breath, or halitosis, occurs quite commonly in our
companions. This is especially true with dogs and cats
and most commonly is due to dental disease. There are
cases, however, that are not caused by primary dental
disease but instead have other underlying processes.
is caused by bacteria that live in the mouth and produce
a foul odor when they set up shop. These bacteria cause
plaque, which then leads to tartar on the teeth and
eventual decay and abscessing of the affected teeth.
Halitosis can also occur from bacteria that are not
causing problems with the teeth.
is 3 years old and lives her life entirely indoors. She
eats two meals a day of dry food and does share her
domain with Freddie. Muffin and Freddie are cats.
has had a history of bad breath going back several
months with one brief hiatus from the odor for a few
weeks after having her teeth cleaned.
Muffin’s caretaker Alicia has noticed that Muffin
appears to be eating her food more slowly and acting as
if her mouth hurts when she eats. Alicia has also
noticed that Muffin’s gums are very red.
Alicia is describing is gingivitis, which literally
means inflammation of the gums. This can be a primary
disease or it can be secondary to another disease
causing inflammation of the gums.
most common cause of gingivitis in cats is dental
disease. As I mentioned, plaque, which is a soft
material, builds up on the teeth and then is turned to
tartar, which is a hard material similar to concrete,
with the help of bacteria in the mouth. This process
progresses, slowly destroying the structure of the
mentioned that Muffin has recently had her teeth cleaned
and that it did initially greatly improve the breath
issue, only to have the halitosis return, now apparently
without the concomitant dental disease.
is time for another visit to Muffin’s veterinarian.
red gums and gingerly chewing described by Alicia could
be indicative of primary gingivitis. This is a disease
characterized as Alicia described with Muffin and is
caused by the infiltration of inflammatory cells from
the cat’s immune system into the gum area of the
mouth. This response by the immune system creates the
diagnose this disease, a veterinarian takes a small
sample of the gum tissue and sends it to the
pathologist, who then can identify the process causing
the gum inflammation.
a diagnosis is reached, therapy can begin and the gums
can heal. Once the inflammation is gone, the bacterial
problem causing the halitosis will decrease as well. Not
to mention the most important fact: Muffin will be a
much happier cat.
there are cases in our companions in which halitosis is
present without dental disease or gingivitis. These
patients simply harbor certain types of bacteria in
their mouths that produce particularly pungent odor.
These patients need breath freshener.