Halitosis in Cats

Halitosis in Cats

Everyone has dealt with bad breath before, but when it happens in cats, it could be something to worry about. Sure, bad breath can be an occasional thing, but it can also be a disease symptom.

In today’s article, we’re looking at the causes of halitosis in cats, what diseases it could be linked to, and how you can prevent your pet from developing oral health problems.

Causes of Halitosis in Cats

There are three main causes of halitosis in this species, and we’ve listed them below.

  • Bacteria buildup

It is perfectly natural for bacteria to build up on your feline friend’s teeth — this happens to humans, too, but we have the option of brushing our teeth and going to the dentist for plaque removal.

Too much plaque and tartar can eventually lead to periodontal disease, which can have several negative effects on cats and other animals. Periodontal disease is often linked to other conditions, not just to loss of teeth.

  • Underlying health problems

The most common diseases that are associated with bad breath in pets usually relate to the kidneys. So if you have a geriatric cat and she has a history of kidney disease, such as renal failure, you can expect her to have bad breath.

Other health issues that can cause halitosis are those affecting the gastrointestinal tract or the liver. If you take your cat to the vet hospital at least once a year, all of these conditions can be diagnosed, so bad breath can be prevented.

  • Diet

Homemade diets have become popular in the past several years since pet owners have realized just how many chemicals are present in commercial pet food today. Cat granules can have anything from artificial colors and binders to preservatives that your pet can definitely do without.

But with the rise in popularity of homemade diets, bad breath has become an issue that pet parents have to deal with as best as possible.

If you feed your cat raw meat or fish, you can expect her to have halitosis. In this case, though, it is not a sign of disease – it’s merely a representation of her diet.

Other symptoms you should look out for

Since bad breath can be linked with a number of other health conditions, we suggest analyzing your cat’s behavior. Unfortunately, this species is particularly good at hiding the symptoms of disease, which is why cat guardians might not realize when something is wrong.

If you are feeling unsure as to whether you have to take your cat to the vet or not, here are some signs that should convince you:

  • Weight loss
  • Changes in your cat’s appetite (eating less or more)
  • Drooling
  • Less interest in grooming her body
  • Lethargy 
  • Yowling when trying to eat
  • Pawing at the mouth or face (maybe a foreign object became lodged into your cat’s gums)

Bad breath is also quite easy to define since it never smells the same. But if your cat’s mouth seems to be smelling like something sweet, it is clearly something to be concerned about. A fruity oral scent can be a sign of diabetes, in which case you’d also notice significant changes in the way your cat uses the litter box.

If your feline companion’s breath smells like ammonia, it could be a sign of kidney disease, in which case you might notice symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, and once again, changes in how your cat uses the litter box — frequent or rare urination or straining to urinate.

If the odor is really bad, in the sense that you might not even bear to be next to your cat, it could be a sign of a gastrointestinal issue, including liver disorders.

Can Halitosis Be Treated?

Yes. But more often than not, it might not be the primary condition that your veterinarian needs to address.

When you get to the animal hospital, you can expect your vet to recommend a number of tests that will be able to tell whether your cat simply has an oral health issue or if she might be suffering from another disease, too.

These tests can range from a complete blood count, blood biochemistry, urinalysis, and even imaging diagnostic tests such as an ultrasound or an X-ray.

In fact, X-rays are quite helpful when it comes to telling which of your cat’s teeth are affected and since cats rarely want to have their mouths examined, it might be the only way to tell whether your cat has an oral disease or not.

If the halitosis is produced by tartar and plaque buildup, the vet will recommend a procedure that involves removing these from your cat’s teeth. Since it can be quite painful (as the tartar often needs to be manually removed), your cat will have to be sedated.

If your cat is a fairly healthy adult and the main health issue is diagnosed and treated properly, it’s quite likely that your pet’s halitosis will start being an occasional occurrence.

Another disease that we’d like to mention here and that causes serious oral health complications is calicivirus. In this infection, cats often develop mouth ulcers, but they also show other symptoms such as nasal discharge and sneezing.

Preventing Halitosis and Other Oral Health Issues in Cats

The best way of preventing bad breath in cats is to brush your pet’s teeth on a regular basis. Unfortunately, it is an extremely complicated procedure as most cats do not like to have their mouths touched by people or even other animals.

The easiest method of getting your cat used to it would be starting as early as possible. Kittens need to have their teeth brushed too, and doing the same in adults means preventing periodontal disease and a plethora of other health complications for when your cat becomes a senior.

These days, there are also water additives that can decrease the amount of plaque and tartar buildup, but they often have a specific smell that deters cats from drinking water altogether. Oral disinfecting sprays containing chlorhexidine are another option, but they have to be accompanied by tooth brushing.

In the end, keeping your cat’s oral health in check is necessary if you want to enjoy her company for as long as possible. Make sure you take your pet for a check-up at least once a year and twice after the age of 6-7.



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