There are many things that can cause your dog to drool. Some maybe less worrying, but dribbling can be an important clue, and a sign that something is wrong with your pet.
Some dogs with short muzzles, like Boxers and Bulldogs may drool or dribble normally, because their saliva collects in their cheeks, and then is released when they shake their heads. These breeds are also likely to dribble after having a drink of water for the same reason.
Some dogs will also dribble in response to certain triggers, so sometimes if they anticipate their meal for example, the body will produce saliva as they get excited. Some dogs will also drool in response to stress – if they are nervous or anxious dribbling more can be a subtle cue that they are feeling uncomfortable.
Signs of a problem
If your dog starts drooling, or their drooling gets worse than normal, it can be a sign that they need a checkup or even veterinary treatment. Vets will sometimes call drooling “hypersalivation” or “ptyalism”.
“My teeth hurt”
The most common cause of drooling is dental disease – if you dog has dental disease in their gum tissue, or problems with their teeth they often start to dribble.
This is common with slowly developing dental issues like tartar build up, but can also be seen with sudden changes – for example, if a bit of food, piece of stick or other foreign object becomes stuck in the mouth or causes damage, then dogs can suddenly start to dribble more profusely.
Most people with dental pain will stop or struggle to eat, but our canine companions are a little bit tougher than we are… Going off their food is actually a very late sign of dental problems, so if you’ve noticed your dog dribbling it’s well worth getting a dental check with your veterinary practice.
“I feel sick…”
Another common cause of drooling is nausea – if your dog is feeling unwell the body will often produce more saliva. If you or your vet suspects your dog feels nauseous, you will need to think about why – for example, one common cause is motion sickness (dogs can indeed get car sick!).
“I ate something I shouldn’t have”
Other causes of drooling in dogs includes licking or eating something they shouldn’t. Two common substances which can cause temporary dribbling are licking a flea or worming spot-on treatment, or a toad. These amphibians have nasty-tasting skin as a defense mechanism against predators. A number of other noxious (nasty tasting) or even toxic and poisonous substances can also cause drooling – including some plants, and household chemicals. If you think there is any chance your pet may have eaten something poisonous, or potentially poisonous, please do not delay, and immediately contact your vet!
In some circumstances it is also possible for allergic reactions to cause your pet to drool.
“I’m too hot!”
In summer months, or hot conditions, drooling can also be a sign of heat stroke, which can be very dangerous. Always make sure your dog has access to shade and fresh water – and if you’re concerned your dog is spending a lot of time ‘sunbathing’ you may need to encourage them into the cool. Other signs of heatstroke which you may see along with drooling include heavy panting, restlessness or agitation, a very red tongue, pale gums, vomiting and or diarrhoea. If you think your dog may have heatstroke contact your vet immediately.
“I don’t feel right”
There are a number of other causes of drooling which are much less common. Dribbling can be a result of an issue with your dog’s salivary glands, such as infection or blockage, but in some cases, drooling can also be a sign of Liver disease or sadly Kidney failure.
In older pets it is also possible that a growth inside the mouth – which may be cancerous – can also cause excessive drooling. These growths can be benign (and do not spread) or malignant (meaning they can spread to other areas of the body).
“I can’t swallow”
Finally, there are some much rarer causes of drooling – if your dog’s oesophagus (the pipe which carries food down the to the stomach) is malformed or has nerve problems, it can cause excessive dribbling. If there are problems with the nerves which supply the head, jaws and throat with the ability to move, and feel things, it can be a rare cause of drooling too.
As you can see there are many things to consider if your dog is drooling more than usual, and our list doesn’t include everything.
So what to do?
So if your dog has been, or is drooling profusely, please talk to your own vet for advice. They can then decide if an appointment is needed to examine your pet and take the best care of your dog.