Halitosis in cats

There’s not a whole lot that’s much cuter than tiny little cat faces. It’s why we’re all so obsessed with cat videos. But no matter how cute your cat is, it can be kind of a downer when you pick them up to snuggle their little faces and — BAM — you’re smacked with some seriously bad cat breath. Sure, halitosis could just be something they ate. But halitosis in cats could also be indicative of a larger problem, like a dental disease or infected gums.

What are the potential symptoms of halitosis in cats?

Honestly, you’ll know it when you smell it. Healthy cat breath is usually pretty mild. Here’s what to watch for overall:

  • Sulfur-smelling breath
  • Plaque or tartar buildup on your cat’s teeth
  • Red, inflamed gums
  • Blood marks on things they’ve been chewing on
  • Something stuck in their mouth
  • Excess drool
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Ulcers, sores, or growths in the mouth or under the tongue

What tests are used to confirm halitosis in cats?

For halitosis, your vet will first take a look inside your cat’s mouth (possibly with sedation, since your cat probably won’t want another creature’s paws in its mouth) to see if periodontal disease might be causing the issue and then go a little deeper if necessary.

  • Oral examination. They’ll check for things like plaque buildup, rotten or broken teeth, swollen gums, abscesses, signs of infection, autoimmune disease, or tumors.
  • X-rays as needed. This will show if any teeth are broken, abscessed, or need to be removed.
  • Ancillary tests. The vet will test for any other conditions that can cause halitosis in cats. It’s rare, but kitty’s bad breath could be related to some sort of cancer in the lungs or throat, or even diabetes or kidney disease.

What is the treatment for halitosis in cats?

Since halitosis in cats can often be caused by periodontal disease, the treatment plan will be to first do a deep cleaning of your pet’s teeth. They’ll likely have to be sedated for the cleaning. The vet will remove anything stuck in your cat’s mouth, scrape the plaque and tartar away, clean under the gums, and, if necessary, take some X-rays and remove teeth. Your cat may also get some medication to treat troublesome spots. If the halitosis is caused by something else, like kidney disease, you’ll start a treatment plan for that issue.

What is the typical cost of treatment for halitosis in cats?

Depending on your vet and your location, it can cost anywhere from $100 to $400 to treat halitosis. That’s just for cleaning your cat’s teeth — the low end doesn’t require any extractions. If your cat’s stinky breath is caused by a larger issue like an abscessed tooth, costs will be relative to treatment of that issue.

Hours at the vet: As little as 3 hours, as long as all day if they’re receiving general anesthesia.

What are the recovery steps for halitosis in cats?

  • Completely clean your cat’s teeth.
  • Maintain their healthy mouth with regular cleanings and checkups.

How do I prevent halitosis in cats?

It’s not likely that you or your cat will enjoy this, but the best way to prevent halitosis in cats is to brush their teeth regularly. That means every day, ideally. Start slow and reward your cat with a treat after a successful brushing. Every week you do it, inch further into the mouth until you can reach the back without incident.

Dental treats might be useful as well. Dr. Bert Dodd, clinical professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, says they can help scrape plaque and tartar off teeth. Just be wary of offering too many, as they add to your cat’s daily caloric intake. Some cats might also benefit from chlorhexidine oral rinses or gels, but stay away from water additives as they can discourage drinking.

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