What Your Dog's Drooling May Be Telling You

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

dog drooling

Story at-a-glance -

  • Dog saliva serves a number of purposes, including helping to keep teeth clean and moisture in the mouth
  • Saliva is necessary for your dog to properly chew and swallow her food, and it contains enzymes that start the digestion process when your dog eats a meal
  • Drooling in response to food is a normal, reflexive behavior for dogs, and dogs with thick, droopy lips often have saliva that pools within the folds and drips like a faucet
  • Some dogs may drool due to excitement, such as when you visit a new place or go for a walk
  • Excessive drooling can also be a sign of medical conditions, including overheating, stomach trouble, tumors or warts in the mouth, seizures, and certain metabolic disorders

For most dog owners, dog drool is an inevitable part of life. You'll likely find it covers your face or hands at some point during the day, after your dog gives you a lick hello or while you're feeding her a treat. For some breeds, especially large and giant breeds like Great Danes and Saint Bernards, dog drool may be so prolific that you'll find yourself wiping it off floors and walls.

While dog drooling may seem excessive compared to humans' relatively tame saliva, it's a natural and normal part of being a dog. Drooling can be beneficial for your dog and may be linked to different emotions. That being said, it can also be a sign of illness, especially if it comes on suddenly or is excessive.

Top Reasons Why Dogs Drool

Dog slobber is saliva, the same type you have in your mouth. Like in humans, dog saliva serves a number of purposes, including helping to keep teeth clean and moisture in the mouth. Saliva is necessary for your dog to properly chew and swallow her food, and it contains enzymes that start the digestion process when your dog eats a meal.

Drooling, which technically refers to the trickling of saliva from the mouth, can occur for many reasons, including the following. In medical terms, excessive drooling is known as hypersalivation or ptyalism.

Anticipation of Food — You've probably heard of Pavlov's dogs, the experiments in which dogs learned to associate the sound of a bell with being fed, and therefore began to drool in anticipation of the food they would receive. Drooling in response to food is a normal, reflexive behavior for dogs.

Your Dog's Too Hot — If your dog is too hot, she can only sweat through the pads of her paws. A more efficient method of cooling down is known as evaporative cooling, which occurs when your dog pants. Panting allows moisture on your dog's tongue to evaporate, helping to lower body temperature. When your dog is panting, it's difficult, if not impossible, to swallow saliva at the same time, so drooling may occur simultaneously.

While this can be normal, if the drooling is excessive and the temperatures are hot, it could be a sign that your dog is having trouble cooling down or even suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, as generating extra saliva helps to further dissipate heat.

Something Tastes Bad — If your dog ingests a bitter or bad-tasting medication, such as the pain medication Tramadol, she might drool excessively as a result.1 Eating something toxic, such as poisonous plants, mushrooms or toads, may also cause drooling. If you suspect your dog is drooling due to a toxic exposure, get your pet to an emergency veterinary clinic immediately.

Stomach Trouble — An upset tummy, including feelings of nausea, may lead your dog to drool. This can be caused by something as innocuous as a car ride, leading to motion sickness, to stomach distress caused by your dog eating something he shouldn't have, like a sock or cleaning chemicals.

Excitement — For some dogs, feelings of excitement act as a signal for the waterworks in their mouth to turn on. If you notice your dog gets particularly slobbery when you visit a new place, go for a walk or get a visit from a favorite friend, your dog is literally drooling with excitement.

Your Dog's Mouth Is Hurting — Excessive drooling may also be the result of an injury to your dog's mouth, an infection or a problematic tooth, in addition to trauma such as chewing an electrical cord or a stick stuck across the palate.2

Certain Medical Conditions — Rabies, distemper, tumors or warts in the mouth, seizures, and certain metabolic disorders are examples of medical conditions that may lead to excessive drooling. Problems involving the central nervous system or oral cavity, as well diseases that affect the pharynx, esophagus and stomach can also be involved.

Your Dog Is Large With Droopy Lips — Certain breeds have a facial structure that makes them notorious for drooling. Namely, large dogs with thick, droopy lips often have saliva that pools within the folds and drips like a faucet. This includes breeds such as Mastiffs, Saint Bernards, Bloodhounds, Basset Hounds, Great Danes and Newfoundlands.

Drooling: When to Worry, When to Mop Up

Any new or increased drooling in your dog is cause for a visit to your veterinarian, who can make sure that there are no underlying medical conditions to blame. In many cases, however, drooling is completely normal for dogs. If you share your home with a particularly slobbery pooch, keep a rag handy to mop up her face regularly, including after she eats and drinks and when you get home from a walk.

You can also try tying a handkerchief or bandana around your dog's neck to act as a bib for drool, and putting down a washable rug under her food and water bowls. While this will help to keep drool from coating your walls, clothing and floors, you shouldn't expect that the drooling will stop or decrease. Instead, embrace it — and learn to clean up drool messes quickly, as they tend to get crusty when they dry.

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