Help! My cat’s breath stinks

If you detect that your cat has bad breath then it is a sign of mouth and perhaps kidney disease. It is obviously abnormal and of course should be dealt with promptly. Feline oral disease is a very common health issue amongst domestic cats indicating that it is an area of feline health which can be neglected probably because it is out of sight and does not come to the owner’s notice until bad breath is evident.

Note: I want to make it clear at the outset that I’m not a veterinarian but am an experienced cat caretaker or guardian. In writing this article I am relying on personal experience but primarily the information provided by a book on cat health called Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook which I refer to frequently and which is designed to be read by cat owners like myself. I recommend the book of course and I recommend that cat owners do have some knowledge about cat health but also that they know their limits and do not hesitate to go to their veterinarian when needed which is likely to be the case if a cat’s breath stinks.

Feline gingivitis
Feline gingivitis —
Photo copyright; Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic. Reproduced here with their express permission.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Two causes of feline bad breath are gingivitis and stomatitis. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. Calculus builds up along the boundary between the gums and the teeth forcing the gums away from the teeth allowing food and bacteria to become trapped in the space. In turn this causes the gums to become inflamed and infected.

Several diseases such as feline panleukopenia and viral respiratory disease complex or kidney and liver failure can cause gum infections.

Stomatitis is an inflamed and sore mouth. The condition is accompanied by drooling, a refusal to eat, eating with difficulty, perhaps some headshaking and also pawing at the face. The inside of the mouth is inflamed and it looks tender and swollen. The cat may demonstrate pain when yawning or when the mouth is opened. The only way to treat this is with a good veterinarian. It may be due to periodontal disease or a foreign object. It also may be due to an immune deficiency disease.

Feline oral resorptive lesion, gingivitis, periodontal disease
Feline oral resorptive lesion, gingivitis, periodontal disease
Photo copyright; Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic. Reproduced here with their express permission.

Excess tartar on the teeth is also another reason for bad breath. Tartar is also called calculus. Plaque hardens to tartar and is made up of food particles and other material both inorganic and organic. It also consists of bacteria.

Kidney disease can also be a contributing factor in bad breath in your cat. It can also cause oral ulcers.

Periodontitis describes an infection of the cat’s teeth and gums. It destroys or damages the supporting structures of the teeth. It is a condition which has progressed from gingivitis. It can lead to an abscess at the root of the tooth. It causes bad breath in cats.

Periodontitis is painful and prevents the cat from eating leading to weight loss. The cat won’t groom and has an ungroomed appearance as a result. Teeth may fall out. This is clearly a very advanced stage of bad oral health due to gum and teeth disease.

Some experts believe that periodontitis is more commonplace in some purebred cats such the Siamese and in the Siamese family of cats such as the Oriental Shorthair.

The only way to deal with a cat whose oral health is so bad that his or her breath smells is to see a veterinarian and deal with it properly. I noticed that some people look for answers on home treatment for mouth pain. I don’t advise that you attempt it.

The treatment is likely to include tooth extraction and in the case of periodontitis might include the drainage of pus pockets and the removal of calculus followed by a course of antibiotics; obviously vet’s work.


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