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DrBarchas.com is free resource for people with pets. Searchable articles are available on diseases, behavior, symptoms, and medical treatments for dogs and cats. Photo galleries contain submitted pictures of pets and people.

About Eric Barchas, D.V.M.

Eric Barchas, DVM is a veterinarian who lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. His emphasis is on small animal medicine, emergency medicine, hospice and wellness. An avid traveler, he has studied lions in Botswana and salmon in southern Chile.

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The contents of this page are provided for general informational purposes only. Under no circumstances should this page be substituted for professional consultation with a veterinarian.

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Bad Breath (Halitosis) in Cats and Dogs

Common Causes

More common causes are listed first. Less common causes are listed later.

  • Dental disease is responsible for the vast majority of cases of bad breath in pets. Mild dental disease is responsible for "dog breath" and "cat breath".  Severe dental disease can cause severe halitosis.
  • Animals who have recently consumed malodorous materials such as garbage or feces, or animals who have recently vomited will have bad breath.
  • Animals with infections in their mouths due to tooth abscesses or oral trauma may have halitosis.
  • Food or foreign objects lodged in the mouth (for instance, between teeth) can cause bad breath.
  • Metabolic diseases such as kidney disease may cause bad breath.
  • In cats, eosinophilic granulomas (also known as rodent ulcers) may lead to halitosis.
  • Growths, tumors, or polyps in the mouth can trigger bad breath.

Recommended Course of Action

Mild halitosis ("dog breath" or "cat breath") may improve with gentle daily tooth brushing. Do not use human toothpaste when brushing a pet's teeth.

Severe halitosis usually has a medically significant cause (such as dental disease).  Pets with severe halitosis should receive veterinary care.

Any pet who suffers a precipitate worsening of halitosis should be evaluated by a veterinarian.  Likewise, any animal who suffers from halitosis in combination with other symptoms such as lethargy, lack of appetite, drooling, oral pain, or bleeding from the mouth should receive veterinary care as soon as possible.

When in doubt the safest course of action is to consult with a veterinarian.

Copyright © Eric Barchas, DVM.   All rights reserved.
The contents of this page are provided for general informational purposes only. Under no circumstances should this page be substituted for professional consultation with a veterinarian.