As dog owners, we know how to pull a fast 'duck and cover' when we hear our pups start to shake their heads to avoid the flying strings of drool. All dogs produce saliva, but how much is too much? Learn all our drooly dog habits below!
What is drool & why do dogs do it?
- Ptyalism is a fancy term for the slobbery, slimy goop that comes out of our dogs' mouths when they're hungry or chomping down on their favorite toy.
- Drool is an excessive flow of saliva that accumulates in the mouth and may even begin to run down a pup's jowls into the scary lines of spit that are just waiting to shake onto your clothes.
- Drool, or saliva, comes from the three salivary glands in a dog's mouth - parotid, sublingual, and mandibular. Each gland produces a different saliva type depending on the need.
- Dry food and wet food each require different saliva thicknesses to best aid digestion.
Your pup's saliva aids digestion, but it also flushes bad bacteria away from the mouth and teeth and helps your dog to cool down.
Is drooling normal?
Drooling and saliva production are essential digestion and temperature-management tools, and normal drooling levels vary from breed to breed.
We see drooling more commonly in certain giant breeds like Saint Bernard, Bloodhound, or Mastiff, with a mouth shape that can't hold in the drool - it all comes pouring right out into their extra skin flaps, where the froth can await its next unsuspecting victim. If you own one of these pups, invest in a drool rag and keep it on hand at all times.
Even dogs with a better anatomical mouth shape will drool in anticipation of a delicious treat or meal and, conversely, if they eat something that tastes really bad to them, like medication or a dead snake (speaking from experience, there).
What's happening when my dog is drooling and acting strange?
A dog will often drool out of fear, so if your pup is in an uncomfortable situation, you might notice an increased slobber level.
While there are plenty of typical, healthy reasons for a dog to drool, sometimes excessive drooling or a dog drooling more than usual can be a sign of an underlying issue that needs addressing.
Some health conditions can affect how much a pup drools, but we'll get into those a little later.
Common causes of drooling
Tooth or gum infection: poor dental hygiene
A dog's mouth is pretty resilient, but much like humans, they do require some dental care and maintenance to keep tartar and bacteria under control.
If your pup experiences dental problems like tartar or bacteria build-up, you may notice your dog drooling suddenly and excessively. Saliva kills and flushes bacteria, and your pup's salivary glands will work overtime if there are too many foreign invaders inside their mouth.
Check your dog's gums for:
- Watch their teeth for excessive browning.
Other dental issues that might cause extra drooling are cracked teeth, oral disease, and ulcers.
Nausea & motion sickness
We all know that familiar feeling - when we start feeling like we're about to throw up, our mouths suddenly fill with an extra rush of saliva. Dogs experience the same thing and will drool more when feeling nauseous.
Motion sickness is a common doggie trait, too, so if your doggo feels queasy on long car rides, you might see some extra strings of drool hanging from their gums.
Dogs are prone to tumor growth all over their bodies. If your pup's mouth contains some extra lumps and bumps, it may affect and increase their drool production.
Mouth tumors aren't always a reason to panic - both malignant and benign tumors can form, and they don't always mean your dog has a cancerous growth.
Lodged foreign objects in the gums
Dogs are even worse than babies at finding the most dangerous object they can and popping it into their mouths.
If you see a dog drooling a lot suddenly, take a look inside their mouth to see if a foreign object lodges within the gums, teeth, tongue, or throat.
The common culprits are shards of bone, sticks, hooks, plants, or cloth.
Mouth injuries or burns
You may see your dog excessively drooling if they suffer a mouth injury that affects their drool production. Check your pup's mouth for any bleeding, open wounds, or discoloration.
They may have latched their mouth onto a sharp object, burned themselves on an electrical cord, or accidentally eaten a corrosive substance.
Doggie diseases that affect the liver or kidney, like liver shunt, can cause excessive saliva production.
These types of diseases tend to cause saliva-inducing nausea.
Bad tasting medications
A terrible tasting medication helps your dog's body, but his tastebuds will not be happy.
Nasty tastes will induce some nausea for your pup and make those salivary glands start working overtime.
From time to time, your dog may need antibiotics or medicated eye drops to treat various conditions. Vets often use atropine to dilate the eye, which can cause excessive drooling for some pups.
While we administer these drops into the eye (usually accompanied by an awkward struggle), the medication drains from the tear ducts into the back of the throat, where it may enter a dog's mouth.
Surprisingly, eye drops don't taste good - they can make your pup nauseous and pump out tons of drool.
Plenty of canine infectious diseases can cause excessive drooling. We're taught to beware and steer clear of dogs that foam at the mouth and exhibit dangerously aggressive behaviors, two primary signs of rabies.
Canine distemper is another severe and fatal viral disease that attacks many organs along with its telltale sign, excessive drooling.
Overheating & heat stroke
On a sweltering day, you may notice your pup panting more than usual as they release their body heat from the tongue to regulate their temperature.
When a dog starts drooling excessively along with panting or dog wheezing, it may be a sign of heatstroke, especially when accompanied by lethargy and unresponsiveness.
Stress & anxiety
Pups are sensitive souls that often become stressed and anxious, especially in unfamiliar situations that make them feel a little threatened.
Car rides and strange dogs or people can make a pup feel nervous and cause a dog to drool excessively and pant.
Sinus or throat Infection
Like oral infections, other infections close to the mouth can send the salivary glands into overdrive. Sinus and throat infections can both lead to a drooling issue, accompanied by pus and bad breath.
Poisonous plant eating
If your pup starts drooling excessively while you're on a walk or hanging outside, they could have consumed a mildly poisonous plant.
If your puppy is indoors, check any potted plants for apparent signs of disturbance.
Sometimes you'll see both dog drooling and diarrhea, a clear sign your pup ate something bad for them.
Some common plants poisonous to pups are azaleas, tulips, aloe, ivy, daffodils, and chrysanthemums.
Seeking medical attention
We're so close with our canine companions that we learn about their normal behaviors, including how much they generally drool.
If your dog starts drooling far more than usual, you should take them to the vet as soon as you can. No matter how serious the drooling issues seem to be, you'll want confirmation from the vet so you can move forward with any further treatments required.
The vet will examine the entire mouth cavity, including teeth, gums, tongue, and throat. As needed, they may x-ray the head, perform infection disease testing, and biopsy any concerning lumps.
Final Notes: Treatments for excessive drooling
The treatment for any dog's excessive slobber will significantly depend on what causes it in the first place.
A vet may try one of the following solutions to stop the drool:
- Remove any lodged object from the mouth or throat
- Extract any broken or decayed teeth as needed
- Treat infectious disease with antibiotics, or metabolic disease with medication
- Remove any malignant tumors and potentially benign ones if they cause discomfort
We hope these tips help and that you and your pup find the care you need!