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Bad Breath (Chronic) in Cats

Halitosis in Cats

Periodontal disease caused by plaque bacteria is the most common cause of bad breath in cats. The medical term used to describe the offensive odor that comes from the mouth is halitosis. Any number of causes may be responsible for this condition, but periodontal disease due to bacteria is the most common. Bacteria in the mouth is also associated with plaque and cavities.

Small cat breeds and brachycephalic breeds (characterized by their short-nosed, flat-faced features), such as Himalayans and Persians, are the most prone to periodontal and other mouth diseases, in part because their teeth are set close together.

Symptoms and Types

In most cases, there are no other symptoms aside from a bad odor emanating from the mouth. If the cause of the odor is a disease of the mouth, other symptoms may become apparent, including pawing at the mouth, an inability to eat (anorexia), and excessive drooling, which may or may not have traces of blood.

Causes

A variety of conditions can lead to halitosis, including metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus (commonly referred to as sugar diabetes); respiratory problems such as inflammation of the nose or nasal passages (rhinitis); inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis); and gastrointestinal problems, such as enlargement of the esophageal tube, the main channel that leads from the throat to the stomach.

Other possible causes of halitosis may be traced to a trauma, like one that is caused by an electric cord injury. Viral, bacterial, or fungal infections may cause the body to emit foul odors. Dietary problems may also play a role. For example, a cat that has been eating offensive foods, or is exhibiting a behavior called coprophagia, where it is eating feces or other inappropriate foods, will have correlating foul breath. Further possibilities are pharyngitis, an inflammation of the throat or pharynx, and tonsillitis, an inflammation of the tonsils. The presence of cancer, or the presence of a foreign object may also result in disease of the mouth and accompanying bad breath.

The most notable cause of halitosis is a disease of the mouth, such as periodontal disease, which is an infection of the gums and supporting tissues of the teeth. Periodontal disease caused by plaque bacteria is the most common cause of halitosis in cats.

Diagnosis

Diagnostic procedures to evaluate periodontal disease as the most likely cause of halitosis include x-rays of the inside of the mouth, and examination of the mouth for characteristics such as tooth mobility and sulfide concentrations.

 
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