Causes of Cat and Dog Bad Breath

Causes of Cat and Dog Bad Breath

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Cat and dog bad breath is caused by bacteria building up in the pet's lungs, mouth, or stomach. Learn more about the causes at PetCareRx.

You’ll know it when you smell it: Your pet’s bad breath may just require a good brushing, but it can also indicate a more serious medical concern. As with people, bad breath is caused by bacteria building up in a cat or dog’s lungs, mouth, or stomach. If your pet’s breath isn’t pleasant -- and particularly if it gets drastically more pungent than usual -- take the time to follow up.

What’s Causing the Stink?

Many of the common causes of halitosis in your pet are easily remedied; some causes can be a signal of a more serious health problem. Below, see a breakdown of some of the likely culprits for poor breath.

Dental Issues

When plaque builds up on your dog or cat’s teeth and gums, it leads to halitosis. Like humans, a pet’s teeth should be brushed frequently. The recommended guideline is to brush your cat or dog’s teeth daily. Without brushing, the plaque combines with saliva to become a hardened calculus, leading to gingivitis, or inflamed gums, which is the early stage of periodontal disease.

When food gets stuck between teeth, it rots, forming  a convenient surface for plaque and tartar, and a breeding ground for bacteria. With dogs, fragments of bone can also cause an issue. Other dental concerns that can lead to bad breath include abscessed teeth. If you notice that your pet’s breath isn’t smelling fresh, look in their mouth for missing teeth, heavy plaque buildup, discolored teeth, and inflamed gums.


Some of the things your pet eats may cause foul smelling breath -- fish can be a prime culprit. Nasty breath from a meal, however, tends to resolve itself. It’s more of a concern when bad breath persists and is not linked to diet.


A wide range of diseases are associated with the symptom of bad breath, including kidney diseases, lung diseases, liver issues, and some forms of diabetes. To some extent, the particular odor of your pet’s breath can help with the diagnosis of these illnesses. Diabetes mellitus, more commonly known as sugar diabetes, is often indicated by sweet-smelling breath. Liver concerns lead to particularly foul smelling breath, often accompanied by vomiting.

Because of the many potential causes of bad breath, it’s particularly important to see your vet if your cat's or dog’s breath becomes unpleasant. While the halitosis may be easily resolved by a change in diet, a thorough dental cleaning and removal of plaque may be required. Your vet will also want to check for signs of more serious health problems. Bad breath is an unpleasant symptom, but it does help to send a big signal that there is a potential health concern that needs to be addressed.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by,your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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Abcess Tooth Periodontal Disease Bad Breath (Halitosis)
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