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Drooling in Dogs and Cats: Causes and Treatment of Excessive Drooling

Drooling in a dog

Saliva has many important functions in the organism of animals and humans.

It has a protective effect on the oral mucosa, moisturizes bites of food and facilitates their formation. The enzymes it contains break down bacteria and start digesting food in the mouth.

In dogs and cats, there are three salivary glands - parotid, mandibular and sublingual.

In a healthy patient, only the mandibular gland can be easily felt during a clinical examination.

All salivary glands have exit ducts that open at different points in the mouth.

The production of saliva is continuous, but may be increased periodically, for example, during mechanical irritation of the receptors by the consumed bites of food.

Drooling can also be increased by conditioned, learned reflexes - when the animal receives a signal of an approaching meal, for example, hears the sound of the refrigerator opening or the sound of food being poured into a bowl. This is the so-called "Pavlov's reflex ".

  • What is drooling?
  • The causes of excessive salivation
  • Treatment of drooling in dogs and cats

What is drooling?

What is drooling?

Salivation (pour. ptyalismus, sialorrhoe), i.e. excessive salivation, means increased salivation, beyond the period of food intake.

In some breeds, such as Bernardines or Boxers, this is a physiological symptom that occurs without any additional disturbance in the functioning of the body.

Very often though Drooling is a symptom of serious disorders and the first symptom of life-threatening diseases.

At the very beginning of this article, I would like to distinguish between pseudo-drooling and real drooling.

Pseudo-drooling occurs when production saliva it is on a physiological level, but hers swallowing it is difficult. There is, for example, the case of swelling of the throat, tonsil enlargement, tumors within the tongue, making it hard to swallow.

True drooling is manifested by increased activity of the salivary glands, the patient has no difficulty in swallowing, but there is too much of it.

In addition to the above-mentioned causes of true drooling, they can also include:

  • ache,
  • certain medications,
  • toxins,
  • the presence of wounds and ulcers in the mouth.

Physiological saliva should be clear, watery, sticky, chewy, with a specific odor. Any changes in color, such as a bloody, yellowish or greenish tinge, should be a signal of concern. Also, disturbances in consistency, very thin or thick and clumping saliva, should alert the owner and prompt him to visit a veterinarian.

The causes of excessive salivation

The causes of excessive salivation

The causes of excessive salivation can be divided according to the location of the primary problem.

Local causes of the increased saliva production may be related to the insufficient closure of the lips and mouth.

This is a symptom of cranial injuries, mandibular dislocations, but also damage to the cranial nerves - trigeminal and facial, which are responsible for the correct motor activity of the muscles in this area.

Excessive salivation can also be a symptom of dental and gum disease.

Inflammation caused by excessive tartar deposition and periodontitis caused by it, excessive exposure of tooth necks and roots is a very painful and unpleasant process.

Very often, a blood-red discoloration of the saliva appears then - irritated gums are very susceptible to damage and injuries.

In extreme cases, purulent inflammation may occur - then the saliva will have an admixture of pus and a very unpleasant smell.

Systemic diseases that can make you drool should not be ignored.

One of them is calicivirosis.

It causes damage to the oral mucosa, pain and, as a result, a significant increase in the work of the salivary glands.

Pemphigus vulgaris, which causes ulcers at the interface between the skin and the mucosa, can also increase salivation.

Infection with rabies virus is also important.

The characteristic symptom is drooling caused by swallowing disorders.

When intense drooling occurs, the salivary glands are already infected with the virus, and saliva is an extremely dangerous infectious material. Contact with an animal suffering from rabies should be carried out with the utmost caution.

Inflammatory processes in the mouth can also be caused by contact with irritating or corrosive substances or burns related to electric shock.

The characteristic symptom in this case is the presence of burn blisters, ulcerations or a burn mark in the mouth.

An interesting cause of drooling is contact with the caterpillar of the Debówka procession and pine procession.

Both caterpillars have poisonous hairs on the surface of their bodies, equipped with a blistering fluid (called thaumetopoein).

These animals exhibit a very interesting behavior - caterpillars march in a row towards food.

If your pet is too interested in the fluffy, moving procession, it may be severely burned. It is then necessary to quickly intervene with the nearest veterinarian.

A separate group of causes of drooling is the presence of foreign bodies that are stuck in the mouth, under the base of the tongue or embedded in the mucosa.

Pain, swelling, and excessive movement of the tongue to remove a sticky object can cause excess production of saliva.

Metabolic diseases can also cause drooling.

Examples of diseases in the course of which we observe excessive salivation are:

  • uraemia:
    • excessive irritation of the mucous membranes,
    • ulcers on the cheek mucosa, especially with bacterial complications,
  • diabetes:
    • immunosuppressive effect,
    • lowering immunity,
    • vulnerability and difficulty healing injuries,
  • presence of portal-collateral anastomosis:
    • increased salivation after eating high-protein foods,
    • feeling sick after meals, causing excessive salivation.

Diseases of the salivary glands can also cause excessive salivation.

Neoplasms and inflammatory processes affect not only the amount of saliva, but also its physical and chemical parameters - density, viscosity, pH, color.

As the process progresses, the growth of the glands may be so intense that the outflow of saliva from the salivary gland will be disturbed, the exhaust duct may become blocked, but it is no longer associated with drooling.

Neoplasms most often affect the mandibular and parotid glands.

Cats are affected twice as often as dogs.

Treatment of drooling in dogs and cats

Treatment of drooling in dogs and cats

Treatment of drooling begins with establishing the root cause.

The most important thing is to do a careful history, find out from when the problem occurs, how intense the drooling is, and take note of any accompanying medical conditions, since drooling rarely occurs on its own.

The easiest way is to exclude contact with irritants - it is enough to look at the patient's oral cavity.

Careful inspection of this area will allow to exclude the presence of a foreign body or a growth in the oral cavity.

If you notice any disturbing tissue growth, it is best to collect fine needle biopsy and wait for histopathological diagnosis.

Examination of the oral cavity will also provide information about the patient's dental status, the presence or absence of tartar, gingivitis.

However, if they do not show the cause of excessive drooling, it is worth deciding to perform additional tests, starting with a blood test.

Basic biochemical parameters will confirm or exclude the presence of diseases such as uremia or diabetes.

Liver function tests will help to exclude the presence of portal-collateral anastomosis.

If, despite additional tests, the cause cannot be determined, it is possible that a neurological consultation will be necessary.

Treatment of drooling is based on treating the root cause of this phenomenon.

As for the prognosis, it too depends on what the drooling is causing.

Obviously, in the event that the cause is a foreign body wedged in the mouth, the drooling should pass after the irritant has been removed.

If we are dealing with neoplasm originating from the salivary glands - the prognosis is much worse.

Drooling is alarming if it lasts more than about an hour.

If it is accompanied by additional symptoms, vocalization, limb reaching the mouth, or a violent thirst, drinking large amounts of water - an urgent visit to the attending physician is necessary.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, also when saliva changes its smell or consistency, it is thick, chewy, with a disturbing color, it is also worth mentioning when visiting.

A signal of great concern should be a sudden, rapid growth of tissues around the head - this may suggest the presence of a strong inflammation or neoplastic lesion.


Finally, I would like you to take a look at your pet. Remember that the guardian stays with the animal several hours a day, the doctor - only a few moments during the visit, where the patient is most often stressed, agitated or withdrawn.

You notice more, especially at home, where the animal is relaxed and you pay attention to subtle changes in the behavior of your pets.

Do not underestimate this, it is possible that seemingly insignificant details are the first signs of a serious illness.

Remember about such little things during visits to the veterinary office, it is possible that you will facilitate diagnosis and speed up the recovery of your pet.

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