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Bad Breath in Cats

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ASPCA logoBad breath, also known as halitosis, can be caused by a variety of health problems. Don’t worry, your cat’s breath isn’t supposed to smell minty fresh-but if there’s an extremely strong, fetid odor, there could be an underlying medical problem.

What Could Be Causing My Cat's Bad Breath?

Most often, bad breath is caused by a build-up of odor-producing bacteria in your pet’s mouth. This can be a result of dental or gum disease; certain cats, in fact, may be especially prone to plaque and tartar. Diet and dermatological issues can also be contributing factors. However, persistent bad breath can also indicate more serious medical problems such as abnormalities in the mouth, respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, liver or kidneys. In all cases, halitosis is a red flag that should be investigated.

How Can I Determine the Cause of My Cat's Bad Breath?

Your veterinarian is the best person to pinpoint the cause. A physical examination may reveal the cause of your cat’s problem. If not, further tests will likely be recommended. Be ready to answer questions about your cat’s diet, oral hygiene, exercise habits and general attitude and behavior.

When Is It Time to See the Vet?

The following symptoms will require veterinary attention: 
 

  • Excessive brownish tartar on your cat’s teeth, especially when accompanied by drooling, difficulty eating and red, inflamed gums, could indicate serious dental or gum disease.
  • Unusually sweet or fruity breath could indicate diabetes, particularly if your cat has been drinking and urinating more frequently than usual.
  • Breath that smells like urine can be a sign of kidney disease.
  • An unusually foul odor accompanied by vomiting, lack of appetite, and yellow-tinged corneas and/or gums could signal a liver problem.
  • Pawing at the mouth

How Is Bad Breath Treated?

Treatment depends on your vet’s diagnosis. If plaque is the culprit, your cat might require a professional cleaning. If the cause is gastrointestinal or an abnormality in your pet’s liver, kidneys or lungs, please consult your vet about steps you should take.

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