Does Your Cat Have Bad Breath?
3 June, 2013

Cat owners know that bad cat breath can be downright awful.  It isn’t that much different from bad human breath, as both are caused by bacteria found in the mouth that breaks protein down and releases sulfur compounds out into the air.  The bacterium that causes bad breath with cats is normally associated with a buildup of tartar around the teeth.  Tartar is yellow in color, known as a coating of bacteria, food, and minerals.

Bad breath in cats (other than the result of eating some tuna or another smelly fish) is usually caused by a build-up of odor-producing bacteria in your cat’s mouth. This can be a result of dental or gum disease; certain cats are especially prone to plaque and tartar.  Your cat’s diet can sometimes be a contributing factor. 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, bad breath in cats is indicative of some sort of irregularity.

How to find the cause of the bad breath

As always, your veterinarian is the best person to determine the cause of the bad breath. A physical examination can usually reveal the cause of your cat’s problem. If not, further tests will likely be recommended.


Bad breath is caused by dental issues

If the cause of your cat’s bad breath is dental, you will need to remove the buildup of tartar.  There are several cat foods out there that help reduce the buildup of tartar that contain enzymes that will help dissolve it.  You can also give your cat treats that are formulated to help eliminate and prevent tartar build up.  If the build up of tartar is bad, you may need to have your cat’s teeth professionally cleaned.  Once the tartar has been removed, the bad breath will go away.

You may be able to clean the tartar off your cat’s teeth at home.  There are several toothpastes on the market for this specific purpose.  Toothpastes that contain enzymes will dissolve tartar, helping to cure bad breath and prevent tartar build up.  If you start early with brushing your cat’s teeth, you can virtually eliminate any type of tartar build up that will ultimately lead to bad breath.

Diet can contribute to bad breath

Some bacteria that lead to tartar can be found in your cat’s diet.  When you feed your cat, you should always make sure that your cat food doesn’t have a lot of bacteria.  If you feed your cat a healthy diet, it can help his or her bad breath.  When you give your cat a treat, make sure that the treat is designed to help with tartar.  After your cat has finished eating, you can brush his teeth or rinse his mouth out… or at least make sure he or she drinks water.  This way, you’ll get the bacteria out of his mouth before it has time to build up on your cat’s teeth.

Bad breath can also indicate – in rare cases- kidney or liver disease

Sometimes, cats may have a bad odor in their mouth that doesn’t come from tartar or bad breath.  It is very unlikely, but sometimes bad breath can indicate either liver or kidney disease.  If you notice bad breath and you think it isn’t tartar, you should take your cat to the vet.  Your veterinarian can pinpoint the medical issue and recommend what to do next.


Sometimes we think that as our cats’ age, their breath worsens.  But, there has been no evidence that relates the two.  In fact, being proactive about your cat’s oral health is always important to prevent long term issues.  Make sure to bring your cat in for in for regular veterinary checkups to make sure he has no underlying medical issues that may cause halitosis.  Always have your vet monitor your cat’s teeth and breath (most good vets will do that).

If your cat tends to have a lot of tartar build-up, try to brush your cat’s teeth frequently with toothpaste specifically made for cats and tartar- build up.   It isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but some cats don’t mind it.   And, of course, make sure your cat eat a healthy diet.

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