Excessive dog drooling: Vet's guide to causes and treatment
Excessive dog drooling can have several underlying causes. Our vet explores this in more detail
Excessive dog drooling is not only unpleasant, but it can be concerning, especially if your dog isn’t usually a drooler.
The technical term for excessive drooling is ptyalism, and there are many reasons why your dog might be doing this, including dental disease so it's important to keep up good oral hygiene in your dog such as brushing your dog's teeth on a regular basis.
Some causes are more serious than others, however, so we’ll take a look at when you should be worried enough to contact your vet.
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Is it normal for a dog to drool?
A certain amount of drool is perfectly normal for dogs. Saliva (drool) helps to moisten and lubricate food, which aids swallowing.
You may notice your dog starts to hyper-salivate (excessively drool) around mealtimes or when he is begging you for table scraps. The anticipation of a tasty meal ‘gets his juices going’ and he starts to produce more saliva ready for eating.
However, if your dog is drooling away from mealtimes, read on to find out why this might be.
Why is my dog drooling excessively?
Many dogs drool around mealtimes or when they smell something tasty. However, there can be other causes of excessive dog drooling, including the following:
- Breed Certain breeds are more drooly than others, usually due to saggy lips and jowls. This includes Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands, and mastiffs.
- Dental disease Look after your dog's teeth and stop bad or painful teeth from occurring with our vet’s guide to teeth brushing.
- A foreign body A piece of stick or bone stuck in your dog’s mouth could cause him to drool.
- Neurological issues Nerves that control salivation or facial tone could become damaged, causing drooling.
- Nausea If your dog feels sick, he may drool. This could be because of a digestive upset or something like travel sickness.
- Eating an irritant Licking or eating something irritating, such as certain plants, toads, or chemicals could cause dribbling.
- An injury A cut or an infection in your dog’s mouth could cause pain, leading to drooling.
- Anxiety Some dogs will drool when they are anxious, as well as pant excessively, pace up and down, and vocalize.
- Heatstroke Dogs can overheat in warm conditions, causing serious and sometimes fatal heatstroke. Dogs may drool, collapse and experience organ failure with this condition.
- Bloat Large breed dogs, in particular, are susceptible to bloating and a potentially fatal condition known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (twisting of the stomach). This is an emergency. Your dog may be drooling as they are trying to vomit unsuccessfully with a bloated sore abdomen, and in extremes, they could collapse.
- Organ disease Kidney or liver disease may lead to nausea and drooling. Sometimes, ulcers can form in the mouth too, which can be painful.
Additional symptoms to look out for
If your dog is just drooling around mealtimes or if it is normal for their breed, then there is probably not too much cause for concern. However, there are some other symptoms to look out for that could indicate a problem:
- Smelly breath
- Excessive lip licking
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in thirst
- Acting quieter than normal or lethargic
- Rubbing or pawing at his face excessively
- Bloated stomach or abdominal pain
- Bloody drool
When to visit your vet
If your dog seems out of sorts and is showing any symptoms as well as excessive drooling, such as vomiting, smelly breath, or changes in appetite, you must take him to the vet. If you are worried about your pet, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Diagnosing excessive dog drooling
Your vet will start by examining your dog, looking in his mouth for any signs of dental disease, or perhaps even a foreign body lodged in there (like a stick). Be aware though, that some dogs may not allow your vet to look that closely.
The tongue can also loll around and get in the way of a good examination, so your vet may suggest anesthetizing your dog so they can take a better look. This may allow them to treat the problem at the same time too.
As part of their examination, they will also check your pet’s lymph nodes (glands), heart rate, abdomen, and temperature. If mild nausea or tummy troubles are suspected to be the cause of your dog’s problems, the vet may recommend some medication or a change in diet to help with this.
Sometimes, additional tests are needed, such as blood samples or diagnostic imaging including X-rays. If they are worried about your pet, they may keep them in for treatment and monitoring.
Your vet will talk you through their findings and recommend the next steps for your dog.
What to do if your dog is excessively drooling
If your dog suddenly starts drooling excessively, then it is best to call your vet. Some dogs are naturally dribbly, but if it is unusual behavior for your dog, it could indicate an underlying problem.
Why is my dog drooling and acting strangely?
There are a number of reasons why your dog might be drooling and acting strangely. Anything from a sore tooth or foreign body lodged in their mouth to anxiety and noise phobia issues, or even a potentially fatal bloat episode (gastric dilatation-volvulus). If your dog is acting out of sorts, contact your vet immediately.
Why is my dog drooling excessively from one side of the mouth?
If your dog is drooling from only one side of his mouth, it could indicate a sore tooth on that side, a tumor, ulcer or growth, an injury, or a foreign body causing pain. It’s best to get your pet checked out by a vet to identify the cause of his symptoms.
All dogs are known to drool sometimes, but if your dog is drooling to excess or showing any other signs of ill health, make sure you get them checked out. Don’t ignore things, as prompt treatment usually leads to the best outcome for your pet.
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Rebecca is a veterinary surgeon who graduated in 2009 from the Royal Veterinary College in London. She has a wealth of experience in first opinion small animal practice, having done a mixture of day-to-day routine work, on-call emergency duties and managerial roles over the years. She enjoys medicine in particular and she is proud to have recently achieved a BSAVA postgraduate certificate in small animal medicine (with commendation). She writes on various feline and canine topics, including behavior, nutrition, and health. Outside of work and writing she enjoys walking her own dog, spending time with her young family and baking!