Cat Lover's Month

Pet Health and Safety  •  Pam Karkow  •  Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Love your cat but not his breath?  While it is not unusual for your cat to have bad breath from time to time, consistent bad breath is a problem.  If you have noticed bad breath in your cat that does not seem to go away, or is getting worse, it is important you have him checked out for an underlying medical issue.

Hygiene is Key

If your cat has occasional bad breath, it may be from something as simple as a piece of food stuck in his teeth.  This is where good oral hygiene comes in. 

Professional Cleanings

Veterinarians recommend a professional teeth cleaning at least once a year.  PetPartners Wellness Plan can help offset the cost of dental care by allowing for one dental cleaning per year.  Research has shown that by the time most pets reach the age of three, they may have significant signs of periodontal disease, so keeping up with regular dental cleanings can save big in the long run. 

At-Home Teeth Brushing

You can also brush your cat’s teeth at home at least once a week.  Gayle O’Konski, DVM, recommends using a finger brush and poultry-flavored enzymatic toothpaste.  While your cat will not necessarily love the teeth cleaning process, following O’Konski’s plan (and following the cleaning up with a treat) can make it less traumatic.  She recommends slipping your finger onto the outside of your cat’s teeth, and concentrating on where the gum meets the tooth.  She also recommends starting slowly and then working up to longer toothbrushing sessions.  Offer DentaLife Chicken Flavor Treats afterward.

Causes of Bad Breath

If you have kept up with regular brushings and professional cleanings and your cat still has bad breath, it may be time to make an appointment with your vet.  Here are three more worrisome, but often treatable causes of bad breath…

1. Periodontal Disease

An infection that is the result of build-up of soft dental plaque on the surfaces of the teeth and gums, periodontal disease can cause tooth loss, bleeding gums, and pain.  If your vet diagnoses your cat with periodontal disease, he will most likely recommend a professional teeth cleaning, and regular care of your cat’s teeth and mouth.  In order to avoid infection, it is important to incorporate consistent oral hygiene into your cat’s schedule. 

2. Kidney Disease

If your cat’s breath smells like ammonia or urine, your cat may be plagued with kidney disease, an ailment not uncommon in senior cats.  Cats with kidney disease may also appear lethargic, experience weight loss, and drink more water than normal.  Dr. Marcia Landefield of Feline Veterinary Hospital says, “I’ve learned not to just look at the teeth.  I check kidney levels. That bad breath odor can mean toxins are building up.”  To diagnose kidney disease, your vet will examine your pet and perform a blood test and urinalysis.  Treatment involves dietary modifications and keeping your cat well hydrated.  As with most disease, the earlier kidney disease is detected, the better the prognosis.

3. Oral Cancer

A tumor in a cat’s mouth can become infected, and cause bad breath.  Dr. Bruce Gordon Kornreich, Associate Director of the Cornell Feline Health Center says, “Unfortunately, by the time cats with squamous cell carcinoma (and other types of oral cancer) are diagnosed, the prognosis is not good.” Although oral cancers cannot always be prevented, keeping your cat’s mouth healthy is a an important step to being proactive about his overall well-being.

Healthy Habits

If you’ve already been maintaining your cat’s oral health, keep it up!  If not, December is Cat Lover’s month and a good time to begin incorporating some good habits.  Maybe you need a gift idea for the feline in your life--try the Arm and Hammer Toothbrush and Toothpaste Set for Cats.  Your cat will have minty fresh breath in no time!

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