Cats can hide diseases and problems, but when a symptom is as obvious as drooling or as foul smelling as bad breath, it is hard to ignore. These symptoms can be indications of serious problems not only in your cat’s mouth but also perhaps in other parts of its body, too.
Causes of Bad Breath and Drooling in Cats
There are a few different causes of bad breath and drooling in cats, and while most of them involve disease within the mouth, there may be other reasons for these symptoms as well.
Causes of Bad Breath and Drooling in Cats
- Oral tumors
- Periodontal disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Intestinal blockages
- Oral trauma
- Respiratory disease
Oral Tumors in Cats
Growths or tumors inside the mouth of a cat can grow, become infected, and emit a foul odor. This causes bad breath in your cat along with drooling if the tumor is large enough to cause issues with swallowing. Tumors inside the oral cavity are often not obvious, since they can be in the back of the mouth or even under the tongue. It isn’t until they begin to cause issues or a thorough oral examination has been performed that they are noticed.
Periodontal Disease in Cats
Your cat’s teeth can harbor bacteria and food debris if they are not regularly brushed. These items can accumulate and then cause an infection around the teeth and irritate the gums resulting in periodontal disease. Periodontal disease may also include abscesses under the gums along with bad breath and drooling. If not addressed, periodontal disease may result in teeth falling out or extractions.
Kidney Disease in Cats
The kidneys can unfortunately fail at some point in a cat’s lifetime and if this happens bad breath is sometimes an indication. Kidneys filter toxins from the blood of a cat and if the kidneys are not operating well or in failure they are not able to do their job. This leads to a build-up of toxins in the blood and results in halitosis.
Liver Disease in Cats
If your cat’s breath smells like bile or vomit then liver disease could be the reason for this bad breath. The liver helps detoxify the body and produces bile which aids in the digestion of fats but if the liver is not working properly you may smell a foul odor coming from your cat’s mouth. Vomiting is also often seen in cats with liver disease, so this can of course cause bad breath, too.
Diabetes in Cats
Bad breath as a result of uncontrolled diabetes in a cat has a distinct fruity or sweet smell. Since a cat with diabetes cannot convert fatty acids from fat tissue to triglycerides for energy, the fatty acids are converted to unusable ketones instead. These ketones cause the sweet smelling breath often noticed in cats in diabetic ketoacidosis.
Intestinal Blockages in Cats
Cats are known to eat things they shouldn’t, and sometimes these items cause a blockage in the intestinal tract. If the intestines aren’t able to move food through the body it can result in damage to the intestinal tract. Circulation may even be cut off leading to the die off of some of the intestines. This necrosis along with the vomiting that will occur in a cat with an intestinal blockage leads to very bad breath.
Oral Trauma in Cats
Similarly to if a cat has an infected or bleeding tumor in the oral cavity, trauma to the mouth can result in bad breath and drooling. Infections or bleeding from a wound cause discomfort, a bad odor, and drooling that often has blood in it. This type of trauma may occur after a cat bites an electrical cord or has a piece of string cutting off circulation on its tongue.
Respiratory Disease in Cats
Some cats have respiratory issues that affect their sinuses and nasal passages. These issues usually involve inflammation and are referred to as rhinitis and sinusitis. The inflammation may also lead to infection and can result in bad breath.
Treatment of Bad Breath and Drooling in Cats
Depending on the cause of the bad breath and drooling, surgery, dental work, or medications will be needed to fix the underlying problem. Blood work may be run to check how the internal organs are functioning, X-rays may be taken to assess the lungs, stomach, or intestines, and a full oral examination will be performed to check for oral tumors, trauma, or potential periodontal disease. Sometimes sedation or full anesthesia is necessary to examine the mouth and a treatment plan intended to fix the bad breath and drooling will be discussed with you by your veterinarian.
Bad Breath: Signs of Illness?. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Halitosis in Cats. VCA Hospitals.
Oral Cavity Tumors. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Common Cat Dental Problems. VCA Hospitals.
Does Your Cat Have Bad Breath?. Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.