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Cats are known to be self-groomers, but there’s one spot they can’t clean: their mouths. This can lead to a foul smell that can be a big problem later on. So why does my cat’s breath smell so bad? Cat halitosis is primarily due to dental diseases. However, it can also indicate kidney problems or even cancer.
Below, I discussed the potential causes of bad breath among cats. You should never dismiss it as a mere scent because your cat’s breath will say a lot about its health.
Causes of bad breath among cats
If you’re noticing a foul smell on your cat’s breath, you should bring it to the vet to rule out these potential causes:
1. Dental disease
One of the leading causes of bad breath among cats is dental disease. The bacterial buildup on your cat’s mouth will cause bad breath and a slew of possible infections.
If you don’t brush your cat’s teeth, plaque will form and cause gingivitis. If cat gingivitis isn’t treated, it will progress to periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease in cats will cause bad breath, pain, gum swelling, and infections. This condition happens a lot to older cats, but younger felines with poor dental hygiene are also susceptible.
Take note that periodontal disease doesn’t go away on its own. Like most dental problems, it will only become worse over time. When that happens, your cat’s breath will smell even worse, and it will suffer from complications like blood infection and dental sepsis.
Aside from dental hygiene, tooth alignment also impacts your cat’s susceptibility to dental diseases. Misaligned teeth will not get cleaned by natural abrasion of chewing. With this, food will get stuck on the teeth, which will cause bad breath in cats. Please read here why does my cat like my shoes
2. Metabolic diseases
On a more serious note, the bad smell on your cat’s breath can be due to a metabolic problem. Kidney disease can cause bad breath as the toxins build up on your cat’s body. When not cured, your cat won’t just suffer from halitosis; it will also succumb to kidney failure.
Usually, cats with kidney disease will have a breath that smells like ammonia or urine. This is due to the waste product that the kidney fails to dispel.
Another potential culprit behind the bad smell on your cat’s breath is liver disease. Like the kidney, your cat’s liver is responsible for filtering out toxins and regulate body enzymes.
Aside from bad breath, cats with liver disease will also exhibit behavior changes, weight loss, jaundice, increased thirst, and poor appetite.
All of these metabolic diseases must be addressed as early as possible to prevent organ failure. Any changes in your cat’s breath and body should be a cause of concern. A vet check will reveal a lot than what you expect.
3. Diet choices
On the less serious side, your cat’s bad breath may be rooted in its diet. Certain food ingredients can cause a bad smell. Liver-based cat food and certain greens can make your cat’s breath smell awful.
While there’s no usual problem with this, you should still ask the vet to rule out other possible causes. If the bad smell on your cat’s breath is becoming unbearable, the easy solution is to switch their food. However, you should do so slowly to prevent stomach upset.
If the smell on your cat’s breath isn’t food-like, the kitty might have chewed on foreign objects like rubber, wires, and the likes. The bad thing about this part is that your cat can be poisoned. If the bad smell is accompanied by vomiting and gagging, you should rush your cat to the vet to remove the blockage.
Feline stomatitis is actually a blanket term for all conditions that cause inflammation and pain on the cat’s mouth. Still, there are two types of stomatitis observed in cats: gum stomatitis and caudal stomatitis.
With gum stomatitis, your cat’s gums will become swollen. It could also have a discharge that will make your pet’s breath smell so bad. This type of stomatitis only affects the gums around the teeth and can be easy to spot and treat.
On the other hand, caudal stomatitis affects a cat at the back of the mouth. It occurs on the spot just where the lower and upper jaw meets. Like the first type, this will be extremely painful and may lead to a bad smell on your cat’s breath.
Stomatitis in cats must be treated immediately. If not, your cat will have a hard time chewing and swallowing. Also, it will lead to infections that will make the cat’s breath even more unbearable.
5. Diabetes mellitus
Another condition that will cause bad cat breath is diabetes. Feline diabetes will also trigger unexplained weight loss, increased thirst, increased appetite, and increased urination.
Usually, cats with diabetes mellitus will have a breath that smells bad but with a fruity hint. Sometimes, cat owners think of it as a good thing because it’s less foul as other conditions.
Diabetes in cats can be Type I, II, or III. Type I is very rare and will cause almost complete destruction of the cat’s beta cells. These cells produce insulin that regulates the cat’s glucose level.
Meanwhile, Type II feline diabetes is due to poor insulin production. Another scenario is that your cat has developed insulin resistance, causing poor insulin sensitivity.
Lastly, feline diabetes Type III is triggered by other hormones. It usually happens when a cat is pregnant or experiencing hormonal imbalances.
6. Oral cancer
The worst possible cause of your cat’s bad breath is oral cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) will usually start at the jaw or the cat’s tongue. Take note that this is an aggressive form of cancer and will not show signs until the tumor is in an advanced stage.
It’s important to watch out for the initial signs of oral cancer, including bad breath, abnormal growth in your cat’s mouth, and changes in behavior. You should bring your cat to the vet to get checked. When it comes to cancer, a proactive approach is a key to increase the cat’s chances of beating the big C.
What to do about your cat’s bad breath?
If the vet ruled out any serious medical possibilities, the first thing you should do is brush your cat’s teeth. Read more here: How To Keep Cats Teeth Clean Without Brushing
The bad smell comes from stuck food bits that rot in your pet’s mouth. Remember that dental hygiene isn’t a one-time task, but a regular grooming process.
Another thing that you should do is to change your cat’s diet. You should do this with the supervision of your cat’s veterinarian.
A pet water additive will also help manage your cat’s bad breath. This formula will help fight tartar and plaque buildup. It will also combat the bad smell of your cat’s breath. If you can’t brush your cat’s teeth regularly, this water additive is an excellent alternative.
Moreover, dental chews will also help a lot in your cat’s bad breath. Chew toys encourage your cat to chew, which scrapes off tartar in the process. However, make sure that the chew toy you’re going to buy is suitable for your cat’s age and dental condition. Avoid very stiff toys since it will chip off your cat’s teeth and cause mouth injuries.
Most of all, you should schedule regular vet visits. You shouldn’t wait for your cat to get sick before bringing it to the expert. A proactive approach will save your cat’s life and your pocket from the expenses.
Why does my cat’s breath smell so bad? You should check your cat’s dental health first to rule out any oral diseases. It’s also important to consider other possibilities, including metabolic conditions, stomatitis, cancer, and diabetes. All of these require immediate veterinary attention to prevent further complications. Take note that bad breath can be an indication of a more serious condition that requires immediate care.
Marco Vasquez is a passionate animal lover and writer with extensive experience in the pet care industry. He has worked with various pets, including dogs, cats, birds, and fish, and deeply understand their unique needs and behaviors. Marco’s love for animals has driven him to become an expert in pet health, nutrition, and behavior, and he is always eager to share his knowledge and insights with others. As a member of the Petcosset team, Marco brings his expertise to help pet owners make informed decisions about the well-being of their little friends. He enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors with his pets in his free time.