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Drooling in Dogs: Why They Do It & What to Do

Drooling in Dogs: Why They Do It & What to Do

While drooling is a normal part of life for some dogs, you might still grimace when your pooch looks up at you with a face full of slobber. In this post, our Upland vets answer the question, 'Why do dogs drool?', explain how to stop a dog from drooling, and discuss when it's a concern.

Why is my dog drooling?

Similar to humans, dogs produce a significant amount of saliva. Though saliva is 98% water, it also contains antibacterial compounds, electrolytes, and enzymes that are essential for good health. The glands near the jaw produce this enzyme-rich juice that drains into the mouth via ducts. 

Saliva contains amylase, an enzyme that triggers the digestive process. Amylase breaks down food as your dog is chewing. Saliva also moistens the food your dog has chewed and helps to create a bolus, which assists in the swallowing process. A moist mouth is more comfortable than a dry mouth and improves taste. 

Saliva reduces the formation of cavities and prevents tooth decay by clearing food particles from the teeth. The antibacterial properties contained in your dog's saliva help to reduce germs in the mouth that cause bad breath. 

While saliva is beneficial, too much of it can be harmful. When excess saliva fills a dog's mouth, he does not swallow it all. It has nowhere to go except over the brim, resulting in drooling. 

Which dog breeds are known for drooling?

It is normal for all dogs to drool occasionally, and some breeds naturally drool more than others. Bernese mountain dogs, Bulldogs, bloodhounds, Mastiffs, and St. Bernards are among them. Keep in mind that excessive drooling in these breeds isn't always normal, so our Upland vets recommend monitoring your dog's normal level of drooling. 

What causes excessive drooling in dogs?

Dogs may drool excessively for many reasons. Some of the most common include:

Smelling Food – There are more than 200 million scent receptors in your dog's nose, which means he may have a strong reaction whether he's smelling your food or his own food. He may even drool when you open a bag of dog food. 

Excitement – Dogs drool when they are agitated or excited. This is why they sometimes slobber all over you when greeting you after you walk in the door. 

Nausea – Motion sickness, vestibular (balance) issues, and gastrointestinal issues can cause nausea. Dogs' salivary glands go into overdrive when they're feeling nauseated, resulting in drooling. 

Physical Characteristics – Since the anatomy of a dog's mouth allows liquid to dribble out, some dogs' saliva production appears to be excessive. You'll often find drooping jowls and saggy lips on giant breeds. These features do not excessively hold saliva in and allow it to drain. Newfoundlanders, St. Bernards, mastiffs, and bloodhounds are just some of the dog breeds with these physical features.

Dental Problems – While saliva protects the teeth, excessive saliva can lead to dental problems in dogs. Tartar can build up and trap bacteria, leading to gingivitis and periodontitis. Infected or inflamed gums become sore, and teeth grow loose in their sockets as bony tissue deteriorates. Teeth may then fall out or fracture, causing pain. All of these dental issues cause excessive drooling. 

Injuries and/or Growth – Abrasions from cuts, burns, ulcers, or chewing hard objects (for example, a toy or stick that gets lodged in the mouth) can cause excessive drooling. A lump or bump in the mouth may also be the culprit. These growths may be harmless warts or cancerous tumors. Even benign (non-cancerous) growths can cause drooling. 

When Drooling Can Be Caused By an Underlying Condition

Drooling, however, can also be a symptom of another, underlying problem. Here are some other signs that might also come with hypersalivation:

Decreased Appetite or a Change in Eating Routine: If hypersalivation is caused by chronic GI problems, the dog may lose appetite gradually. Drooling may be temporary if the cause is nausea, and will stop when the upset stomach resolves. Drooling caused by a mouth injury, growth, or foreign body will continue until the physical condition heals or the offending item/growth is removed. 

Dogs that love dry kibble may hesitate to eat when their mouths are sore. They may hold their heads at an odd angle in an attempt to position the food on the less painful side and may drop food from their mouths. They often eat better when served soft, moistened food.

Changing Behavior: When a dog is in pain, even the sweetest of dogs can become aggressive. When other dogs are in pain, they become reclusive and withdrawn.

Pawing at the Face: Some dogs with oral pain will rub their muzzles with their paws or on the floor to try to relieve the pain. When swallowing food or water, drooling dogs with esophageal or stomach problems may gulp or extend their necks.

How can I treat my dog's excessive drooling?

Cleaning teeth, extracting teeth, treating GI problems, avoiding irritants, healing injuries, or giving nausea medication before a trip may be used to treat the underlying cause. 

If the problem is behavioral, try calming your dog before allowing guests into the house, or place the dog in a quiet area while you entertain visitors. Prepare for drooling when cooking dinner by keeping a towel nearby to mop up the deluge.

If your dog's drooling is caused by the shape of their mouth, you may tie a trendy bandanna around your dog's neck to catch the slobber. After all, all those flapping jaws can give a dog character.

Depending on the nature of the issue causing your dog's drooling, you may need to bring them to an animal hospital for emergency veterinary care, or you might be able to wait until you can schedule an appointment with your primary care veterinarian.

If you are ever in doubt about whether your dog is experiencing an emergency, call us. Our veterinary team is here 24 hours, 7 days a week to provide triage and compassionate emergency care for cats and dogs. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to diagnose your pet's condition accurately.

Do you suspect your dog's excessive drooling may be related to a health issue that needs emergency treatment? Contact our Upland vets right away for guidance and advice. We provide 24/7 emergency care.

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