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Cat has hygiene issues

Pinellas Animal Foundation

Question: I am concerned about my 20-year-old cat. He stinks! His breath is so bad I can no longer carry him, and as he grooms his body it also stinks, probably from the saliva. His fur mats so badly it cannot even be combed. His teeth were cleaned not long ago and he lost several.

He eats normal cat food, both dry and canned, and we have tried several varieties. He also eats rice and cooked chicken and two tablespoons of raw chicken liver per day. Our vet recommended vitamins, but he will not eat them.

Have you any suggestions?

Answer: Many factors contribute to bad breath and poor oral hygiene in pets. The first thing to consider is the overall health of the cat. Many diseases contribute to mouth odors in cats. To evaluate organ function, a complete geriatric blood analysis and accurate blood pressure are important in older cats. This can identify serious diseases, especially kidney failure and thyroid disease, which are common in older cats.

Obviously, routine dental care is required to keep a cat's mouth healthy. Some cats require more dental cleaning than others. Even very elderly cats can be safely anesthetized with the use of isoflurane gas anesthesia.

Very old cats often need help with grooming. If they have longer fur, it is sometimes advisable to have them clipped; the mats on your cat may be removed at that time. Baths using non-detergent shampoo recommended by your veterinarian are sometimes all that is needed.

Diet is always a factor in oral health. Obviously, fishy foods will contribute to a stronger breath odor. All cats should be fed foods that are formulated for proper urinary tract health. Older cats seem to prefer a smaller kibble for their dry food. Dry food does help decrease dental tartar formation. Cats also love the available tartar control diets and treats. Antioxidant vitamins may be extremely helpful, especially for older cats. They come in palatable forms as granules, wafers and tablets. Discuss this with your veterinarian.

Our pets are living longer, and addressing all their needs improves and extends their lives.

_ Diane Perry, D.V.M., Feline, Avian and Exotic Animal Hospital, Dunedin.

Dr. Bruce Kaplan is a veterinarian editor/writer. Please send questions to "Ask A Veterinarian," Pinellas Animal Foundation, P.O. Box 47771, St. Petersburg, FL 33743-7771.Because of the volume of mail, personal replies are not possible. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column.