Cat's mouth - great breath! - photo by Jennifer Romita
Bad breath in cats is a sign of mouth disease. The most common causes are Stomatitis, Gingivitis, tooth decay and tartar. Stomatitis is a sore mouth. A definition might be:
…an inflammation of the mucous lining of any of the structures in the mouth, which may involve the cheeks, gums, tongue, lips, throat, and roof or floor of the mouth.
The inside of the mouth will be infected, inflamed and red. The gums may bleed easily. The cat may be badly groomed. The cause might be gum (periodontal) disease, an embedded foreign body, feline immunodeficiency virus, feline leukemia, feline viral respiratory disease complex (URI) or kidney disease. Stomatitis can also be caused by a germ that causes a condition called Trench Mouth. Another type of Stomatitis is caused by yeast brought about by a long course of antibiotics that have altered the mouths natural flora. Finally, there is a form of Stomatitis that causes painful ulcers on the tip of the tongue and hard palate (roof of the mouth). Stomatitis can be very painful resulting is not eating, head shaking and pawing at the face.
Gingivitis is gum infection caused by plaque, tartar or calculus (a hard yellow/brown coloured deposit on the teeth that consists of organic secretions and bits of food that is deposited in salts such as calcium carbonate) , trapped food and hair or as part of a disease such as feline panleukopenia, feline viral respiratory complex, kidney and/or liver failure.
The gums are inflamed and red; they recede. The receded gums allow crevices to trap food and then bacteria. The gums are painful and swollen. Gum disease and tooth decay follows. A sore mouth means the cat finds it painful to eat resulting in poor appetite and grooming.
Gum disease is very commonly seen by veterinarians. It seems to me that some cats are more resistant than others to periodontal disease and tooth decay. It seems to be genetically predetermined. A watchful eye on the condition of our cat’s teeth is handy to allow proactive measures to be taken.
I don’t think realistically much can be done to prevent tooth decay other a veterinarian visit to clean the teeth. I think it is accepted that dry cat food is not some sort of wonder solution although it may help. As for dental gel for cats; I am not sure.
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