Porky and Buddy Pet Health: Dealing With Feline Bad Breath

Dear Porky and Buddy,

Sorry to have to bring up such a nasty subject, but my cat Cleo has really bad breath.

Since nothing that I say to her about it seems to work, (as always she just ignores any criticism) I thought I would turn to you for help.

What could be causing it and what should I do?


Dear John,

Don’t worry about grossing us out, really.  We gross ourselves out pretty often.

Bad breath in cats can be caused by a number of health problems. While our breath isn’t supposed to be minty fresh — we do, after all, eat smelly canned pet food — there could be an underlying medical problem.

Most often, bad breath is caused by a build-up of odor-producing bacteria in your pet’s mouth. This can be a result of dental or gum disease.

We’re just like humans in that respect. Diet can also be a contributing factor. Chronic bad breath, however, can indicate more serious medical problems, such as abnormalities in the mouth, respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, liver or kidneys.

Bad breath is a possible warning sign that should always be investigated.

Your veterinarian is the best person to pinpoint the cause.

A physical examination may reveal the cause of her  problem. If not, further tests may be recommended. Be ready to answer questions about Cleo’s diet, exercise habits and general attitude and behavior.

Some symptoms will definitely require veterinary attention.

They include: excessive brownish tartar on your cat’s teeth, especially when accompanied by difficulty eating or inflamed gums, all signs of gum disease;  unusually sweet or fruity breath, which could indicate diabetes, particularly if Cleo has been drinking and urinating more frequently than usual; breath that smells like urine, which can be a sign of kidney disease; an unusually foul odor accompanied by vomiting, lack of appetite, and yellow-tinged corneas and/or gums, which could signal a liver problem; and pawing at the mouth.

Treatment will depend on your vet’s diagnosis. If plaque is the culprit, Cleo might require a professional cleaning. If the cause is gastrointestinal or an abnormality in your pet’s liver, kidneys or lungs, please consult your vet about steps you should take.

We hope none of these serious problems are found.

In the meantime, being proactive about your pet’s oral health will not only make your life together more pleasant, it’s smart preventive medicine.

As always, bring Cleo in for regular checkups to make sure she has no underlying medical issues that may cause bad breath.

Brush her teeth frequently — every day is ideal. (Please be sure to use toothpaste formulated for cats as human toothpaste can upset your pet’s stomach).

Your vet can show you how to get started with this task — it’s not as hard as giving her a pill. Talk to your vet about feeding a diet that will help to prevent dental disease. Some feel that the abrasive action caused by chewing hard kibble can slow down the formation of plaque.

And ask too about any oral health products that she would recommend.

One last word of advice — for the time being stop kissing her on the lips.  It will wreck your social life.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter assistance, information and referral, adoption assistance to pet owners, humane education programs, foster care and adoption  for pets in urgent need, assistance with lost and found pets.

Our administrative offices and spay/neuter clinic are located at 265 W. First St., Oswego, NY.

Check our web site at www.oswegohumane.org or call (315) 207-1070 for more information or to be placed on our mailing list for our newsletter.