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Why does the cat smell from its mouth? [veterinarian's recommendation

Why does the cat smell from its mouth?

The unpleasant odor from the mouth that appears in our cat should always alert us, because it is a symptom that should never be ignored and requires consultation with a veterinarian. Sometimes it indicates a problem that can be removed quickly, but often it indicates a serious illness.

  • Periodontal disease in cats
    • Periodontal disease symptoms
    • Periodontal disease development stages
  • Consequences of untreated periodontal disease in cats
  • Home cat oral prophylaxis

Periodontal disease in cats

Periodontal disease in cats

Periodontal disease is the most common cause of bad breath. They affect over 80% of animals over two years of age. Periodontal diseases, structures responsible for keeping the teeth in the alveolus, that is:

  • gums,
  • periodontal ligaments,
  • alveolar processes,

Periodontal diseases in cats are a consequence of an inflammatory reaction as a result of the deposition of bacterial plaque on the teeth and the activity of oral bacteria. Microbes naturally present in the mouth combine with components of saliva and food debris to form plaque on the surface of the teeth. It is invisible to the "naked eye", but its presence can be detected and visualized with the use of appropriate preparations.

If plaque is not removed, which can be done by brushing your teeth daily, it is mineralized by the calcium in your saliva, turning into tartar, a hard brown deposit on the surface of your teeth. The metabolites produced by plaque bacteria and the inflammatory response from the animal's immune system lead to damage to the gums, periodontal ligaments and alveolar processes. A consequence of untreated periodontal diseases, which we call periodontopathies, is the loss of a cat's teeth.

Tartar cannot be removed by brushing your teeth.

Periodontal disease symptoms

Periodontal disease symptoms

The first symptom of pathological changes in the oral cavity is a yellow coating appearing on the tooth surface along the gum line, mainly on premolars and molars, which then becomes a brown deposit. There is an unpleasant smell from the mouth, the intensity of which increases with the development of periodontal diseases.

Initially, the smell is hardly perceptible, but with a very advanced disease state it becomes very strong, bland, sweet and putrefactive. The reason for this is the appearance of pathological alveolar pockets (spaces between the gum and tooth) in which pus accumulates.

Due to the deepening inflammation, the gums first appear slightly red, which over time becomes red, bloodshot and swollen. After eating, bleeding from the gums may sometimes be observed, which may also appear spontaneously with the development of the disease. If we manage to look at the cat's mouth at home, we can see a lowered gum line that exposes the tooth necks and sometimes even the roots of the teeth.

As a result of the disease, the gums retract, i.e. they recession, the ligaments and alveolar processes disappear, and this leads to the loss of structures responsible for keeping the teeth in the alveolus, which results in tooth mobility. Due to the initial discomfort, followed by severe pain, the cat refuses to eat, sleeps more, is lethargic, and is unwilling to play. Some of the keepers make this change in behavior based on the age of the cat. Other symptoms suggesting problems with the condition of the oral cavity are also long-lasting discharge from the nose, fistulas around the inner corners of the eyes, but also chronic, recurring diarrhea, inflammation of the kidneys or inflammation of the heart muscle.

It must be remembered that dental diseases are not only a problem of the oral cavity itself, but also of the whole organism. Bacteria multiply in tartar, and bleeding gums are the gateway for microbes to enter the bloodstream, from where they go to the extremely important organs such as the kidneys and heart, causing their inflammation. Pregnant kittens with dental problems may miscarry.

That is why an unpleasant smell from the mouth is not only an aesthetic problem, and the removal of calculus is not only a cosmetic procedure, but a therapeutic one. It is worth noting that in order to properly perform the oral cavity sanitation procedure, the animal must be anesthetized. Otherwise, it is impossible to accurately remove supragingival and subgingival tartar from all tooth crowns (from the inside of the mouth and from the molars), assess the advancement of the lesions, take an x-ray or, if necessary, remove the teeth. Therefore, this procedure should be performed only in veterinary clinics.

Periodontal disease development stages

There are four stages in the development of periodontal diseases.

  1. The first stage is gingivitis. The gingival inflammatory response is mildly pronounced and the periodontal tissues are not damaged. It is characterized by the presence of plaque and a small amount of tartar, as well as reddening of the gingival margin and slight swelling of a part of the gum. At this stage, the treatment consists of removing plaque and tartar, polishing the tooth crowns and implementing daily home prophylaxis. These treatments stop the ongoing inflammatory process and cause it to completely subside. A very important element of the sanation procedure, i.e. the healing of the oral cavity, is the polishing of the teeth after removing the stone. It significantly extends the time of scale restoration. However, the basis for the prevention of periodontal diseases are hygiene procedures carried out at home - daily, regular tooth brushing and / or the use of oral fluids. For a correct and comprehensive assessment of the condition of the oral cavity, it is necessary to perform an X-ray.
  2. The second stage is early periodontitis. In this phase, plaque and calculus accumulate, both in terms of tartar and subgingival. A pathological gingival pocket begins to form, i.e. the space between the gum and the tooth. As a consequence of the lowering of the gingival attachment, the gums may bleed during the examination. It is a borderline stage for reversible and irreversible changes. The treatment consists of removing plaque and tartar, curettage (emptying the gingival pockets of subgingival deposits) and polishing the tooth crowns. Home prophylaxis, consisting in brushing teeth every day, is absolutely necessary.
  3. The next, third stage is chronic periodontitis. Changes in this phase of the disease are characterized by deep pathological pockets with a large amount of subgingival deposits, the gums bleed when touched. Pus accumulates in the changed tissues, which increases the unpleasant smell from the mouth. The gums recede and the surface of the tooth roots is exposed. At this stage, the changes that appear are irreversible and it is not possible to restore normal periodontitis. The treatment includes oral cavity sanation, subgingival curettage, gingivectomy, i.e. excision of the inflamed overgrown edge of the free gingiva in order to eliminate the areas of bacterial accumulation. Without home prophylaxis, symptoms will quickly return to the most advanced stage.
  4. The last stage of periodontal disease is acute periodontitis with alveolar bone resorption. After reaching this state, a very large amount of tartar is observed, which covers both the crown and exposed roots, numerous periodontal abscesses are present. Atrophy of the gums and the alveolar process causes a strong loosening of the teeth. At this stage, loose teeth and those with bare roots should be removed. Additionally, complications are treated - abscesses, fistulas, chronic pharyngitis, and the like.

Consequences of untreated periodontal disease in cats

Consequences of untreated periodontal disease in cats

An unpleasant odor from the mouth and an ugly appearance of the teeth are aesthetic consequences that are only the tip of the iceberg.

Untreated and neglected periodontal diseases cause complications such as:

  • formation of an oronasal fistula as a result of damage and atrophy of the tissues separating the canine socket from the nasal cavity,
  • periodontal abscesses,
  • post-apical pulpitis,
  • pathological fractures of the lower jaw.

As I mentioned, there may also be consequences resulting from damage to other organs. Myocarditis, inflammation of the kidneys leading to kidney failure or miscarriage in pregnant cats may occur.

Periodontal disease never heals itself and they pose a serious threat to the health of the entire organism. Prevention of periodontal diseases consists in systematic hygiene of the oral cavity and proper nutrition.

Home cat oral prophylaxis

Cat oral cavity prophylaxis

The basis of prophylaxis is tooth brushing, as it is the most effective way to remove plaque. To brush our teeth, we use toothpastes, liquids, gels and dedicated brushes or a gauze pad wound around the finger. The aim of these treatments is to remove as much plaque as possible from all surfaces of the tooth crowns.

The habit of brushing the teeth should be developed in an animal from the first months of its life. In adult, unaccustomed cats, it is very difficult to start brushing their teeth. Alternatively, liquids or gels are applied to the gums on the side of premolars and molars on both sides, and then the applied agent is gently massaged in.

You can also use special teethers and feeds with polyphosphates for the removal of plaque. They are not a substitute for brushing your teeth, however, they have a positive effect on the condition of the oral cavity and teeth and can be treated as supplementing daily prophylaxis.

What are the most common causes of bad breath?

Periodontal disease is the most common cause of bad breath. They affect over 80% of cats over two years of age.

How to remove plaque from a cat?

The most effective way to remove plaque is by brushing your teeth.

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