Dear Doctor: A Problem with Bad Breath
Q My nine-year-old cat’s breath has always been slightly unpleasant, but over the past few months, it has become noticeably worse. I would like to know what might be causing this, and if there’s anything I can do to remedy the problem.
A Dear Natalia: There are many possible causes for bad breath in cats, and many of the reasons are the same as they are for humans. Primary causes can include dental diseases, foreign material stuck in the mouth or ulceration of the mouth. However, there are also more severe causes, like oral tumors, lung disease and kidney disease.
For that reason, it’s very important that you schedule an appointment with your veterinarian in the near future to diagnose your cat — and hopefully rule out the more serious conditions. Your veterinarian will likely ask if you have noticed other symptoms, such as oral discharge, and any changes in eating habits or behavior.
Remember: The cat’s owner can truly be the “eyes and ears” of the veterinarian, noticing subtle things at home that may be extremely helpful and informative during the brief visit at the clinic.
If your cat receives a clean bill of health, you may consider changing his diet or using a feline finger toothbrush daily or every other day to help freshen his breath.
Michael Stone, DVM, ACVIM
Clinical Assistant Professor
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University