Infographic on underlying causes of bad breath (halitosis) in cats

Halitosis in cats possible problems
Halitosis in cats possible problems. Infographic by MikeB at PoC
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

How do these 7 conditions cause bad breath? Here are the explanations.

Kidney disease

In one study, bad breath was noticed 1.2 years before recognition of chronic kidney disease by veterinarians. It would seem to be an early symptom which can be added to weight loss, decreased appetite and excessive drinking. It’s interesting to note that I can’t find the precise chemical process within the body which causes bad breath because of the existence of chronic kidney disease. Obviously, the kidneys fail to remove the waste in the blood stream and it therefore builds up. The bad breath may have an ammonia odour. That’s indicative of the fact that the waste products in the bloodstream are noticeable in the breath of the cat. It would seem that the smell of the waste in the blood leaks into the gut and/or lungs and mouth. That’s about as good as I can do to explain what’s going on.

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes is high blood sugar levels in the blood. This increases glucose levels in saliva which provides food for bacteria in the mouth which in turn leads to a buildup of dental plaque and also in turn this leads to tooth decay and gum disease and halitosis.

Liver disease

A similar causal effect to bad breath occurs with liver disease. Livers filter toxins out of the body. A malfunctioning liver fails to do this. Toxins build up such as sulphur causing a condition labelled Fetor hepaticus in humans. It’s different to normal bad breath. It smells like sulphur and is a direct result of liver disease. The patient’s breath contains dimethyl sulphide causing the bad breath. Essentially, waste products remain in the blood and that has the effect of the air expelled from the body containing some of these products.

Tooth abscess

A tooth abscess causes bad breath because a pass-filled pocket of bacteria develops at the root of the tooth which smells as it leaks.

Gum (periodontal) disease

In the case of periodontal disease-causing bad breath, the smell comes from the bacteria growing below the gum line (sub-gingival dental plaque) which has a foul smell and which, therefore, obviously causes or contributes to bad breath.

Intestinal problems

With respect to gut problems, a gut infection or blockage can make the breath smell bad and there will be other likely signs such as vomiting and diarrhoea. The smell from the blockage comes up the digestive tract into the mouth which is expelled when the cat breeds. That is also my interpretation.

Cancers of the mouth

My understanding is that cancers per se can produce a specific smell. The smell may vary between different cancers. The smell is caused by cancer specific chemicals. If the cancer is in the mouth it’s going to cause the breath to smell. I can remember a cat in a residential care home in America whose name was Oscar who was able to detect when a patient was dying because of cancer by the smell emitted from an individual.

Below are some pages on oral health, a major issue in middle-aged and elderly domestic cats.

Empty bowl under a no waste wet cat food regime

No wet cat food waste (infographic)

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Proactive measures to help your cat maintain good oral health

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Picture of a tortoiseshell cat with a tooth protruding into the opening of their nostril

Picture of a tortoiseshell cat with a tooth protruding into the opening of their nostril

To almost everyone except veterinarians, this is a very unusual cat photograph. It shows the closed mouth and the nose ...
Calling all adopters of kittens. Start them on chicken bones at 8-weeks!

Calling all kitten adopters. Start them on chicken bones!

This is the advice of Dr Bruce Fogle DVM MRVS, the world's best-known veterinarian/author. By birth he is Canadian, living ...
Cat drinking water

Xylitol in cat drinking water reduces plaque and calculus

An interesting study1 clearly states that the addition of Xylitol to the drinking water of cats was effective in reducing ...

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