What Causes Bad Breath?

Updated November 29, 2020

Do you have a friend with ‘cat breath’ or ‘dog breath’? We joke about it, sometimes tell them off for it, perhaps even suspect them of eating something foul.

The truth is that bad breath doesn’t come from the stomach and it isn’t just from the food. Instead it’s often the only sign of a painful dental problem.Thankfully, more and more owners now bring their pets in just because their breath smells bad.

Do Dogs Stop Eating With Bad Teeth?

‘But he’s still eating well’ they would say, ‘He’s not complaining’ or ‘It’s only his teeth’ like they weren’t important. The truth is that a dog virtually never stops eating just because of bad teeth.

Yesterday a dog was brought in just because of the bad smell coming from his mouth. Only eight months ago he got full marks on his annual health check. When we looked at his teeth we could easily see that advanced periodontal disease was causing his problem.

His owner even asked if he was in pain. The answer was yes, and it was a pleasure to be asked. That’s how far we’ve come.

Which Breeds Get Dental Problems?

Any dog or cat can have dental pain but Chihuahuas, Maltese terriers, Poodles, Schnauzers, Greyhounds and Burmese and Persian cats well known for severe dental problems. Merlin will have his dental cleaning and possible tooth removal this week.

A generation ago dogs and cats weren’t so lucky. Perhaps because vets weren’t used much for anything except what we call ‘fire engine medicine’, teeth were given a low priority.

My Cat Isn’t Eating. Is It The Teeth?

Yes, occasionally cats’ mouths can get so bad they won’t eat. This disease, called stomatitis or faucitis is often related to prior cat flu infections. However, most of the time, there is another more urgent cause that you can’t see. Cats that aren’t eating need to see the vet for a full checkup and blood tests before assuming ‘it’s just the teeth’.

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.