Bad Breath in Dogs and Cats: It’s Not Normal

A cat yawning and showing all of its teeth

Bad Breath in Dogs and Cats: It’s Not Normal

Many pet owners have experienced that moment when their dog or cat leans in for a snuggle, only for them to recoil at the smell of their breath. While it might be tempting to dismiss bad breath as a common and harmless issue, it’s important to understand that persistent bad breath in pets is not normal. In fact, it often indicates underlying health issues that require attention.


Understanding Halitosis in Pets


Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is typically a sign of dental disease or other health problems. Pets are unable to communicate their discomfort directly, so it’s up to us to recognize the signs and take action. If your pet’s breath consistently smells unpleasant, it’s time to investigate further.


Common Causes of Bad Breath

  1. Dental Disease: The primary cause of bad breath in dogs and cats is dental disease. Plaque and tartar build-up on teeth can lead to gingivitis (gum inflammation) and periodontal disease (infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth). These conditions cause bacteria to proliferate, resulting in bad-smelling breath. If left untreated, dental disease can lead to tooth loss, pain, and serious infections.


  1. Oral Infections: Infections in the mouth, whether bacterial, viral, or fungal, can cause bad breath. These infections often result from untreated dental issues but can also occur due to injuries, such as foreign objects lodged in the mouth (ex: sticks). 


  1. Systemic Diseases: Sometimes, bad breath can indicate a problem beyond the mouth. Conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and gastrointestinal disorders can all cause halitosis. For example, a sweet or fruity smell might suggest diabetes, while a urine-like odor could indicate kidney issues.

Why Bad Breath Shouldn’t Be Ignored


Bad breath is more than just an inconvenience; it can be a warning sign of serious health issues. Dental disease, if left untreated, can lead to systemic infections that affect the heart, liver, and kidneys. Moreover, the pain and discomfort associated with dental problems can significantly reduce your pet’s quality of life.


Preventive Measures

A small dog having teeth brushed at vet dental cleaning appointment

  1. Regular Vet Visits: Schedule regular veterinary check-ups to monitor your pet’s dental health and address any issues promptly. Your vet may recommend an anesthetized dental cleaning and diagnostics imaging to assess your pets oral health. 


  1. Regular Brushing: One of the most effective ways to prevent dental disease and bad breath is by brushing your pet’s teeth daily. Use pet-specific toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Start slowly, gradually getting your pet used to the process.


  1. Dental Chews and Toys: Safe dental chews and toys designed to clean teeth can help reduce plaque and tartar build-up. Ensure that these products are safe and appropriate for your pet’s size and chewing habits. In general, if you cannot flex or indent a toy with your fingernail, it is hard enough to break a tooth.


Dog & Cat Dental Care Fort Collins


Bad breath in cats and dogs is not normal and should never be ignored. It often signals dental disease or other health problems that require attention. By maintaining good oral hygiene, providing a healthy diet, and scheduling regular veterinary visits, you can help ensure your pet’s breath stays fresh and their overall health remains optimal. Don’t let bad breath come between you and your furry friend’s affection—act today to keep to keep your pet healthy.