It can be difficult to notice that your cat has bad breath, often due to the reason that they are not as often close to our faces as, for example, dogs, who like to greet us by licking our faces. Even so, it is common for cat owners to think that it is normal for the cat to smell bad from the mouth, which is not true. A healthy cat may smell like the food they eat, but when their mouth starts to smell bad, it’s time to review their oral and dental health to prevent problems from getting worse.
Many cats have problems with their teeth at some point in their lives and the most common problem is plaque, which forms every day in the cat’s mouth. In fact, 70% of all cats over the age of 3 are most likely suffering from some sort of dental issue. A classic sign of plaque is that the cat’s mouth smells bad. However, it can be difficult to determine whether a cat’s breath is bad or not, as it can vary depending on age, diet and illness. In addition, we also need to think about what bad breath is. A normal cat’s breath does not smell like a human’s, and what smells perfectly fine to one cat owner, may smell bad to another. To have something to relate to, you can say that a healthy cat’s breath can smell a like the food they eat.
To summarize, a cat’s breath that smells slightly of cat food such as fish, chicken, or meat is therefore perfectly fine. When or if it starts to smell bad, it’s time to review your cat’s oral health since bad breath can be a sign of plaque that can lead to tartar, gingivitis, and other serious diseases.
Causes of bad breath in cats
The most common cause of bad breath in cats is poor dental hygiene. Every time cats eat, plaque builds up between their teeth, causing bacteria to accumulate. The bacteria thrive and form a film on the teeth and at the gum line called plaque that causes bad breath. However, bad breath can also be caused by other things, such as autoimmune diseases, kidney diseases, cancer, something stuck which collects bacteria, high blood sugar, the cat eating something toxic, nutritional deficiencies, dental disease or injuries in the mouth, but the most common reason is plaque.
Moreover, if the plaque is not removed regularly, it will be calcified and mineralized by the saliva in the cat’s mouth and turn into hard tartar. Tartar that is not removed can lead to inflammation of the gums, which will be very painful for your cat.
How do I know if my cat has gingivitis?
Since animals are not always good at communicating how they feel but are experts at hiding pain, it can be helpful to know the signs of gingivitis in cats. In addition to bad breath, poor appetite and gums that are red, swollen and even bleed are important to look out for. You can also pay attention to whether your cat loses weight, swallows food whole or only chews on one side of the mouth, scratches around their mouth or begins to drool.
Poor dental hygiene in cats can, if it goes too far, cavities, tooth loss, TR (tooth resorption), malnutrition and in extreme cases can lead to disease in organs,.
If a vet sees a cat in their clinic with oral and dental issues along with bad breath, they always look at your cat’s teeth to see what could be causing it. It is important to rule out tumors, kidney disease and autoimmune diseases. Gingivitis can be similar to other inflammations that cats can have in the mouth, such as stomatitis, which is due to other causes.
Tips and advice
As a pet owner, you can do a lot to keep your cat’s mouth healthy and to maintain good oral- and dental health. If you have ever tried to brush your cat’s teeth, we’re sure you know that this isn’t always the easiest, and their bites can really hurt. If you want to try brushing your cat’s teeth, the best thing you can do is to get them used to you handling the area around their mouth at an early age. Start slowly and reward when things go well. A flavoured toothpaste on a microfiber cloth like can be of help, and don’t forget to brush along the gum line where bacteria like to collect. Veterinarians also recommend that you combine tooth brushing with a nutritional supplement that will help keeping your pet’s teeth clean, and act as prevention against plaque that usually builds up alongside brushing. Swedencare’s dietary supplement ProDen PlaqueOff® Powder is a feed supplement against plaque and tartar and contains a specially selected and 100% natural & organic seaweed, called A.N ProDen® with proven positive effect against plaque, tartar and bad breath when used as directed. The Powder is sprinkled daily over wet or dry food to help your cat maintain good oral health and is also VOHC accepted. VOHC stands for the Veterinary Oral Health Council and they approve anti-plaque and tartar products for dogs and cats that meet their specific pre set standards. If you want to sneak in an extra reward for your cat, ProDen PlaqueOff® is also available as small chews and bites, which is perfect for the health- conscious pet owner. Our Dental Bites for Cats contain no added sugar, artificial preservatives, or colorings, making them a healthy and tasty treat for your cat. The products can be used perfectly in conjunction with each other.
8 tips on how to brush your cat’s teeth and avoid bad breath, plaque and tartar
- Take it step by step and let it take time when getting your cat used to tooth brushing.
- Start by gently touching your cat’s mouth and nose.
- Once your cat is okay with the above, you can try putting some toothpaste on your finger and gently rub against the canines.
- If you are going to use a toothpaste, it is important that you use one that is specially adapted for cats. It tastes better and is also designed for their oral health and body.
- After the canines, you can continue with the other teeth. Allow the cat to keep its mouth closed if it wants to and gently insert your finger under the lip.
- Gradually, you can try to introduce a toothbrush or try a microfiber cloth that you put on your finger and that helps with the mechanical cleaning, which is what is most important.
- Combine with a dietary supplement that helps against plaque and tartar, such as Swedencare’s ProDen PlaqueOff® Powder, or any of the chews.
- Don’t forget to reward with treats and cuddles!
For this article, we have enlisted the help of veterinarian Craig Morgan, who works at and runs the Lake Forest Animal Clinic in Alabama, USA.