Causes of Bad Breath in Pets

October 16, 2013

By Linda Cole

It’s hard to resist doggy kisses when you get home from work, or a close-up meow from your kitty just before dawn when she’s ready for breakfast. If your pet has bad breath, though, it could indicate that they have a health issue you need to be concerned about.

Periodontal disease is by far the most common reason why a pet has bad breath. Plaque buildup can cause gingivitis, and if left untreated can turn into periodontal disease. It can cause pets to lose their teeth, develop gum disease, and can cause damage to the kidneys and heart.

Teething puppies will often have a fishy smelling breath. This is not the same thing as puppy breath, however. Teething pets will chew on anything they can find. A piece of food, string, wood or bits of a chewed up toy can get lodged in the mouth or between the teeth and cause an infection of the gums. Teething pups and kittens have a tendency to drool, which can lead to halitosis.

Sometimes a pup or older dog can have breath that smells like they’ve been eating feces, which is very possible, especially if there’s a cat litter box in the home and it’s accessible to the dog. Pets also groom themselves around their anal glands which can produce a fishy or dead smell in their mouth. Intestinal problems or worms can also cause bad breath. In older pets, a bad tooth that needs to be pulled, an obstruction stuck in the throat or mouth can cause an infection and produce an odor. Pawing at the mouth is a good indication something is bothering them.

Kidney and liver disease can affect a pet’s breath. Odor producing bacteria in a pet’s gut, lungs or mouth can build up and produce a bad smell. A persistent odor is a good indication something is wrong in the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys or liver, and should be checked out by your vet. Kidney disease can produce a urine smell. Liver disease can produce a foul smell. Vomiting, no appetite and yellow looking gums and/or eyes are symptoms of liver disease.

Diabetes can produce a fruity or sweet smelling breath. The main symptoms of a pet with diabetes is excessive thirst and having to urinate more often. Sometimes a pet may be hungry all the time. This disease is more often seen in obese pets, although even ones at a proper weight can develop diabetes.

Feline leukemia and FIV are both autoimmune diseases that affect cats. In the early stages of the disease, a cat doesn’t appear to be sick, and the only way to know is through a blood test. If you notice bad breath in your cat, along with a loss of appetite, pale gums, runny eyes or nose, vomiting, lethargy and weight loss, these are all symptoms of a serious health issue that needs your vet’s attention. Another condition that may be autoimmune is feline stomatitis, a painful oral inflammation.

Other causes of bad breath in pets can be an abscess in the mouth, inflammation of the nasal passage or the nose, inflammation of the sinuses, tumors, cancer, skin disease around the tissues of the lips, or trauma of the mouth, from chewing on or through an electrical cord. Pica is a condition where a dog or cat eats non-food items like rocks, dirt, plastic, clothing, toys or other unhealthy things.

A poor diet can also be a source of a pet’s bad breath. A high quality pet food, like the CANIDAE grain free Pure line of dog and cat food, helps to support a pet’s immune and digestion system as well as maintain a proper weight for a healthier life.

Plaque buildup on your pet’s teeth may be the cause of bad breath. Brushing your dog or cat’s teeth can be an uphill battle in the beginning, but if you start slowly and stay patient, you can teach your pet to accept a daily brushing. It only takes a few minutes to brush your pet’s teeth once they get past the “Get that thing out of my mouth” stage.

Bad breath in pets isn’t normal, and should be checked out by your vet. Having your pet’s teeth cleaned professionally may be all it takes to give your pet back his fresh breath. However, if the cause of his foul mouth is something else, it’s always easier to treat a medical issue in the early stages, so don’t ignore bad breath.

Top photo by joaquinuy
Bottom photo by wsilver

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