By Dr. Becker
Dogs are designed by nature to drool, and some drool so much it’s as if they have little spigots in their mouths that are always open. Where the heck does all that slobber come from?
Heavy droolers can whip up an impressive amount of white foam around their mouths just picking up their pee-mail on a quick walk outside. These are usually the same guys who at the dog park or on a hike are often tooling around with a big string of saliva dangling from their mouths.
If you’ve ever played fetch with a heavy drooler, you know that as soon as he takes off after the ball, that dangling string of slime is likely to catch the wind and land across his muzzle, where it will stay firmly glued until you get a chance to wipe it off.
Probably one of the most annoying aspects of sharing your home with a big time slobberer is the insta-puddles that routinely appear on your floor. Not only does doggy drool on bare floors require constant cleanup, it can also present a slip-and-fall hazard for anyone who doesn’t see a puddle and steps on it.
Of course, if your floor is covered in wall-to-wall carpeting, the puddles are soaking right in. This is a whole other level of ick that may require you to call in professional cleaners!
If there’s a four-legged drooler in your family, it pays to know what kinds of situations are likely to turn on the waterworks.
5 Dog Drool Triggers
• Trigger No. 1: Food
Drooling is not only a natural response in dogs, but also a conditioned response to the sight or smell of food. Saliva production helps prepare your dog’s digestive system to process what he’s about to eat.
That’s why it’s a good idea, especially with heavy droolers, to train them to stay out of the kitchen when food is being prepared, including their food.
There’s a good chance you can significantly reduce the amount of drooling your dog does at mealtime if he remains a reasonable distance from sights and smells in the kitchen. It’s also wise to put his food down for him as quickly as you can once it’s prepared.
If like many heavy droolers your dog also slobbers in anticipation of a bowl of water, a handful of ice or a treat, you’ll have to figure out the best way to control the dribbling in those situations as well.
I have a friend whose super slobbery Golden Retriever loves ice cubes. Her solution is to put a paper towel on the floor in front of the fridge to absorb the drool as the dog waits for the cubes to drop from the ice dispenser into his bowl.
• Trigger No. 2: Heat
Dogs don’t sweat, except through the pads of their feet, so to lower their body temperature when they get overheated, they pant.
Panting speeds evaporation of water from the tongue, inside the mouth and in the upper respiratory tract. As the water evaporates, it helps your dog regulate her body temperature.
When she’s panting she can’t also be swallowing, which means the saliva that collects in her mouth has nowhere to go but out. Since you certainly never want to discourage your dog from panting, your best bet if she’s drooling in your house or car is to keep some paper towels or a rag handy.
• Trigger No. 3: Excitement
As I mentioned earlier, some dogs drool as soon when they pick up their pee-mail on a bush, tree or patch of grass while on potty walks.
The messages have been left by other animals who’ve urinated on those spots, and some dogs get really jazzed when they encounter the scent of another dog. The result: drooling.
Many prolific droolers also get quite slobbery whenever they visit new and exciting outdoor spaces. Natural settings like the woods or a hiking trail are a smorgasbord of intriguing smells for dogs. The result: massive drooling.
Some dogs also get so excited during play or while chasing after wild critters in the backyard that they drool.
• Trigger No. 4: Car Rides
If your dog drools excessively when he’s riding in the car with you, it’s probably a sign he’s experiencing either actual motion sickness, or a level of anxiety sufficient to upset his stomach. Other signs of carsickness include yawning, whining and uneasiness.
It’s important to keep in mind that motion sickness is as real for dogs as it is for people, and it can happen during even a short five-minute drive to the groomer’s or the dog park.
And just as children are more likely to get car sick than adults, puppies and younger dogs are also more susceptible. This is probably because the structure inside the ears responsible for balance isn’t yet fully developed. However, some dogs don’t outgrow motion sickness even as adults.
Most carsickness in adult dogs is the result of stress rather than the motion of the vehicle, so easing your dog’s anxiety is a good place to start. For tips on how to help a dog with motion sickness, read “6 Subtle Signs Your Dog is Carsick, and the Hidden Trigger Behind It.”
• Trigger No. 5: Facial Structure
Dogs with droopy lips and mouths that pull down at the corners tend to be all-star droolers. Saliva naturally accumulates in the pockets of their lips and spills over. Breeds known to be notorious droolers include:
Drooling That May Require a Veterinary Visit
Most drooling in dogs for which drooling is normal is usually entirely harmless. However, excessive salivation (called hypersalivation or ptyalism) can sometimes signal a health problem, most often one involving your dog’s mouth, teeth or gums.
Other causes of excessive saliva production include lesions or problems involving the central nervous system or oral cavity, as well diseases that affect the pharynx, esophagus and stomach. If your dog has never been much of a drooler and he suddenly starts, or if your normally slobbery dog seems to be drooling excessively even for him, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian.