HEALTH & CARE

How to Freshen Cat Breath: Make Those Kisses Sweet Again

cat having a bad breath
Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

Have you ever tried to mush your adorable cat’s face only to realize her mouth smells worse than an undead? This can easily spoil your snuggle time. Of course, you are very much aware that her breath can’t be minty fresh, but a horrid odor coming from your cat’s mouth is hardly ideal. Don’t worry; there are a lot of ways on how to freshen cat breath!

Bad breath (also known as halitosis) can be caused by many things. Poor dental hygiene, diet, or even medical conditions are some of the reasons. If the cat doesn’t receive any toys or treats that help remove plaque, food can stay in the mouth cavity and decompose. A diet that doesn’t sit well with your cat’s digestive system can also cause halitosis. Lastly, a medical condition you are not aware of can also be the culprit.

In this article, we will discuss all three aforementioned causes of bad breath and give you guidelines on how to resolve the situation. Firstly we will tell you about the possible medical causes. Then we will give you some great tips on how to freshen your furry buddy’s breath so you can go back to snuggling.

Medical Conditions that Cause Bad Breath

orange cat is ill

Some conditions that cause bad breath can be as benign as too much fish for dinner last night, but others can be very serious and require medical attention.

Generally speaking, bad breath is a red flag and should not be taken lightly. Oral diseases are risky because the mouth cavity is full of bacterial flora as it is, so disturbing that balance can lead to many other complications, and quickly.

We hope it is nothing serious. However you should read the list given below carefully and see if you can recognize any of the symptoms. The sooner you react, the better.

#1: Gingivitis

This condition is caused by the accumulation of dental plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a soft substance that builds up around the gums and hosts bacteria. This soft debris hardens over time and mineralizes, making a rough surface which causes more plaque to build up.

This is not only a problem when it comes to kitty kisses, though. The bacteria can irritate the flesh surrounding the teeth and cause tooth loss, bleeding, and pain. If left untreated it can also cause a lot of other problems in the digestive system.

#2: Periodontal Disease

Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. Gingivitis causes irritated gums but the teeth are still healthy and firm, and the condition can be reversed relatively easily.

Periodontal disease, on the other hand, means that the gum tissue has already pulled away from the teeth and created pockets where more debris can accumulate. At this stage, your cat needs professional veterinarian help to stop the disease.

See Also: How Many Teeth Do Cats Have

#3: Lymphocytic Plasmacytic Stomatitis

Stomatitis is a very serious condition that can be caused by many illnesses. The cat’s gums will be swollen and bleeding, which causes a lot of pain. Feline immunodeficiency virus, feline leukemia virus, and calicivirus are all known causes for this condition. Other known symptoms are a runny nose and frequent sneezing.

If your cat has these symptoms, make sure to contact your veterinarian so he/she can run the necessary blood tests.

#4: Oral Cancers

An oral tumor can become infected and cause bad breath. We sincerely hope this is not the case because treating oral cancer is a very dangerous and demanding ordeal for both you and your cat.

#5: Kidney Disease

Toxin build-up in the kidneys is a very common occurrence in older cats, especially those in the second decade of life. Lethargy, weight loss, and frequent urination are also symptoms of this condition.

Breath that smells like ammonia is a dead giveaway. Even if your cat is not a senior, make sure to run a urine analysis if you recognize these symptoms.

#6: Diabetes

Diabetes is also a common condition in senior cats, especially those who are overweight. Drinking a lot of water is one of the signs that should make you suspect it. Also, a fruity mouth odor is symptomatic for cats with diabetes.

Consult the veterinarian as soon as you can because this condition is easily treatable with insulin and a proper diet.

#7: Liver Disease

Liver disease is very easy to recognize. Cats with this condition can have a yellowish hue on the gum tissue or the ears and on the whites of the eyes. Since this condition can be caused by many illnesses, it is best to contact a veterinarian.

Remedies for Bad Breath

In this section, we will give you advice on how to treat bad breath, with regards to the condition that caused it. We will also give you some useful advice on how to improve bad breath if it is not caused by any of the aforementioned conditions. Lastly, we will give you tips on how to avoid this unpleasantry altogether.

#1: What Did She Have for Dinner?

gray cat eating meat

The first thing you should be asking yourself is: what does your cat eat on a daily basis? From our experience, wet food and meat are often to blame for bad breath.

If your cat ate fish for dinner, you might have your culprit right there. Liver and other intestines don’t leave anyone with a minty breath, so make sure to take this into account before you start to worry.

#2: Plaque Removal

 Plaque Removal

In a not-so-severe case of gingivitis, your cat might need a dental intervention. The procedure is pretty much the same for cats and humans, so there is nothing to worry about. The only difference is that your cat is going to be sedated during the procedure.

If your vet suggests taking an X-ray shot of the jaw to make sure no damage is done to the bones, make sure to take it.

#3: Brushing Teeth

orange cat brushing teeth

Once the plaque has been removed, your cat is going to have a glistening white smile. But that doesn’t mean that your job is done. Plaque will start accumulating again, so it is wise to start with prevention right away.

Brushing your cat’s teeth is the best method, although a bit demanding. It is very important to start slow and let your cat grow accustomed to the new daily routine.

Firstly, let your cat get used to you fiddling with her mouth. Petting slowly and gently lifting her upper lip (with a lot of treats on hand) is where you want to start. The next step is getting your cat to allow you to touch her teeth. Be patient, this process is very unusual for every cat, and it might take weeks to get to the actual brushing.

When your cat is relaxed and used to all of the above, introduce the cat toothbrush. There are lots of products out there, but one that is the easiest to use is a brush that can be put on the finger.

Of course, you should also get a feline toothpaste. There are many flavors to choose from so find the one your cat likes the most.

See Also: How to Brush Cat Teeth

#4: Dental Diets

cats eating

In the very early stage of gingivitis, when the plaque has not accumulated a lot, it is possible to reverse the process with a dental diet.

Clinically tested and approved dental food has a VOHC stamp on the bag (it means “Approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council”). This food acts like a toothbrush because of a special formula that is full of fiber. These fibers remove plaque as your cat bites on them.

Special treats that you can buy in a pet store can also reduce plaque build-up. Giving your cat beef tendons cut in thin slices is also a good inexpensive treat that can help clean her teeth, and it will keep her full for some time.

#5: Antibiotics

curing a cat

If your cat has a more serious underlying medical condition, she might have to receive antibiotics. Oral infections should always be treated seriously because they can spread quickly to other organs and cause a lot of health complications.

#6: Removing Teeth

removing cat's teeth

In very serious cases of periodontal disease, some teeth might be so damaged or dislocated that removing them is the only option. Although this can solve a burning issue, you will have to change a lot of your cat’s habits, including the diet.

Some foods might be too hard to chew on or might harm the exposed gums, so make sure to consult the veterinarian about all the necessary steps you have to take.

#7: Vaccination

cat's vaccination

We have already mentioned that some feline diseases might be the cause of bad breath. In this case, your best prevention is vaccination. Calicivirus and many other nasty diseases can be easily avoided this way.

See Also: Cat Vaccination Schedule

#8: Dietary Changes for Cats with Kidney Disease

water for cats

Minimizing the intake of phosphorus is crucial for this condition. There are prescription foods that can be acquired in pet stores or at your vet’s office. In general, wet food is preferable.

Another factor that many owners don’t know about is protein intake. Some proteins are more difficult to break down which may lead to the accumulation of toxic matter in the blood.

A raw meat diet is also a good choice if your cat refuses to eat prescription food, but beware: choosing this path means you will have to do a lot of research. Also, there should be a water source available at all times, because cats with chronic kidney diseases can easily become dehydrated.

#9: Buy Quality Kibble

Quality Kibble

While it might be more expensive, it will save you a lot of money in the long run. Low-quality food is full of additives, phosphates, and taste enhancers that are not beneficial to your cat’s health.

Make sure to read the ingredients list very carefully. Meat and meat products should always be on top of the list. Artificial colors and flavors should definitely be avoided.

One pro for the kibble is that it cleans the teeth somewhat. Wet food leaves more debris in the mouth cavity, causing the infamous plaque, so make sure to add a bowl of good kibble every so often.

#10: Water Additives

There are special water additives for pets that can save you from having to brush your cat’s teeth. The additives are usually tasteless and odorless, so your cat won’t even know you are fiddling with her water.

See Also: How to Get a Cat to Drink Water

#11: Powder Supplements

You can find food supplements in powder form and add them to your cat’s food. These usually contain minerals and probiotics that fight bacteria and the accumulation of plaque.

If you decide to go with this kind of additive, make sure to consult your veterinarian. He/she will give you valuable advice on which brands are really effective and which are just overpriced mumbo-jumbo.

#12: Lemon Juice

lemon juice

Citric acid is known to be an effective remedy to mouth odor. It is also mildly acidic, thus preventing the formation of plaque. Cats are usually not fans of the smell of lemon, but if you add just a couple of drops to her water, she probably won’t notice.

The general rule of thumb is two to three drops of natural lemon juice in one cup of water, once a week.

#13: Carrots

carrots

This vegetable is rich in fiber which helps remove plaque. You can put a small amount (one pinch) of finely grated carrot into your cat’s food from time to time. Keep an eye (or better, a nose) on your cat and see if there is any improvement.

#14: Brown Rice

Brown Rice

Although carbs should generally not be a regular part of the feline diet, some brown rice can be added to the food from time to time. It improves digestion and fights off plaque build up. Just make sure not to overcook it because mushy food does more harm than good.

#15: Visit the Vet Regularly

Yes, we know this is a no-brainer, but just to be safe, ask your vet to run a blood and urine test, at least once a week. You can save time and do all of this during your annual vaccination appointment.

See Also: How Often Should You Take Your Cat to the Vet

Wrap Up

cat kissing her owner

Bad breath is not just a mild unpleasantry. It can be caused by many conditions, some of which are very serious and can even be lethal if left untreated. Unfortunately, our furry friends can’t tell us what is bothering them, so more often than not, they are forced to live with discomfort without us even realizing it.

Animals that endure pain can often become aggressive, asocial, or easily irritated. It is very important to keep an eye on your cat’s body language and react if you find her behavior unusual.

If you notice a bad odor from your cat’s mouth, make sure to check the gum coloration, inspect the teeth, and skin color. We sincerely hope there is nothing more to it than a pungent dinner from last night, but prevention is always better than a late reaction.

Even conditions that seem benign, such as gingivitis, can cause a lot of problems later on if left untreated. That can severely affect your pet’s quality of life and bring a lot of pain to both of you. React quickly and accordingly, and we are sure you will have a lot more years to spend together.

Having been made aware of all the causes of bad breath above, what do you think is the cause of the unpleasant smell in your cat’s mouth? Let us know your thoughts and opinion in the comments section below! You may also be interested in learning more about how to treat dry skin on cats.

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.

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