Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is just as common in cats as it is humans and dogs and can be caused by a variety of health problems. Although your cat's breath isn't supposed to smell minty fresh, if there is an extremely strong, chronic odour, this could be a sign of an underlying medical problem such as periodontal (gum) disease.
As always, prevention is the best method so we have compiled the possible causes of bad breath in cats as well as how to prevent them getting bad breath in the first place. If you suspect your cat already has bad breath, then we have also listed the possible ways to treat it.
What are the causes of bad breath in cats?
Diet: Most people say that raw and canned foods are causes of bad breath in cats.
Periodontal disease: Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease is the most common cause of bad breath in cats. It's an infection that results from the build-up of soft dental plaque on the surfaces of the teeth around the gums. If left untreated, this plaque can harden into tartar. Symptoms of this include tooth loss, bleeding gums pain and other problems.
Lymphocytic Plasmacytic Stomatitis: While less common, bad breath in cats may also be caused by a condition called lymphocytic plasmacytic stomatitis, which may be associated with feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, calicivirus, or Bartonella, and other infections. It is a serious inflammation of the mouth that causes odors, bleeding gums and extreme pain.
Oral cancers: Oral cancers can also produce bad breath in cats. As a tumor grows, it can become infected and cause halitosis. Unfortunately, once a cat with a type of oral cancer has been diagnosed, they will typically only have two to six months left to live.
Kidney disease: Sometimes, bad breath signals a health problem that originates outside of the mouth. If your cat’s breath smells like ammonia or urine, it could be kidney disease, which is not uncommon in cats ages 8 and older.
Diabetes: f your cat’s breath has a fruity odor, it could indicate diabetes, especially if the animal is also drinking more water than usual, urinating more frequently, and losing weight despite having a ravenous appetite.
Liver disease: In addition to foul-smelling breath, a cat with liver disease may have yellowing of the whites of the eyes or yellowing of the skin on the ears or on gums. They may also be lethargic, have a poor appetite, vomiting or diarrhoea, and drink and urinate more than usual.
If you're unsure about what could be causing your cat's bad breath, then a trip to the vet is always the best and safest option, just in case they do have a more serious condition.
How do I prevent my cat from getting bad breath?
As mentioned earlier, prevention is the best method and here are the ways in which you can do just this:
Brush your cat's teeth: No surprises here! Regularly cleaning their teeth with a specialised toothpaste and brush is the best way to prevent them getting bad breath. The less plaque, tartar, and decay – the fresher your cat’s breath will be.
Dental treats and chew toys: Some treats and chew toys claim to remove plaque and tartar in pets. Every cat is different though – so experiment with a treat or toy and see if you notice a difference. Keep in mind that these products only work as a supplement to dental care. You can also ask your vet for recommendations that would be safe for your cat.
Monitor their diet: Dry food may be included in the cat’s diet since it's said to reduce tartar. Make sure that you choose high-protein food with real meat and lots of water to avoid dehydration and other problems.
Regular vet check-ups: A check-up with your veterinarian is the best way to know what to do with your cat's bad breath. This way, you can know if there is any underlying medical conditions like the ones mentioned above.
How do I treat bad breath in my cat?
Treatment of course 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. If diabetes is the cause, then this can of course be managed with insulin.