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Why Your Cat Has Bad Breath

August 1, 2014

Your big orange tabby Oscar sure likes his face time. Each morning, Oscar wakes you up by cuddling your neck and giving you a playful lick on the face. While many cat owners wish their cat gave them that kind of attention, Oscar has a major case of halitosis, or bad breath, and you can’t take it any more. You’ve asked your West Greenwich veterinarian to diagnose Oscar’s bad breath problem and get him some much-needed treatment.

Medical Maladies

Just like some of Oscar’s other issues, your vet needs to rule out a medical problem first. Perhaps Oscar has had a traumatic injury to his mouth, such as when he tried to chew through the bird cage for a tasty snack. Maybe Oscar has an inflammation of his sinuses, throat, nasal passages, or tonsils. Perhaps he has some serious gastrointestinal problems; or he has contracted a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection. He might have even developed diabetes or another metabolic disorder.

Periodontal Disease

There’s a better-than-even chance that Oscar has been affected by periodontal disease, as it’s the most common culprit behind cats’ nasty breath. If that’s the case, Oscar might be feeling some discomfort from this infection of his tooth tissues and gums. The infection resulted from huge amounts of bacteria who have set up shop in Oscar’s mouth. While your vet checks for periodontal disease, he’ll also look for cavities and plaque, as bacteria go hand-in-hand with those two ailments.

Questionable Food

You try to keep adventurous Oscar inside, but he tends to slip out when you take the dog for a walk. You know Oscar has an appetite for anything unappetizing, especially the neighbors’ garbage or some nearby road kill. You don’t think Oscar eats the dog’s droppings, but you can’t rule anything out.

Treatment Fix

While you’d like to solve Oscar’s halitosis with a snap of your fingers, your vet must develop a treatment plan that addresses the cause of Oscar’s stinky breath. In fact, Oscar might have more than one contributing condition. In one example, your vet will diagnose Oscar’s periodontal disease with a visual exam and mouth X-rays. As the first treatment step, your vet will clean and polish Oscar’s choppers. If a tooth has more than 50 percent loss of its bone and gum tissues, your vet will remove that tooth. Finally, medications might help to combat Oscar’s mouth odor.

Our Advice on Why Your Cat Has Bad Breath in 2024

What are potential medical reasons for a cat’s bad breath?

Potential medical reasons for a cat’s bad breath, or halitosis, include periodontal disease, the most common cause resulting from bacterial infection in the gums and tooth tissues. Other reasons could be a traumatic injury to the mouth, sinus, throat, nasal passage, or tonsil inflammations. Gastrointestinal severe issues and bacterial, fungal, or viral infections can also contribute. Additionally, metabolic disorders such as diabetes may lead to bad breath. Identifying and treating the underlying cause is essential for alleviating lousy breath and improving the cat’s overall health.

What role do sinus, throat, nasal passage, or tonsil issues play in a cat’s bad breath?

Sinus, throat, nasal passage, or tonsil issues can significantly contribute to a cat’s bad breath due to inflammation or infection in these areas. When a cat experiences such conditions, it can accumulate bacteria, producing foul odors. Infections in these regions often result in excess mucus or pus, which harbors bacteria and compounds responsible for halitosis. Treating the underlying diseases and inflammations can help resolve the bad breath by eliminating the source of the odor-causing bacteria.

What symptoms might a cat with periodontal disease exhibit?

A cat with periodontal disease may exhibit several symptoms indicating discomfort and oral health issues. These include bad breath (halitosis), difficulty eating or losing appetite, pawing at the mouth, visible tartar on teeth, red or swollen gums (gingivitis), bleeding gums, and loose or missing teeth. Some cats may also show signs of pain, such as irritability or decreased social interaction. Periodontal disease can lead to more severe health problems if left untreated, so noticing and addressing these symptoms early is crucial for a cat’s overall well-being.

What steps are involved in treating a cat’s periodontal disease?

Treating a cat’s periodontal disease involves several steps, starting with a thorough dental examination and possibly dental X-rays to assess the extent of the disease. The next step is a professional dental cleaning under anesthesia, where tartar and plaque are removed from above and below the gum line, and teeth are polished. In cases of severe periodontal disease, extraction of affected teeth may be necessary. After professional treatment, ongoing home dental care, such as regular brushing and possibly dental diets or treats, is recommended to maintain oral health and prevent recurrence.

What medications might be used to address a cat’s mouth odor?

To address a cat’s mouth odor, veterinarians may prescribe antibiotics to combat underlying bacterial infections contributing to bad breath. Antifungal medications might be used if a fungal infection is present. Additionally, anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce gum inflammation and discomfort. For ongoing management, dental hygiene products like chlorhexidine rinses or gels may be recommended to decrease bacterial load in the mouth. Using only vet-prescribed medications is essential, as some human products can be toxic to cats. Regular dental check-ups and proper oral hygiene practices are crucial for preventing future odor issues.

After your West Greenwich vet gets Oscar back into the Fresh Breath Club, your regular home dental care will help your cat stay there. Make sure Oscar gets professional teeth cleanings to knock down plaque and tartar before they get a foothold in his mouth.

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