Bad Breath in Dogs and Cats

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is even more common in pets than in humans. As in humans, halitosis may occur for a number of reasons in dogs, cats and other small mammals. In order to successfully treat the condition, the underlying cause must be addressed. Regular dental examinations should be part of the checkup of any animal with teeth.

Causes of Bad Breath in Dogs and Cats

The most common cause of halitosis in pets is a buildup of bacteria in the mouth. This may be the result of a lack of dental hygiene, or, if the condition has progressed, gingivitis or periodontal disease. If left untreated, excessive plaque buildup not only causes halitosis, but can lead to much more serious consequences, such as gum or bone infection and tooth loss.

There are many less common causes of halitosis in dogs and cats which have to be considered. These include:

  • Dietary indiscretions, eating stool or garbage
  • Abnormalities or Infections in the mouth
  • Sinus infections
  • Tonsillitis
  • Diabetes or some other autoimmune disorder
  • Kidney disease
  • Respiratory disease
  • Blockages of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Diseases of the liver or kidneys

Since it may be a symptom of any number of serious disorders, halitosis in animals should be investigated and properly diagnosed so it can be appropriately treated.

Diagnosis of Bad Breath in Dogs and Cats

Halitosis is itself a symptom, but its accompaniment by other symptoms may help in the diagnosis of its cause. Halitosis caused by dental problems may also result in brownish tartar on the teeth, drooling, red inflamed gums, difficulty eating, or pawing at the mouth. Halitosis resulting from what the animal has recently ingested should disappear within a few hours.

Other combinations of symptoms may indicate another root cause of the problem. Fruity or sweet breath with frequent drinking and urination may indicate diabetes. Breath that smells like urine may signal kidney disease. Breath with a foul odor, along with lack of appetite, vomiting or yellow eyes or gums, may indicate liver disease.

Diagnosing the cause of halitosis in pets may be possible through simple physical examination by a veterinarian, or may require blood, urine or other diagnostic tests.

Treatments for Bad Breath in Dogs and Cats

When bacterial buildup is the cause of bad breath, the situation can be remedied by veterinary care, including a thorough dental cleaning, and the maintenance of a regimen of toothbrushing and regular veterinary dental care.

Apart from assessing and treating underlying causes of an animal's halitosis, the following treatments may be helpful in making the breath more pleasant:

  • Feeding the animal a healthy, easily digestible diet
  • Brushing the animal's teeth frequently
  • Having the animal examined regularly by a veterinarian
  • Giving dogs hard chew toys or snacks
  • Use supplements or products recommended by the veterinarian

When an animal's halitosis is ongoing or combined with other disturbing symptoms, a veterinarian should always be consulted.

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