Dear Doctor: Worsening Breath


Q. My cat’s breath has never been particularly pleasant, but I’ve noticed over the past year or so that it’s getting worse. At her last check-up, the vet said her teeth are fine and that she could even wait to have her next cleaning, so I don’t think it’s a dental issue. Does a cat’s breath simply worsen with age?

Carrie Sedler

Canton, Ohio

Dear Ms. Sedler,

A. No, a cat’s breath does not naturally worsen as she grows older. Something is probably wrong. Don’t rule out a dental issue. In the time since your pet’s last veterinary visit, she could have developed an abscess or some other problem that could induce a foul-smelling odor. People, too, can develop serious dental issues in between routine check-ups.

If it’s not her teeth causing the odor, it could be an ulceration in her mouth or even foreign material stuck somewhere in the oral cavity. More serious causes of bad breath include oral tumors, lung disease, and even kidney disease.

That’s why you should not chalk up the change to age and instead schedule a visit with your veterinarian for a diagnosis (and hopefully rule out the more serious conditions). Your cat’s doctor will likely ask a series of questions, including whether there has been any oral discharge or any changes in eating habits or other behavior. As we always say, you are your pet’s front line health care provider; your own observations help the doctor know what direction to go in when trying to get to the cause of symptoms.

On the chance that your cat gets a clean bill of health, consider gradually changing her diet and/or brushing her teeth at least every other day. Those alterations in habits can substantially tamp down on an unpleasant scent if nothing else is wrong.


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