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Excessive Drooling in Dogs: 7 Medical Causes

Cute bulldog demonstrating excessive drooling from the mouth
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Severity: i Low - Medium
Life stage: All

Whether we like it or not, dogs drool. For many breeds, like Great Pyrenees and Saint Bernards, drooling is completely normal and part of the experience of owning one of these dogs. Otherwise, sudden excessive drooling in dogs could indicate a medical problem that needs to be addressed by a veterinarian. 

So when is drooling normal, and when is it not? In this article, you will learn some of the potential medical causes of excessive drooling in dogs, what to do if you notice your dog drooling more than usual, and when it’s a problem. We’ll even share tips for how to deal with health issues that stem from standard, everyday drooling in dogs who tend to slobber!

Dog Drooling: What Is Normal?

Excessive drooling in Irish Setter dog on a hot summer day

Dogs constantly produce saliva from their salivary glands. Normally, most dogs swallow their saliva. Certain large and giant breed dogs, like those mentioned above, have very droopy lips that can accumulate excessive saliva that will then drip out as drool. Other breeds that are known for their drool include:

Certain environmental factors can also cause dogs to drool more than usual but these are still considered normal, including:

  • Dogs that are overheated and cooling themselves by panting
  • Dogs that are anticipating eating something yummy
  • Dogs that have been given a bitter or yucky-tasting oral medication
  • Dogs that have been given eye drops or nose drops

Characterizing Excessive Drooling in Dogs

Shih tzu with excessive drooling

Excessive drooling, also known as ptyalism, is a condition that occurs when something abnormal is happening in a dog’s body that generates excessive saliva. 

Depending on the underlying cause, dogs with ptyalism may or may not act sick but may have one or more of the following symptoms in addition to excessive drooling:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting or regurgitation
  • Lip smacking
  • Excessive swallowing
  • Suddenly head shy (doesn’t want to be touched around the head)
  • Changes in eating behavior, such as dropping food, chewing only on one side, refusing to eat hard food, etc.
  • Increased irritability or reclusive behavior, especially if the dog is in pain
  • Other abnormal behavior such as excessively tired or loss of interest in regular activities
  • Pawing at the face or muzzle
  • Chin acne
  • Anxiety

If your dog is acting normal other than suddenly drooling a lot, it is still a good idea to call your veterinarian for advice, as you could be missing subtle signs of sickness. 

Medical Causes of Excessive Drooling in Dogs

Close-up shot of dog's mouth showing drooling, a lot of saliva on the tongue, yellow teeth

Drooling is impacted by a dog’s mouth, gastrointestinal tract and nervous system, and abnormalities in any of those systems can result in excessive drooling.

The following is a partial list of medical conditions that can cause excessive drooling in dogs:

  • Diseases of the mouth: periodontal disease, oral trauma, mouth cancer, infections, chewing on an electrical cord, swallowing problems
  • Salivary gland diseases: infections, tumors, trauma, inflammation
  • Esophageal diseases: megaesophagus, inflammation (esophagitis), gastric reflux, parasites, foreign body, hiatal hernia
  • Stomach diseases: gastric inflammation, gastric ulcers, gastric parasites, twisted stomach (gastric dilation volvulus)
  • Neurological diseases: motion sickness, botulism, tetanus, facial nerve palsy, seizures, brain inflammation or cancer, vestibular disease, anxiety
  • Drugs and toxins: swallowing caustic substances like bleach, chewing on house or yard plants, licking insecticides or herbicides, ingesting recreational or prescription drugs, spider or snake bites, licking toads, caffeine, drugs used in anesthesia
  • Liver and kidney disease (nausea)

What to Do if Your Dog is Drooling Excessively

Suppose your dog is drooling excessively but acting fine in every other way (their behavior, appetite and energy level are all normal and they are not vomiting). In that case, calling your veterinarian or emergency clinic for advice is likely fine as a first step. Your veterinarian may still recommend that you bring your dog in for an examination, or they may instruct you to monitor your dog at home; in either case, follow their recommendations.

If you notice that your dog is excessively drooling and acting sick in any way, or you know that they chewed on or swallowed something toxic or dangerous, take your dog to a veterinarian for evaluation as soon as possible. Some causes of excessive drooling, such as gastric dilation volvulus, are imminently life-threatening without veterinary care, so it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Dogs slobbering in bed with pet parent in background

Treatment of excessive drooling in dogs varies widely and depends on the underlying cause. Your veterinarian will need to conduct a physical examination, ask you some questions and may need to run some tests.

If your dog needs treatment, the following are some common treatments for excessive drooling in dogs, according to the cause:

  • Dental disease: sedation, x-rays (radiographs), removal of diseased teeth, cleaning of the teeth, antibiotics, etc.
  • Salivary gland problems: surgery, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories
  • Esophageal problems: medications, feeding modifications, surgery
  • Stomach problems: medication, surgery, food therapy
  • Neurological problems: medication, surgery
  • Motion sickness: anti-nausea medication
  • Drugs and toxins: supportive care, removal of drugs and toxins from systems

Some cases of excessive drooling are easy to cure and manage. If your dog is drooling due to motion sickness, medication can help them feel better. If they are drooling due to dental disease or drug toxicity, they will stop as soon as the underlying problem is eliminated.

A gray and white pit bull terrier mixed breed dog with excessive drooling

If a dog is drooling excessively due to megaesophagus, liver disease, kidney disease or seizures from epilepsy, their symptoms can be managed with food therapy and medications. Ensuring these dogs do not develop dehydration from chronic drooling is also important. Working with a veterinarian you trust is critical to eliminating the underlying cause of excessive drooling in your dog.

If your dog’s drool is considered “normal” for their breed, but they are still getting chronic skin infections around their chin and muzzle due to constant wetness, try the following:

  • Clean affected skin (or skin folds) every 12 hours with an over-the-counter medicated wipe (either pet or human) designed for acne to dry the area and reduce the number of bacteria on the skin’s surface. Wipes with astringents (witch hazel) can also be helpful, but be sure to avoid causing problems with over-dryness.
  • Apply petroleum jelly to cleaned areas to protect the skin
  • Use stainless steel food and water bowls and wash them in the dishwasher every couple of days

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