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What is Bad Breath?

Bad breath (halitosis) is only a real problem if it becomes chronic or is severe. Of course, your cat’s breath is most likely to smell like the food that it just ate. Some experts suggest that soft or canned foods might lead to worse breath; dry food can cleanse your cat's teeth. The following might signify internal problems - ammonia, citrus or sickeningly sweet feline breath.

Feline halitosis (bad breath in cats) could be caused by food, infections or something more serious, like diabetes or liver cancer. Chronic cat's bad breath could be due to a serious internal disease.

Symptoms of Bad Breath in Cats

Your family pet might like to rub noses with you or the kids, giving you a great chance to get a whiff of its breath. When a foul-smelling odor startles you, then your cat might have a significant problem. Here are the symptoms that may accompany bad breath in cats:

  • Aggressiveness
  • Appetite loss
  • Bleeding gums
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Excessive urination
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Mouth dysfunction
  • Oral cavity lump
  • Pain
  • Pawing mouth
  • Poor coat condition
  • Putrid odor
  • Reclusiveness
  • Swelling
  • Thirst
  • Vomiting
  • Weight Loss
  • Yellow, red or runny eyes

Of course, the difficulty with bad breath is that it also might be a symptom of other maladies. Is your cat more aggressive, irritable or reclusive with its bad breath? Does your cat start to eat, then jump back? This could be due to a painful tooth infection.

Swelling could occur in the gums, mouth or stomach. Does your cat have difficulties opening or closing its mouth? Mouth dysfunction could be a sign of a more serious ailment.

Causes of Bad Breath in Cats

Kitty halitosis can be caused by something as simple as smelly food or something as complicated as liver cancer. It could be a tiny obstruction, like food, a thread or a pebble. Bloody gums could be caused by an electrical cord injury.

Plaque or tartar can lead to viral, bacterial or fungal buildup. Tiny polyps, infections or an abscess might develop. Gastric acid reflux also stinks.

Your baby cat might be teething. Normally, cats have baby teeth fall out between 3 and 6 months.

Somewhat minor ailments causing bad breath could include endocarditis (inner heart tissue layer infection), esophageal tube enlargement, gingivitis, pharyngitis (inflammation of throat), rhinitis, sepsis (bacterial colonization of blood), sinusitis, stomatitis and tonsillitis (inflammation of tonsils). Coprophagia (eating of feces) could also be the cause.

Serious maladies leading to bad breath could include the following: Bartonella henselae, diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes), gastrointestinal, immunodeficiency virus renal failure, kidney, liver, neurological, periodontal, respiratory or skin diseases.

Diagnosis of Bad Breath in Cats

Veterinarians will conduct blood, biochemical or urinalysis diagnosis tests to determine the cause. These might include more specific FeLV or FIV tests. Ultrasound and X-rays display your cat's internal bone structure.

The veterinarian is likely to complete a physical examination of your cat's tongue, lips, gums, roof and back of the mouth. The vet might need to sedate your pet. The dental vet will also exam tooth mobility and sulfide concentrations, while your cat is under a local anesthetic.

Treatment of Bad Breath in Cats

Vets will search for any obstructions, injuries or infections. While you might want to simply give your cat human toothpaste, this is not advisable, because this is not meant to be swallowed. Also, cats don't like to have their mouths pried open forcibly.

Semi-annual professional cleansing, and polishing of your cat's teeth, gums, and mouth, is advised. Veterinarians might offer same-day blood work and general anesthetic tooth cleaning for removal of tartar, plaque, and abscesses. If severe oral disease is at fault, then tooth extraction may be necessary.

Corticosteroids and other antibiotics are used to treat stomatitis. Cancer treatment would require surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.

Recovery of Bad Breath in Cats

Of course, the recovery time for your cat will vary dramatically depending on the cause. If the feline halitosis is only due to something stuck under the gums, then your cat should enjoy a full and immediate recovery. On the other hand, liver cancer and others serious diseases could be life-threatening.

After a complete professional dental cleaning, your cat may be required to stay in the hospital for recuperation. Multiple tooth extractions could require the addition of fluids, pain medications, and oral antibiotics. The veterinarian will discuss what the owner can do to prevent the cat halitosis from recurring.

Bad Breath Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Blake (neutered male)
Russian Blue
5 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


Medication Used

Amoxicillin 3 days before and 3 day
Amoxil 3 days B4 and 3 days after

We have a middle age Russian Blue that we adopted a year ago. The previous owner only had him a few months and had few comments about him. After a while, we noticed a bad (poop) breath. Our vet examined him and said it was likely gingivitis, so we left him for tooth cleaning. He was placed on a hard food only diet + lots of water. Three months later, we got his teeth cleaned again by the same vet and it was just as bad. We tried to brush his teeth with baking soda and water, but only got bitten. He drinks lots of water. He has been neutered and declawed and he stays indoors. Our other cat, a tabby, has the same diet and no odor problems have been noticed with her, also declawed, spayed, and indoors only. Any help?

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12 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

bad breath

My husband has had this cat from day 1. Rescue her mom out of the snow. Well I’ve noticed over the last year or so her breath has gotten extremely smell. Literally smells like poop. She eats just fine but sleeps most of the day. Can’t really get her to play no matter what toy I use. No lumps or bumps any where on her body. Hasn’t been to a vet as I didn’t realize till getting on this site a simple thing could be so bad.

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Brian Helen
5 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

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Maine Coon
9 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Aggressiveness, Bad breath, knots
Aggressiveness, Bad breath

my 9 month old female cat has a couple of knots on her throat and horrible breath. She is aggressive most of the time. She bites a lot. I had her shots and she is fixed. I asked the dr. to look at her then and he said it was her teeth it would go away. When we had her fixed she was 3 months old. Its only gotten worse. She also had a hernia that was fixed at the same time I had her spade. Please help me. I love her so much. I don't have the money to keep taking her back to the dr but I will if I have too. I just don't want it to be cancer.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3318 Recommendations
Without examining Greyson I cannot say what the masses around the throat are or which structures they originate from; lymph nodes, salivary glands and other structures are in the throat which may cause a variety of different issues. If her breath is smelling bad and there are masses around the throat, I would recommend you visit another Veterinarian for a second opinion. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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5 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Putrid smell
Poor hygiene

I have a younger cat who we rescued and after having him for over 3 years his breath has progressively worsened. It has a fishy rancid smell as if there is infection or death. He frequently drools and does not clean himself very well if at all. Our other cat eats the same diet and cleans himself very well and has wonderful breath.

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Maine Coon
Mild condition
2 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Running Nose

my cat Filip who is 6 years old start having very running nose 3 months ago, I went to Vet, he told me that was just a cold, so no medication, 2 weeks after he give my cat yearly shots, week two weeks after my cat still was having running nose and stop eating, we end up in emergency 2 times, pictures of he abdominal was taken, nothing was find, on the day they were about to put feeding tube, he started eat on his own:) Since that I was twice to Vet,first proscription was prednisone - which helped little, than we try Viralys, but no improvement, than famicicovir which stop the running nose for 3 days and last two days he was on was congested bad. Now Im giving Filip Doxicilin first day. He still has running nose, clear discharge, but all the time, he was very active before now he is lot less, when he is breading he make noises, I know he has bad nos congestion, from time to time his nose is very hot and very dry. As I mention, he has taken picture for abdominal, longs, he was check for leukemia, all looks good... but he is not himself. Also from time to time he has very bad breath. Please help. Thank you!


Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3318 Recommendations
There are various causes for the symptoms which you have described which include dental issues, infections, allergies, foreign objects, parasites, tumours among other issues; if Filip is blocked up with his nose it may be worth trying to keep him in the bathroom whilst you shower as the humid warm air may help loosen any discharge in his nose offering temporary relief. It seems that your Veterinarian is treating for everything as there doesn’t seem to be a specific underlying cause, a antihistamine (cetirizine 5mg per day) may help but first wait to finish the current course of treatment with doxycycline. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Thank you:)

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Little miss
Domestic cat
7 Months
Mild condition
-1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Bad breath no other symptoms eats

I have a kitten she is 7 months she has a polyp removed it was benign but now her breath is starting to smell again the vet gave me an antibiotic it works for a little bit and now her breath smelling again

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1607 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without knowing where the polyp was removed from, or how long ago, i find it difficult to comment on what might be going on with her. Sometimes polyps can recur, but I'm not sure if that is what is causing her bad breath. It would be best to follow up with your veterinarian to see what the source of the problem is, and if further care is needed for her. I hope that everything goes well for her.

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