodged in the mouth. Again, as with periodontal disease, the foul order characteristic of halitosis results from the presence of bacteria and infections.

In addition to mouth disorders, a number of other illnesses and diseases can give rise to feline halitosis. For example, lung diseases such as lung cancer can cause bad odors to be released through an animal's mouth. Bleeding stomach ulcers can also give rise to bad breath, causing an odor of digested blood to rise up from the stomach to the mouth. Furthermore, uncontrolled diabetes can cause halitosis. A diabetic cat's weakened immune system allows infections to occur that would otherwise be controlled. Moreover, uncontrolled diabetes can lead to ketoacidosis -- a life-threatening state -- which causes acetone breath. Severe kidney disease can also be a source of cat bad breath. This condition can lead to mouth ulcerations with an offensive odor and can also cause waste products to be exhaled through the mouth from the bloodstream. Finally, certain medications have also been known to be responsible for causing feline halitosis. However, as mentioned earlier, periodontal disease and other mouth disorders are the most common causes of bad breath in cats.


The treatment necessary to cure your cat's bad breath will depend upon the underlying cause of the problem. If an illness such as diabetes or kidney disease is the source of the halitosis, a specific treatment plan will need to be implemented in order to control the disease. Even when the illness is incurable, there are often steps that can be taken to reduce symptoms, including bad breath, and to increase your pet's comfort. If a foreign object is lodged in your cat's mouth, causing bacterial buildup, the object will need to be removed. In some cases, this may require a brief anesthetic.

Since most cases of cat bad breath result from mouth disorders, dental care will often be a big part of treatment. A full, professional tooth and gum cleaning may be necessary, and any decayed or abscessed teeth will need to be removed. Such procedures are performed by veterinary dentists and will require the use of an anesthetic. After this initial, professional cleaning, continued dental care will be required in order to prevent recurrence of oral diseases and bad breath. Just as with humans, regular tooth brushing is the key to good dental health. Ideally, a cat's teeth should be cleaned every day. To do this, put a small amount of feline tooth gel on your finger and gently rub it onto your cat's teeth. Rather than trying to fully open your cat's mouth, just push back the lips without actually opening the mouth. It may take some time for your cat to become used to this routine, but the positive results will make the effort worth it in the long run. Of course, the younger your cat is when you start brushing its teeth, the easier it will be for your pet to adapt to the process.

In addition to tooth brushing, there are also other steps you can take to ensure good oral health for your cat. For instance, a healthy diet goes a long way toward promoting your cat's well-being with respect to its mouth and entire body. Furthermore, homeopathic remedies are available in the form of mouth drops, which help to prevent mouth disorders such as gingivitis, dental decay, and bacterial infections. Homeopathic mouth drops are able to provide such quality results by containing a variety of natural substances with an array of beneficial properties. Some such natural ingredients include purple coneflower, myrrh, and sage. By using homeopathic remedies in combination with a healthy diet, annual veterinary checkups, and regular tooth cleaning, you will be greatly reducing the chances of your cat developing bad breath while also protecting and promoting its overall health.

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