Why does my cat’s breath smell?


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Why does my cat's breath smell? Ever been close to your cat and thought his breath smelt awful? Here's why your cat's breath might smell bad...

There are many reasons why a cat’s breath can smell bad. First of all, we have to ask what we mean exactly by bad breath in our cat. Are we expecting ‘minty fresh’ from our feline friends? There is a specific smell to cats’ breath, but it should not be repulsive!

The most obvious reason why a cat would have bad breath is infection and inflammation in the mouth. Commonly, it is related to dental disease, where both teeth and the gums are affected.

Dental disease can present with a bad smell only; sometimes, there will be a heavy tartar build-up. Though, on many occasions, teeth will appear relatively fine to an unskilled observer, but gums will be inflamed and ulcerated (red and sore looking). There is a very painful and difficult to treat condition in cats called feline chronic gingivostomatitis, which presents as ulceration of the mouth in cats. As it can affect only the back of the mouth in some cases, bad breath may be the first visible sign detected.

Compared to dogs, cats rarely have infections around the mouth. We do not commonly see infected folds around the face, apart from in certain predisposed breeds like Persians. Though, sometimes, a smell from the infected skin near the mouth can be mistaken for bad breath.

It is also important to remember that the smell may originate in other parts of the body, for example airways and gastrointestinal tract. If there is infection and inflammation present in those parts, the bad smell can travel to the mouth. Diseases in the nasal cavity can also produce a bad smell.

A common foreign body, a blade of grass, or a small bone can become lodged above the soft palate and infection or inflammation surrounding it can lead to a bad smell. However, in those cats, we often see other signs like discharge from the nose, gulping sounds, and retching.

Unfortunately, occasionally, cats can suffer from cancer in the mouth, nose, and entrance to the airways. If these tumours become infected, the smell can be very significant.

The take-home message is that if you think that your cat’s breath is bad or it has become bad, trust your knowledge of your cat and contact your vet to check what may be the reason.