Academy Animal Hospital, Greenwood, Indiana
Is your pet’s bad breath something to be concerned about? Vets often hear questions about bad breath in cats and dogs. Here are some tips for determining whether your pet’s breath is just stinky, or a sign of something more serious.
Mild Stink is Normal
A mild odor is normal in both cats and dogs. When you are very close to your pet’s mouth, their breath may smell like their food, often slightly fishy for cats and slightly gamey for dogs. It should be noticeable but not horrible.
A good way to gauge whether your pet’s breath odor is more serious is to pay attention to how close you have to get to them to smell their breath. If you can sit several feet away from them and smell stinky breath, it’s probably not normal odor.
Another rule of thumb is the wincing rule, which means if your pet’s breath is so bad it makes you wince, something could be wrong.
Oral Hygiene and Periodontal Disease
One of the top suspects in bad breath is periodontal disease, where buildup of plaque and tartar creates an environment that encourages bacterial growth. Your pet can experience mouth inflammation, cavities, infections, tooth and tissue loss, and open sores or pus. Just like humans, pets can get the dental disease gingivitis.
All of this leads to smelly breath and possible pain for your pet. Consult with your vet about tooth brushing, mouth care treatments, and other ways to promote healthy oral care, like specialty chew toys.
Another common cause of bad breath is eating unpleasant things - which you might not even realize. Are you sure your dog isn’t eating out of your cat’s litter pan? Are you sure your cat isn’t eating mice in the basement? These things are gross to consider, but could be contributors to your pet’s health issues.
Table scraps can be another culprit. Rich foods intended for humans can be detrimental to dogs and cats. These foods can create gas in the digestive system, mouth infections, and other health problems that add to bad breath.
Does your pet’s breath smell fruity? Diabetes can give pets’ breath a sweet odor. If you detect this distinctive smell, especially if your pet’s drinking and urination habits have changed, make a vet appointment right away.
Kidney or Liver Disease
Bad breath can also go along with things like kidney disease and liver disease. If your pet’s breath smells like urine, there may be a problem with kidney function. Foul breath accompanied by vomiting could be an early sign of liver disease.
If your pet’s bad breath becomes noticeable when they are also exhibiting the following symptoms, see your vet right away to rule out organ disease:
- Moaning or growling constantly
- Drinking significantly more or less often
- Not urinating
- Refusing to eat
- Hiding for long periods
Preventing Bad Breath Through Good Habits
If your vet has ruled out medical causes for your pet’s bad breath, but you’d still like to minimize the stink, here are some tips for good oral health.
- Schedule regular dental cleanings with the veterinarian.
- Brush your pet’s teeth daily with a soft brush and pet-safe toothpaste.
- Provide good nutrition and avoid table scraps.
- Refresh your pet’s water supply frequently to encourage hydration.
- Ask the vet about toys, treats, and food for oral health.
- Help your pet get exercise, which promotes overall health.
Click here to reach out to the experts at Academy Animal Hospital for more information about pet oral health.