Why Is My Dog Drooling So Much?
And is there such a thing as too much drool? 🤤
If you have a dog, a little bit of drool every now and then is totally expected. But if it seems like your dog has a waterfall coming from his mouth, should you be concerned?
Excessive drooling in dogs has a lot of different causes, some of which are normal or easily treatable. But other times, a dog might be drooling due to an underlying condition that can be super dangerous if it goes untreated.
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Nicole Cohen, a veterinarian at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, D.C., and owner of Vethelpful.com, to find out the causes of excessive drooling in dogs and when you should be concerned.
Why do dogs drool?
While excessive drooling in dogs isn’t normal, keep in mind that some breeds are just naturally slobbery — which you might be familiar with if you’ve ever had a bulldog drool all over you while petting him.
“The main dogs that I see that drool copiously are dogs that have prominent
jowls with loose lower lips,” Dr. Cohen told The Dodo. “These are often characteristic for the giant breeds of dogs, such as the St. Bernard, Dogue de Bordeaux, bloodhound, Newfoundland, Neapolitan and bullmastiff. However, some medium-to-large breeds, such as basset hounds, boxers and bulldogs, can also drool a lot.”
The reason these types of dogs drool so much is because of the anatomy of their lips, which prevents them from being able to hold in their drool, so it just dribbles out.
Dogs also drool naturally when they’re hungry — otherwise known as the “Pavlovian
response to anticipation of food,” Dr. Cohen said.
These are examples of normal drooling. If your dog isn’t a typically slobbery breed or if he seems to be drooling more than usual, he could have an underlying issue that’s causing the drooling.
What causes excessive drooling in dogs?
There are a number of underlying causes of excessive drooling in dogs.
“Excessive drooling in a dog that is not prone to drooling due to their lip conformation can be triggered by a few different causes,” Dr. Cohen said. “The most common triggers are acute nausea caused by motion sickness or abdominal pain, stress or excitement-induced drooling.”
Here are some common causes of excessive drooling in dogs and ways to tell if your dog’s drooling is caused by another issue aside from hunger.
Mouth and throat issues
There are a variety of mouth and throat issues that can cause drooling, including tooth decay or tartar buildup, oral ulcers, infection, tumors or an object stuck in his mouth, gums or teeth.
“Drooling related to oral disease would be more commonly expected from a condition causing enlargement and inflammation of the salivary gland called sialadenitis or a problem triggering an enlarged tonsil in the back of the throat from a local infection, foreign body or cancer,” Dr. Cohen said.
To prevent any oral diseases or infections, brush your dog’s teeth daily and make sure you get his teeth checked at his regular vet visits. Look out for any objects or food that might be stuck in his teeth as well. If the object is easily removable, you can try to remove it yourself, but in some cases, you may need to take your dog to the vet to have it done professionally. (If you’re concerned about getting the object out yourself, it’s best to just have your vet do it!)
Heat stroke can cause your dog to pant excessively, which leads to drooling.
“You would expect to see a dog that is panting excessively with brick red gums and increasing weakness or even collapse,” Dr. Cohen said. “A recent history of walking or exercising in the heat outdoors or time spent in a hot vehicle could trigger heat stroke.”
A good rule of thumb is that if it’s too hot for you, then it’s too hot for your dog, too.
So when it’s extra hot in the summer, be sure to keep your outside time short, stay near shady spots and bring lots of water (and a dog water bottle). And never leave your dog in a hot car!
Motion sickness and car anxiety
If your dog starts to drool a lot while you’re on a car ride, he might be getting motion sickness, or he could have car anxiety.
It’s hard to tell the difference between car sickness and car anxiety in dogs, so if you suspect your dog has either, it’s best to take him to the vet for a diagnosis.
In addition to excessive drooling, some other signs your dog might be getting car sick or is anxious about riding in the car include:
- Licking his lips
Another indication that your dog is dealing with either car sickness or anxiety is if his symptoms pretty much disappear once he gets out of the car.
“Dogs with motion-sickness-related drooling should have a quick resolution to their drooling once out of the moving car,” Dr. Cohen said. “The onset of drooling is rapid and related to the time spent in the moving vehicle.”
Most dogs become car sick or anxious because they’re not used to riding in a car. Because of this, the best way to help your dog is to take him on short car rides more frequently so he can get used to being in the car.
Nausea or stomach pain
A dog might drool excessively if he has nausea or stomach pain, especially if those issues were caused by your dog eating something he shouldn’t, like a toxic food or plant.
“Dogs that drool from nausea or stomach pain typically have altered eating habits (they are not eating as well or not at all),” Dr. Cohen said. “They may also have concomitant [aka occurring together] symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea.”
If your dog has stomach pain, he might also assume the “down dog” yoga pose or “prayer posture” to try to ease his pain, Dr. Cohen said.
If your dog also has any other symptoms of eating a poisonous food or plant, such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, tremors or seizures, take him to the vet to get him checked out.
Similar to car anxiety, drooling can be a sign of general anxiety in dogs.
“[In] some dogs, drooling is triggered by anxiety, such as the stress from separation anxiety when the owners leave the home or noise phobia from thunderstorms or fireworks,” Dr. Cohen said.
If you think your dog has anxiety, talk to your vet. Treatment can depend on a few factors, including:
- The source of the anxiety
- The intensity and duration of the anxiety
- How often your dog’s behavior is affected by anxiety
A thunder jacket can also help to calm your dog’s anxiety by applying a gentle pressure, acting like a hug.
You can get this ThunderShirt anxiety jacket from Amazon for $44.95.
While bloating is common and harmless in humans, bloat (gastric dilatation-volvulus, or GDV) is a life-threatening condition for dogs.
Bloat is when a dog’s stomach becomes filled with gas, food or fluid, causing it to twist. When the stomach becomes severely expanded, it puts pressure on the surrounding organs, which decreases blood flow to them and can send the dog into shock.
“A surgical abdominal emergency called bloat may present with drooling but would also be accompanied by symptoms of restlessness; an enlarged abdomen caused by dilation of the stomach with gas, fluid and food; a rapid heart rate and collapse,” Dr. Cohen said.
Bloat is treated with surgery and must be treated immediately to have a favorable outcome. If you notice any of these above symptoms in addition to excessive drooling, contact your vet ASAP.
Certain factors can put dogs at greater risk for bloat, but the exact cause of the condition is unknown. The risk factors include:
- Eating too quickly
- Drinking too much in a short period of time
- Increased age
- Exercising after eating
This condition happens most often in middle-aged dogs with deep chests, such as Great Danes, but it can occur in any breed of dog.
Facial nerve paralysis
A less common cause of drooling in dogs is facial nerve paralysis.
There can be a number of causes of facial nerve paralysis in dogs. Idiopathic facial nerve paralysis (the most common type) has no known cause and is similar to Bell’s palsy in people. Some other causes are ear infections, hypothyroidism, damage to the facial nerve or tumors (rare).
“The drooling would occur on the affected side of the face and would be accompanied by an incomplete or absent blink reflex and a lip that does not move and lack of sensation along that side of the face,” Dr. Cohen said.
If you notice that one side of your dog’s face is drooping, take him to the vet. Your vet will examine him to determine what the cause is and decide on a treatment from there.
The symptoms of facial nerve paralysis can sometimes be permanent, but it usually won’t affect your dog’s quality of life.
Upper respiratory infections
Drooling can be a sign of an upper respiratory infection. Other symptoms can be similar to what people experience with a cold, such as:
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth ulcers
As dogs get older, they become more susceptible to diseases, such as kidney and liver disease, which can be a cause of excessive drooling.
Other symptoms of these diseases include:
- Changes in the amount and frequency of urination
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Changes in drinking habits
- Signs of dental disease
- Blood in urine or poop
- Signs of weakness
- Buildup of fluid in the belly
The best way to prevent diseases like this as your dog ages is to take him for his regular vet checkups to keep him healthy.
How to stop excessive drooling in dogs
If your dog is drooling excessively, you should talk to your vet to figure out what’s causing it.
“To prevent or treat drooling, you have to determine the underlying cause,” Dr. Cohen said. “Some causes are apparent based on the situational development of the drooling, such as drooling from car trips or drooling triggered by anxiety.”
If you have a dog who’s a naturally slobbery breed, then you’ll have to learn to live with a lot of drool. But you can keep a towel around to mop up any excess saliva.
You can get this HugeHounds Drool Rag from Amazon for $16.99.
But if your dog isn’t normally a big drooler, and he suddenly starts drooling a lot (without an obvious cause, like riding in the car) and has other symptoms, you should take him to the vet to figure out if there’s an illness that’s causing it.
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