Cat bad breath is inevitably a signal that there is some deeper medical issue that needs attending to. Discover what causes cat halitosis and how if can be treated and prevented.
Getting a whiff of fishy breath every time you get up close and personal with your pet can take much of the pleasure out of the relationship.
It is not something to be endured – either for you or your furry friend. If your cat’s breath is smelly, or the cat only chews on one side of its mouth, then there is likely occult (hidden) oral pain and it’s best checked out. So lets look at:
Before we get into the serious stuff, here's a new twist on an old problem from the good people at CutiesNFuzzies. :)
The feline face shape and tooth design and arrangement make the cat family the ultimate hunting machines. But few urban domestic cats hunt, so their teeth are prone to deterioration and disease through lack of intended use.
The sharp eye, or canine teeth have a special ‘blood-letting’ groove in them - so they stab their prey quickly and almost painlessly. The feline’s jaw muscles are also very powerful, and nerves in the canine tooth allow the cat to apply pressure from 1 psi to 180 psi so a cat knows whether it is biting deeply or just nipping.
The back teeth (carnassials) are for slicing through skin, muscle and abdominal organs to get mice and other meaty things into bite-sized pieces that are then swallowed whole.
It also turns out your cat’s oral health relates back to its mother - how she was fed during pregnancy, and whether she was in a colony with any of the virulent calici-viruses that trigger the juvenile gum disease. So although not always possible, knowing your cat's heritage and upbringing can help.
Cats teeth are very different from human teeth and must be treated differently. As cat dentistry has evolved many things that work on humans have been tried and tested. Some of them work, others have been found a waste of time. And, of course, the cat’s age and history will affect the treatment chosen.
So let’s look at some of the treatments that you may have been told about from the point of view of the latest research.
Brushing and fluoride:
Whilst this is an essential part of human dental care to prevent bad breath it doesn’t work for cats. Cat tooth enamel is only 1/3 as thick as ours and many other animals - so brushing may even be detrimental!
And cats don’t like having their teeth brushed so this is not going to be a bonding experience like combing their coat for fleas. More, importantly, Dr Kim has not seen any increased dental health among those who have had them brushed regularly.
Some of the mouth rinses on the market are quite useful for reducing bacterial plaque and maybe bacterial load in the blood stream. However, that treatment is reserved for cats for whom a full anesthetic and major oral surgery to remove teeth is too risky such as those elderly cats with bad hearts, or kidneys that are too far gone to risk it.
Fluoride has also been found useless in the treatment the dental disease that cats get. This disease is called Feline Odontoclastic Resorbtive Lesions (FORLs). You can read more about this in the section for vets.
Scaling and polishing:
Prophylactic scaling and polishing of cats’ teeth - though a popular veterinary pastime - has not proven to increase the longevity of either cats or their teeth.
The dental food products - especially Prescription t/d’s (what are t/ds) and Royal Canine Dental diet - do polish your cat’s teeth resulting in much less tartar. However, tartar is not the same as disease, and cats will still eat the t/ds even with no teeth!
Very likely your cat is going to lose some teeth and sometimes it's best to help nature along and remove them. The sooner the pain and infection is gone, the better for the cat and the easier it is to save any unaffected teeth.
Recently doctors have noticed a relationship between oral health and general health, especially those with poor oral hygiene such as homeless people. However, it has been found that if you remove a homeless persons decayed or diseased teeth they spend a lot less time in ill or in hospital.
Since a cat’s oral hygiene is about the same as homeless persons, we can draw the same conclusion.Taking bad teeth out reduces pressure on the kidneys in cats because there is less bacteria floating around and that, in turn, improves a cat’s general health.
Radical removal of all the teeth, if more that 70% are damaged, will increase a cat’s comfort and its life span.As long as the long canine teeth can be saved, the outdoor cat can still defend itself and, if so inclined, kill mice.
Dr Kim now thinks it is the cats who chew bones or tear meat as they would in the wild who retain good teeth. The problem is that most commercial cat foods are soft and mushy.
So if you can encourage your cat or kitten to chew on chicken necks, brisket bones or tear the meat off cutlets, let them do it often - at least twice a week. Your cat will then be far ahead of the game of keeping a fishy breath free mouth with healthy teeth. And of getting your unreserved affection.
When it comes right down to it treating cat bad breath is easy. Visit your vet and if they find a tooth or gum looks abnormal it can be removed. And feel free to show your vet this article.
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