Halitosis, or bad breath, isn’t an issue prevalent only in humans. While you don’t expect your dog or cat to have minty fresh breath, it’s certainly noticeable when the odour coming from their mouth sends you reeling backwards.
Excessively stinky breath in cats and dogs is often a warning sign of a bigger problem. Unfortunately, there are several causes, a few of which can be difficult to identify. In many cases, bad breath is an indicator that more attention needs to be paid to your furry friend’s oral hygiene. But there are other, much more serious, health concerns that could be at play. We take you through a list of possible causes for your pet’s stinky breath.
Please remember that for an accurate diagnosis of your cat or dog’s bad breath, you will need to see a vet.
Eating something rotten or toxic
If you notice that your dog or cat has very smelly breath, it’s worth searching your home and yard to see if they’ve left traces of something they may have eaten. Check their bedding and regular hiding spots. Dogs, in particular, tend to have zero qualms about eating rotten food or faeces, and this could be the cause of bad breath. The worst case scenario is that they could have eaten something toxic like rat poison. This is usually immediately evident as your pet may display signs of convulsion, vomiting and frothing at the mouth. If you have any suspicions that your pet has eaten something toxic, take them to the vet ASAP.
Bad breath is most commonly the result of lax oral hygiene. Checking the general health of your pet’s teeth and gums is an important routine to get into. They may not like the idea of you prying open their mouth and having a proper inspection, but a bit of poking and prodding is a small price to pay to reduce the risk of painful oral infections. Keep in mind that smaller breeds of dog tend to be more susceptible to dental problems, so keeping your eye out for these symptoms is vital.
Your dog or cat’s bad breath could be caused by several oral problems including:
A buildup of tartar. Look out for yellowing teeth; a telltale sign of plaque that has hardened into tartar.
Gingivitis. If your pet’s gums have become red and inflamed, the bacteria from plaque may have infected their gums. This can make your cat or dog’s mouth very sore, and cause them to be hesitant eaters.
Periodontal disease. When gingivitis is left untreated, it can develop into periodontal disease. This is when the bacteria spread down into the roots of the tooth and eventually begin to separate it from the gum. Pus may be present in the cavity that has formed. It’s painful for your pet and will limit their willingness to eat, which in turn can cause many other health problems.
If your pet shows signs of any of the above oral infections, it’s best to consult your vet to determine the most appropriate cure. It’s wise to practice prevention to avoid bacterial infections of the mouth by maintaining an active dental hygiene routine for your pet. For more information, read our articles “Tips for curing your dog’s bad breath” and “The importance of pet oral hygiene”.
If your dog or cat’s breath smells distinctly metallic, or a bit like urine, it could be a sign that they have kidney disease. When your pet’s kidneys cannot process waste products, this can lead to a buildup of these products in the bloodstream, with one of the side effects being bad breath. If you notice that your cat or dog is drinking and urinating more often than usual, and shows signs of smelly breath, they may be experiencing serious problems with their kidneys.
Breath that smells stale, yet sweet or fruity could indicate that your pet may have diabetes. Excess sugar flowing through the bloodstream can cause this change to the smell of your dog or cat’s breath. Keep an eye on your pet to see if they are drinking and urinating more often, losing weight or becoming easily lethargic. These are all signs of diabetes, and should your pet display this behaviour; you will need to see your vet to discuss changes to their diet.
Often you will be able to tell yourself whether your dog or cat’s bad breath is due to dental problems simply by inspecting their teeth and gums. Just remember to treat their bad breath according to their personality. If your pet is easily excitable, brushing their teeth may not be the most effective way of maintaining oral hygiene. Try giving them a bone with plenty of raw meat on it to chew on instead. This is great for massaging the gums and preventing bacteria buildup.
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