Drippy, slobbery, and sloppy, drool is a fact of life for certain dog breeds. In fact, all dogs drool occasionally. Just like barking or chasing squirrels, it’s part of the canine package. But what should you do if there’s a large amount of slobber, and how do you know when it’s healthy or if there’s something more serious going on?
Drool, or as it’s known in the medical field, ptyalism, is an excessive flow of saliva that has accumulated in the mouth/oral cavity. It is seen commonly in breeds such as the Bloodhound, Saint Bernard, and Mastiff, whose head/lip conformations cannot retain the amount of drool they produce. These dogs have extra skin around their lips and muzzle, which allows saliva to collect in the folds. Then it either drips from their flews (large, pendulous upper lips) or is flung into the air when they shake their heads. Water can also get trapped in all that loose skin after they take a drink.
This condition does not require medical intervention, but owners of these slobbery breeds quickly learn the value of a drool rag. Keeping a cloth on hand makes it easy to regularly wipe your dog’s muzzle before the drool hits your floor or furniture. It’s also important to mop your dog’s face whenever he eats or drinks. A handkerchief tied around your dog’s neck can help absorb the drool.
Even dogs that don’t slobber all the time can drip a bit of drool when they’re anticipating something delicious. Saliva plays an important role in digestion, so the thought of exciting food, like a piece of steak, can get your dog’s mouth watering. A disagreeable taste, like that of some medications, can cause the same result. But when is drool something to be worried about? There are several conditions that can lead to an inability to swallow normal amounts of saliva or to the production of excess saliva.
Mouth and Throat Issues
Anything that prevents your dog from swallowing normally can lead to drool, as the saliva will build up until it drips from his mouth. The problem could be a fractured tooth or tumors inside the mouth, esophagus, and/or throat. Tartar buildup and irritation of the gums can also lead to drooling, as can an infection in the mouth. In addition, a foreign body can lead to slobbering. Anything caught between your dog’s teeth or lodged in his throat, such as a sliver of bone, could be a potentially serious problem.
Make sure you’re brushing your dog’s teeth daily and having his dental health monitored with yearly veterinary checkups (twice yearly for senior dogs). Keep an eye on the inside of your dog’s mouth for yellow or brown plaque deposits on his teeth or red and inflamed gums, which would indicate the need for a dental cleaning. Any sign of a foreign body or lump should lead to an immediate appointment with your veterinarian.
Anything that upsets your dog’s stomach may lead to slobbering. Motion sickness is a common cause of nausea, which is why a lot of dogs drool in the car. In this case, the drooling should stop soon after the motion is over. If your dog has carsickness, you can desensitize him to car rides and talk to your veterinarian about nausea treatments.
If your dog eats something he shouldn’t, like a sock or the stuffing from a toy, that can also lead to stomach distress and drooling. Additionally, toxic substances can cause drooling. For example, if your dog gets into a poisonous plant in the garden or cleaning chemicals under the sink, you may see slobbering along with other symptoms such as vomiting, shaking, or lethargy. Be aware of possible toxins in your home, and if you suspect your dog has ingested something dangerous, contact your veterinarian immediately.
There are other health conditions where drooling is one of the symptoms. Heat stroke, for example, can lead to drooling as your dog pants in an attempt to cool off. After suffering a seizure, your dog may drool. Nose, throat, or sinus infections, or a neuromuscular condition (palsy, tetany, botulism, etc.) of some kind can also lead to slobbering. Kidney disease, liver disease, and even rabies all share drooling as a symptom.
Although these illnesses will likely show other signs, as well, it pays to take any change in your dog’s drooling seriously. In some cases, such as bloat, the situation can be life threatening, and a visit to the emergency clinic is essential. Be particularly aware of any changes in appetite or behavior; neurological symptoms such as seizures or difficulty standing; retching and throwing up saliva; and changes in your dog’s saliva, such as foul smelling saliva, thicker saliva, or blood in the saliva. Talk to your veterinarian immediately about any new or increased drooling.