Image of dog drooling

Key takeaway

Excessive drooling in dogs is known as ptyalism. This condition can be caused by either hypersialosis, which is the hypersecretion of saliva, or pseudo ptyalism, which is the inability to swallow normal saliva production. Ptyalism can occur as a result of medication, toxins, irritation or inflammation, infectious diseases, motion sickness, nausea, dental disease, or tonsillitis.

Dogs drool. A lot. So if you’re thinking about getting a pup, you’ve got to be prepared to get slobbered on. But while a dog drooling is normal, a dog drooling in excess can be a cause for concern.

Excessive drooling in dogs is known in the medical field as ptyalism. Ptyalism is the overproduction of saliva and can be caused by either hypersialosis, which is the hypersecretion of saliva, or pseudo ptyalism, which is the inability to swallow normal saliva production. Ptyalism can result from numerous factors, such as drugs, toxins, irritation or inflammation, infectious diseases, motion sickness, or tonsillitis.

Definition of ptyalism

Your dog drooling a lot may not seem like a big deal, but it could actually be a sign of a much more serious health condition. So if you notice your dog is slobbering more than usual, it’s a good idea to bring them to a vet so they can determine the root of the issue.

In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the various causes of drooling in dogs, how to treat excessive drooling in dogs, if dog drooling is painful, and more. Continue reading, or use the links below to skip to a section of your choice, so you can find out if your pup’s dribbel is actually something to be worried about.

Typical Drooling Vs. Excessive Drooling

It can be difficult to tell the difference between typical drooling and excessive drooling. Similarly to humans, you have to expect that your dog will drool from time to time.

Saliva production plays an important physiological role in human and dogs digestive processes. But did you know that saliva is actually 98% water? In addition to water, saliva also contains several other important substances, such as electrolytes, antibacterial compounds, mucus, and other enzymes.

Saliva production is crucial for both humans and dogs alike. Without saliva, you wouldn’t be able to chew and swallow hard foods. Saliva helps to moisten foods and create a food bolus, so you can easily swallow and digest it. It also contains an enzyme called amylase, which breaks down certain starches into maltose and dextrin. This entire process helps you be able to begin digesting food in your mouth before it even gets to the stomach.

So basically, without saliva, both humans and dogs would not be able to properly swallow and digest food. But that doesn’t mean that the overproduction of saliva isn’t something to be worried about. Too much saliva can indicate a medical condition.

So what does normal drooling look like in dogs? Drooling is most commonly seen in certain dog breeds, such as the Bloodhound, Saint Bernard, and Mastiff. This is because their head and lip shape cannot hold the amount of drool they produce. These dog breeds have excess skin around their lips and muzzle, which causes saliva to accumulate in the folds. Then this excessive saliva will either drip down to their flews, which is their thick upper lip, or is thrown into the air when they shake their heads.

This type of excessive drooling is common and typically does not require any sort of medical help. Owners of these dog breeds will have to carry around a rag with them to wipe up any excess slobber. These dog owners should also always clean their dog’s face after they eat or drink.

Although this type of drooling is common, it’s never a bad idea to bring your dog to the vet to rule out the possibility of any underlying conditions. Your dog can’t tell you when something's wrong, so it’s your responsibility to make sure everything is okay with them.

Photo of dog drooling

Causes Of Hypersalivation In Dogs

So, why is my dog drooling?

While some amount of drooling is normal, an excessive amount could indicate an underlying issue. Various factors can cause hypersalivation in dogs, which we will get into below.

Drugs, toxins, poisons

If your dog becomes exposed to any drugs, toxins, or poisons, like organophosphates, it could lead to excessive drooling. If your dog ate something that they shouldn’t have, like a toy, poisonous plant, or chemicals, it could also cause slobbering. In this case, the drooling will also likely be accompanied by vomiting or shaking. If you see your dog exhibit any of these signs, contact your vet immediately.

Local irritation or inflammation

Irritation or inflammation that’s associated with stomatitis, glossitis, oral forgein bodies, neoplasms, injuries, or other mucosal defects can also cause excessive drooling. Other types of oral diseases, like tooth decay, gum inflammation, or tartar buildup, can also lead to drooling. In order to prevent these oral diseases from occurring, it’s important to bring your dog in for a professional teeth cleaning at least once a year.

Infectious diseases

Infectious diseases, such as rabies, can cause a myriad of symptoms in a dog, including excessive drooling. Rabies spreads through the saliva of an animal bite, and is a serious viral disease. The canine distemper disorder and other convulsive disorders can also lead to drooling, as well as a fever, nasal discharge, coughing, and vomiting. If your dog is showing any of these symptoms and you suspect they’re suffering from an infectious disease, seek medical attention immediately.

Motion sickness, fear, nervousness, excitement

If you notice that your pup drools a lot more than normal when they’re in the car, that probably means they have motion sickness. Fear, nervousness, or excitement can also cause a dog to drool in excess. In the case of motion sickness, the drooling should stop as soon as the car stops moving. You can also give your dog nausea medication to help relieve motion sickness symptoms and reduce drooling.

Graphic listing potential causes of hypersalivation

Esophageal issues

Excessive drooling in a dog can also be the result of esophageal issues. Irritation in the esophagus, esophageal obstruction, or stimulation of GI receptors can cause a reluctance to swallow or interfere with the ability to swallow. Gastric reflux can also cause fluids to go back up the esophagus and into the mouth and lead to excessive drooling.

Sublingual lesions

If your pup has ingested a linear item, like string, yarn, tape, or rope, it can cause an extreme amount of saliva. Some other signs that your dog may have swallowed a linear foreign body include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and fever.

Growths or lumps in a dog’s mouth can also cause drooling. These growths may be cancerous tumors, so it’s important to bring your dog to the vet if they have any sort of bump in their mouth that’s causing them to excessively drool.

Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils, and in dogs it usually occurs along with another lung, nose, mouth, or upper throat disorder, like cleft palate.

Tonsillitis is not always easy to identify. A dog with tonsillitis will also likely experience gagging, poor appetite, and difficulty swallowing.

Administration of medicine

Administration of medicine can cause an increase of saliva production. Certain medications, such as pain medications, can also cause excessive drooling.

Conformational defects

Certain conformational defects in dogs, such as heavy, pendulous lower lips, can cause excessive drooling. Some dogs have mouths that make their saliva production look excessive because the shape of their mouth causes saliva to pour out. This is most common in breeds such as the Bloodhound, Saint Bernard, and Mastiff.

Metabolic disorders

Metabolic disorders, such as hepatic encephalopathy or uremia, can cause excessive drooling in dogs. Hepatic encephalopathy is a nervous system disorder that is caused by severe liver damage. Uremia is a condition in which a dog has abnormally high levels of waste products in their blood.

Liver or kidney dysfunction in dogs can cause excessive drooling because metabolic toxins cannot be cleared by these organs.

Salivary gland blockage/abscess

Drooling or leaking saliva is a common symptom of salivary gland swelling in dogs. An abscess or other inflammatory blockage or condition of the salivary gland can result in excessive drooling in dogs because they can’t swallow their saliva properly.

In any case, the possibility of rabies should be removed before an oral examination. If a dog is thought to have rabies, they should be kept in isolation to prevent them from injuring another person or dog.

Salivary Disorders

There are a myriad of reasons why your dog may be drooling more than normal. Excess drool may be a symptom of motion sickness, your dog’s breed, or anxiety, but salivary disorders are something your vet may also check for to treat the root cause appropriately.

These are some of the most common salivary disorders which could be causing your dog to drool:

Salivary Mucocele

Salivary mucocele is the most common salivary gland disorder in dogs. Salivary mucocele is an accumulation of saliva in the submucosal or subcutaneous tissues after damage to the salivary duct or gland capsule. In this case, saliva will accumulate in the intermandibular or cranial cervical area. Saliva can also collect in the sublingual tissues on the floor of the mouth.

Various circumstances can cause salivary mucocele, but trauma from choke collars, bite wounds, or chewing on foreign materials is typically the most common cause. Inflammatory blockage of the duct or capsule can also cause it.

Symptoms of salivary mucocele typically start with painless swelling of the neck or oral cavity and can be hard to identify by the owner. However, as the swelling continues to enlarge, your dog may have difficulty eating and may even bleed as a result. A pharyngeal mucocele can also block the airways and cause serious respiratory distress. It’s also possible for a zygomatic mucocele to form and cause exophthalmos or enophthalmos.

As for treatment, surgery is usually recommended in order to remove the damaged salivary gland and duct. Periodic drainage is only a temporary fix and can cause iatrogenic infection, so it’s best for your dog to get their salivary gland and duct removed in order to fix the problem.

Salivary Fistula

Salivary fistula is a rare salivary disorder that can result from trauma to the mandibular, zygomatic, or sublingual salivary glands. A wound of the parotid gland can also cause salivary fistula. A traumatic wound, abscess drainage, or prior surgery can all cause parotid gland injury. A fistula will form because the constant flow of saliva prevents the wound from healing.

Symptoms of salivary fistula include excessive drooling and discharge from the affected gland. Injury in the gland area, location of the fistula, and the type of discharge are characteristic. It’s also important to differentiate a salivary fistula from a draining sinus in the neck or from sinuses arising from congenital defects in order to find the proper treatment.

For treatment, surgical ligation of the duct is typically recommended, but removing the associated gland may also be necessary.

Graphic listing salivary disorders that can present in dogs

Salivary Gland Tumors

A salivary gland tumor is an abnormal proliferation and regulation of cells within the salivary gland. Salivary gland tumors are rare in dogs, and most are seen in dogs over the age of 10.

Salivary gland tumors are most commonly found in the parotid gland. Most salivary gland tumors are malignant, and carcinomas and adenocarcinomas are the most common types. The exact cause of salivary gland tumors is unknown, but it can either be environmental or genetic. Poodles and Spaniel breeds seem to be the most affected by these tumors.

The most common symptom of a salivary gland tumor is a painless swelling of the upper neck, ear base, or upper lip. Your dog may also excessively drool and have difficulty eating and swallowing. They may also have a decreased appetite, lose weight, and become lethargic.

Surgery is typically required to remove the tumor. If the tumor cannot be removed, radiation therapy can be used as a stand-alone treatment. Chemotherapy is recommended if there are signs of metastasis. Radiotherapy, with or without surgery, offers the best prognosis.

Sialadenitis

Sialadenitis is an inflammation of the salivary gland and is usually not common in dogs. Sialadenitis can be caused by trauma from penetrating wounds or systemic infection that affects the salivary gland or surrounding tissue. Bite wounds, ear canal surgery, or trauma to a dog’s face or head are all common causes.

Signs of sialadenitis include fever, depression, and painful, swollen salivary glands. Swelling of the parotid gland typically happens below the ear, swelling of the mandibular gland happens on the side of the jaw, and swelling of the zygomatic gland affects the eye.

Mild sialadenitis requires no treatment and a dog will usually recover on their own. However, a more developed abscess should be drained through the overlying skin. Systemic antibiotics should be administered to reduce symptoms.

Sialadenosis in Dogs

Sialadenosis is a non-inflammatory, non-neoplastic, usually bilateral enlargement of the mandibular salivary glands. The cause of sialadenosis in dogs is unknown.

Symptoms include painless swelling, weight loss, retching, lip smacking, nasal discharge, hypersalivation, or depression. Hypersalivation may be a result of increased parasympathetic activity or changes in sympathetic innervation. For treatment, phenobarbital administration is typically recommended as it provides support for neurogenic pathogenesis.

Necrotizing Sialometaplasia in Dogs

Necrotizing sialometaplasia is a squamous metaplasia of the salivary gland ducts and lobules, with ischemic necrosis of the salivary gland lobules. It’s most common in small breeds of dogs between the ages of 3-8.

Symptoms include depression, nausea, decreased appetite, weight loss, hypersalivation, gagging, and vomiting. A dog may also experience swelling of the salivary gland, which can be painful and also cause excessive drooling.

Surgery is usually not required to remove the affected salivary gland. Instead, pain management, antibiotics, NSAIDs, and antiinflammatory doses of glucocorticoids are usually recommended for treatment. Phenobarbital administration has been found to be the most effective treatment in several cases as it provides support for neurogenic pathogenesis.

Vet examining dog mouth

Diagnosis & Treatment

In order to properly diagnose your pup with ptyalism, a vet will need to evaluate their medical history, review their symptoms, and conduct a physical examination. This will give them the best idea of the root cause of their excessive drooling so that they can figure out an effective course of treatment.

Treatment ultimately depends on the underlying cause, whether that be local or systematic. For example, if your dog drools as a result of motion sickness, they can be given specific medication to treat nausea. Medication can also be used to reduce pain, treat anxiety, and absorb toxic chemicals to treat drooling. In more severe cases, surgery may be required to remove a tumor or foreign body that could be causing the drooling.

Dog Anxiety Meds: Frequently Asked Questions

A common symptom of dog anxiety is excessive drooling. There are a few ways you can go about treating dog anxiety, one of which is with medication. We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about dog anxiety meds so that you can feel confident that you’re treating your anxious pup the right way:

Does dog drooling indicate pain?

In certain cases, dog drooling can indicate pain. Stomach pain or upset, dental issues, blockage of salivary glands, and tumors are all examples where hypersalivation may be associated with pain. Dog drooling could be a symptom of a more serious health condition, which is why it’s so important to bring your dog to the vet if you notice them drooling more than normal.

What are the symptoms of rabies in dogs?

Before you bring your dog to the vet, it’s important to rule out rabies as it can be fatal and dangerous to other animals and even humans. Typical signs of rabies include acute behavioral change and progressive paralysis, and profuse salivation. Rabies is fatal once clinical signs appear. The only way to prevent rabies is by vaccinating and registering all dogs and keeping control of stray populations.

Is dog drooling normal?

Dog drooling is normal- to a certain extent, that is. Saliva production helps your dog digest food, but it shouldn’t happen in excess. So if you start to notice that your dog is leaving wet spots of slobber around the house, it might be a sign of an underlying issue. If you’re not sure if your dog’s drooling is normal or not, talk to your vet as hypersalivation can indicate a serious health condition.

Dog drooling slightly

Final Notes

When you get a dog, you have to expect to get slobbered on. That’s part of being a dog owner. But it’s also possible for your dog to drool too much.

So why is my dog drooling so much, you ask? There are various circumstances that could be causing your pup to drool more than usual.

Maybe they get motion sickness. Maybe they suffer from anxiety. Or maybe it’s something more serious, like a salivary gland tumor. In any case- hypersalivation in dogs is not something to take lightly. If your dog’s drooling doesn’t get better on its own within a few days, it’s important to get them checked out by a vet. And if you don’t have the time to physically bring your dog to the vet, you can use Dutch.

Dutch is telemedicine for pets that bring pet owners to the vet, and the vet to the pharmacy. With Dutch, pet owners will be connected to licensed veterinarians online where they can receive the proper diagnosis and treatment for their sick pup, without having to actually leave their home.

Whether you’re looking for treatment for dog allergies or dog drooling- Dutch can get you the essential medication you need delivered right to your doorstep within 7 days.

Dutch is convenient to use and easy to get started with, so you can be on your way to treating your dog’s excessive drooling as quickly as possible.

References

  1. Reiter, Alexander M. “Salivary Disorders in Small Animals - Digestive System.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 15 Nov. 2021, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/digestive-system/diseases-of-the-mouth-in-small-animals/salivary-disorders-in-small-animals?query=ptyalism.
  2. “Small Animal Topics.” ACVS, https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/salivary-mucocele.
  3. Stephanie Gibeault, MSc. “Is Your Dog's Drool Cool? When It's Natural and When You Should Worry.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 25 May 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/why-do-dogs-drool/.