Bad Breath

How can you tell the difference between healthy pungent feline breath and the foul variety? There is only one way: Know the scent of your pet's regular breath by smelling it regularly. The medical term for bad breath is halitosis. It is often caused by periodontal disease that is marked by inflamed gums and calculus buildup on teeth. Periodontal disease (a plaque-induced inflammatory condition) is one of the most common diseases in cats, affecting around 70% of the domestic cats over two years of age, and 85% of those aged over five years. Plaque is a layer of microorganisms, mostly bacteria, adhered to the teeth, and is responsible for the initiation of the disease. Research suggests that periodontal disease has an association with the development of heart, lung, liver, and kidney disorders, and also diabetes mellitus in humans. Severity of periodontal disease varies with several factors, such as: gender, age, breed, diet, chewing behavior, and general health. It is believed that dental calculus and plaque are less frequent in cats fed dry, rather than wet, food, partially because dry food is responsible for an increased production of saliva. It is well known that saliva contains immunoglobulins produced in reaction to the antigens found in the mouth, and, therefore, dry food eventually will also be responsible for a better use of the immune system in the prevention of oral health issues.3

Halitosis can originate from pus-filled, foul-smelling mouth ulcers are caused by calicivirus infection, ingestion of toxic chemicals and uremic poisoning from kidney disease. Bad breath can also be noticed several months before chronic kidney disease is recognized by a veterinarian; cats with chronic kidney disease often become lethargic, have decreased appetite and excessive tartar buildup. In case of tooth fracture, the cause of the offending odor is a gum abscess.

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Good oral hygiene has proven to prevent the development of periodontal disease in cats. Although it is difficult to habituate a cat to dental hygiene methods, an early habituation, from the kitten stage, is very important. Good hygiene of the feeding bowl helps avoid bacterial build up, especially where cats are fed wet food, as bacteria is the main trigger of plaque development. Cheek teeth (molars and premolars) are more susceptible to poor oral health than other teeth, independent of the age of the cat. It is important to prevent oral health deterioration from an early age with special attention paid to the cheek teeth. Good oral hygiene in house cats can decrease a risk of spreading bacteria from cats to humans and periodontal disease in humans. Moreover, as fusobacteria resistant to commonly used antibiotics have been isolated from oral cavities of dogs and cats, you can thus protect yourself against some potentially fatal infections, such as liver abscesses.4

Cat bad breath

Is yours an older cat? Is she a short-nosed breed, such as a Persian or Himalayan? If you answered "yes," your cat might have an oral tumor. These breeds are more susceptible to oral tumors than others. Oral cancers are most often squamous cell carcinomas. Take your cat to the vet; he or she will perform a biopsy to determine what type of tumor your cat has. Some malignant oral tumors are fast-spreading, whereas others remain only locally invasive (squamous cell carcinoma). Tumors can be removed either by conventional surgery or cryosyrgery (using subfreezing temperatures). After the growth is removed, the antioxidant vitamin A, C, E, and beta-carotene, along with a chemical-free high-quality diet, can help prevent a recurrence. Benign growths require no treatment unlesss they hamper your cat's eating, drinking, or breathing. Examine your cat's mouth regularly. The earlier a malignant tumor is removed, the better the chance for preventing its spread.


  1. Problem-Based Feline Medicine. Jacquie Rand
  2. Case-Control Study of Risk Factors Associated with Feline and Canine Chronic Kidney Disease
  3. The Choice of Diet Affects the Oral Health of the Domestic Cat. Fernando Mata
  4. Pyogenic liver abscess caused by Fusobacterium in a 21-year-old immunocompetent male. Zohair Ahmed, Saurabh K Bansal, and Sonu Dhillon

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