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Why does my cat have bad breath?

QUESTION: I have an eight-year-old cat with bad breath. I brush her teeth whenever I can and give her tartar control treats but it hasn't helped. I looked in her mouth and she has pink and blackish-coloured gums, which she has had for years. Are black gums normal for a black cat to have? Could this be the cause of her bad breath?

ANSWER: Black colouration of the gums is due to pigment cells called melanocytes and is quite normal in cats, especially black cats, and does not cause bad breath. However, bad breath (also known as "halitosis") is not normal and can be a sign of an underlying medical problem.

Most often, the cause of bad breath in cats is due to the presence of excessive tartar accumulation and periodontal disease i.e. gingivitis and stomatitis (i.e. inflammation of the gums and mouth).Other dental problems that can cause halitosis include oral ulcers, tumours, trauma, infections of the mouth, throat and tongue, abscessed teeth, and foreign bodies (such as plant material or bone), 

Oral problems are not the only reason for halitosis. Various medical conditions, including lung or liver disease, gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes and kidney failure can also be associated with bad breath. 

In light of all the possible causes for bad breath, I strongly suggest your veterinarian be consulted on this matter.