Stinky cat breath; why a trip to the vet for diagnosis is important

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Our cat Jingles was recently diagnosed with stomatitis, a chronic inflammatory gum disease. Fortunately, we caught it, and are working to make him healthy and comfortable.

But, because of our experiences, we wanted to help promote awareness of what stomatitis is, as well as why it’s important to get a checkup for your pet as soon as possible in the event of unpleasant breath even if the kitty doesn’t seem to be in pain.

While treatment plans will vary depending on the pet and condition of the pet’s gums and teeth, we also wanted to give you a general idea of what our cat’s experience with stomatitis was like to date so you can have a general idea of what to expect if your cat is similarly diagnosed.

When we brought Jingles to the vet, we were told that he had stomatitis, and the veterinarian showed us Jingles’ gums, which were very inflamed, puffy, red and covered with tartar. Jingles had been eating regularly and not showing any signs of pain. As you can see from his body weight in the below picture, he actually had a healthy appetite. But those inflamed gums had to have been causing him some discomfort even if he wasn’t showing it. Which, again, speaks to why it’s a good idea to have your kitty checked out in the case of frequent bad breath, even if the cat doesn’t seem to be unhappy or sick.

Jingles, the Ginger cat, sitting by computer

So, to date, here is his treatment plan and progress:

Step 1:

At the first vet visit, Jingles was given an antibiotic injection and some medication to take over the next three days.

Our cost upon leaving the vet: $129.

Not long after the injection, the antibiotics must have done some good at fighting any infection in his mouth because his breath became notably less smelly and, although always extremely affectionate, he suddenly seemed to be more playful and less tense.

Step 2:

About two weeks later, we brought Jingles back to the veterinarian for a teeth cleaning done under anesthesia. During the cleaning, he also had two teeth, which were apparently in horrible shape, extracted.

The cost: $210.

Because it was “dental month” at the clinic and they were very busy doing many teeth cleanings, they only had time to do two extractions. But, also because of the “dental month” deals, we did save a little bit of money. If you are in a similar situation, and, like us, on a budget, you might want to see if your veterinarian has any similar deals and if they are soon enough that you can take advantage of them while still getting your pet prompt treatment.

It was somewhat scary to drop him off and leave him at the veterinarian knowing that there are risks involved with anesthesia, but he came through it all just fine. In fact, soon after we picked him up that afternoon, he was ready to eat. And eat he did! He finished off two portions of Sheba Perfect Portions moist cat food. (It was recommended that he only be given moist food for a couple of days until his gums had a chance to heal.)

Step 3:

Jingles is now being monitored. If he has additional problems, he might need to have some more or even all of his teeth extracted. Apparently, that will take away any pain he is feeling but he will still be able to eat, even dry cat food.

As you might recall from an earlier post, we adopted Jingles from a local animal shelter back in February of this year. He is a very sweet cat with a unique story, but, oh boy, when we first got him that breath was really bad!

Here’s some more information about stomatitis provided to us by our veterinarian:

Signs of stomatitis:

Bad breath is one sign of stomatatis.

For some cat, possible signs include inability to eat much and loss of weight.

The puffy, red gums mentioned above are another sign.

And, because the cat might be experiencing pain, it might stop grooming itself. (This was not a sign for Jingles, who was a pretty fastidious groomer.)

Causes of stomatitis:

The causes of stomatitis aren’t known, but may result from “inappropriate immune reaction against plaque that forms on teeth.”

Cats who are positive for FIV may be predisposed to stomatitis, although Jingles tested negative at the shelter we adopted him from.


Basic treatment options usually involve pain control, inflammation control, plaque control and nutritional support.

We, like many who are going through this with their cats, are on a limited budget. But, we were fortunate enough to be able to pay the cost of the first two visits. If you need help paying veterinary expenses, check out these two articles, which provide information about various ways to get assistance:

Help with vet bills is available for those struggling!


A new kind of bank account to help save for expensive visits to the veterinarian  

Sources for information about stomatitis:

•Greenville Veterinary Hospital

•Veterinary Parnter, “Plasma Cell Stomatitis in Cats,” Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP.


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