Excessive Drooling in Dogs: Why Is My Dog Drooling More Than Usual?

What constitutes excessive drooling/hypersalivation? When should you worry about your dog’s production of saliva?

Dogs drool; there is no way around it. Some will drool more, some less, depending on the breed and other factors. (From our observation also on the gender—girl dogs don’t drool! All boy dogs we have had drooled a lot. JD’s waterworks could turn a desert into a lush garden!)

Excessive Drooling in Dogs: Why Is My Dog Drooling More Than Usual?

Saliva is a good thing

Not necessarily all over your Sunday outfit, but it certainly has an important function in your dog’s mouth.

Saliva is an enzyme-rich liquid that lubricates food and starts the digestive process. (That’s why most of the waterworks, as in JD’s case, get turned on in anticipation of a meal.) Saliva also contains some other cool stuff, such as antibacterial agents.

The glands in your dog’s mouth produce saliva all the time. Normally, it just gets swallowed. One of the jobs of saliva is to carry away any food debris and bacteria from the teeth.

Saliva also is part of the dogs’ cooling mechanism. When your dog pants, saliva evaporates, carrying away the excess heat.

Lack of saliva

Drool helps prevent dental disease and infections in the mouth. If your dog’s mouth was dry–which can actually happen–all hell can break loose. If you think that too much drool sucks, dry mouth can be devastating for your dog.

While dehydration can be the reason behind your dog’s dry mouth, it is easy to fix. However, dehydration is not the only potential cause. Some medications can cause it and you might be able to switch to a different one. But there are causes that are not as easy to treat. Dry mouth can be associated with:

  • immune-mediated disease
  • radiation treatment
  • nerve damage

A dog with a severely dry mouth will not only have thick saliva but can suffer complications such as:

  • bad breath
  • difficulty swallowing
  • cracked tongue and mucous membranes
  • inflammation in the mouth
  • severe dental disease

Source: petMD

Do you have a better appreciation for your dog’s drool yet?

How much is too much?

Excessive doesn’t mean more than you’d like, but more than would be normal for your dog.

Too little saliva is bad. How much is just enough and what is excessive? And what is the harm in too much drooling? Well, I suppose it is possible for a dog to drool enough to get dehydrated. The importance of excessive drooling, however, lies in the cause.

There are two potential reasons behind your dog’s excessive drooling.

  1. Your dog produces a normal amount of saliva but it dribbles from the mouth. This can be caused either by an anatomic abnormality or inability to swallow normally
  2. Something stimulates overproduction of saliva

Normally, increased production of saliva is stimulated by:

  • the presence or anticipation of food
  • excitement
  • something yucky/foul-tasting

Health issues that result in excessive drooling

The list of issues that can be behind your dog’s excessive drooling is likely to surprise you. It includes:

  • disease in the mouth or pharynx
  • salivary gland disease
  • metabolic disorders
  • gastrointestinal disease
  • organ dysfunction (liver or kidneys)
  • neurological disorders
  • hyperthermia
  • infections
  • toxins
  • certain medications
  • tumors
  • fear/anxiety

This is not a complete list! For a full list, see petMD.

Commonly, excessive drooling is associated with a problem in the mouth.

Foreign objects

Foreign bodies in the mouth include anything that got stuck in the gums, tongue, the roof of the mouth, between the teeth, or in the esophagus. Use your best judgment whether you can remove it safely. When in doubt, always err on the side of caution and call your veterinarian. If you suspect a foreign body, don’t wait to address it, though. These things can lead to severe infections and tissue damage.

Note: The roof of the mouth gets wider towards the back. Commonly, things like pieces of bone or sticks can be stuck across the roof of the mouth. You cannot remove them by pulling them forward. The only way is to push them further towards the back of the mouth first.

Injuries

Look for bleeding, wounds, ulcers, and other deviations from normal appearance.

Ingestion of caustic, corrosive or irritant material

Typically associated signs include red or discolored oral tissues and pain.

Dental disease

Periodontal disease, tooth root abscesses, fractured teeth, and oral infections or inflammation can all lead to excessive drooling and also a lot of pain.

Tumors

Look for any lumps, bumps or any tissue that looks strange. These symptoms should definitely be taken seriously.

While foreign objects and injuries might be a judgment call, always see your veterinarian if you suspect dental disease or find any strange masses or pigmentation in your dog’s mouth. Warning signs of a potential emergency include:

  • pain
  • an inability to swallow
  • difficulty breathing
  • vomiting
  • lethargy,
  • foul odor from the mouth
  • weakness
  • extreme agitation
  • profuse drooling that lasts for more than a few hours

Problems outside the mouth

Excessive drooling might be a result of a problem not related to the mouth. Jasmine (I know I said that girl dogs don’t drool) will drool when her stomach is upset. Nausea causes drooling, as can neurologic diseases that impair a dog’s ability to swallow.

Excessive drooling can be one of the signs of heatstroke, though in such case you’re likely to get tipped off by excessive panting first. Do get familiar with the early symptoms of heatstroke; it is a life-threatening situation.

Dogs suffering from gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) also tend to drool a lot because the entrance to the stomach is twisted shut.  If your dog is drooling, trying to vomit but little or nothing comes up, has a distended abdomen, and is in pain, get him to the veterinarian IMMEDIATELY.

Pain or anxiety of any origin can result in excessive drooling.

It is important to pay attention to your dog. Know what is normal.  Don’t dismiss anything out of the ordinary. Symptoms usually like company, so look for other signs, such as:

  • loss of appetite
  • bad breath
  • fever
  • changes in behavior
  • difficulty swallowing
  • regurgitation
  • vomiting

Related articles:
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Related stories:
Stick Injuries in Dogs: Watson’s Story

Further reading:
Excessive Production of Saliva in Dogs

Categories: Excessive drooling

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Jana Rade edited by Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience. Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc is our wonderful sponsor and has been kind to edit and fact-check my important articles.

11 Comments
  1. FiveSibesMom

    Great information. I have a sometimes “drooler” with one of my Huskies due to anxiety. Pinning to share your info!

  2. I must admit that drooling dogs tend to “gross” me out. I know certain breeds are prone to drooling. Thank you for sharing signs that drooling may have a medical reason for happening.

  3. I am sorry but I confess I find ‘drool’ icky stuff and can’t enjoy the breeds that drool as part of their breed make up. I am surprised that it might be an indicator of illness but I always learn so much about doggy stuff when I visit your blog, if I had a dog not prone to this, then I would see drool as an indicator of an issue that needs to be checked out.

    PS Our Miranda drools because she is happy and I have to remember she will drip on me if I am cuddling her …… * sigh *

    • I couldn’t say I enjoy drool either 🙂 But normal drool is just bad news for the clothes, floors, furniture and sometimes walls too. But increased drooling is an important sign to be aware of.

  4. None of our dogs drool, so if one started, I would be wondering what is going on. I didn’t realize it could be a sign of anxiety or pain. One of my friend’s dogs drools intermittently, I’ll have to let him know about this.

  5. Alix Mitchell

    So many people love bully breeds but hate the drool, and of course they are one of the breeds prone to more drool. I always try to tell them to think of how nice their teeth will be thanks to the drool! Great article though encompassing the good aspects of drooling but also making us aware that excessive drooling can be a sign of health problems as well.

    • Ideally, saliva should stay inside the body. When the mouth conformation, panting or excitement allow it to pour out, it’s just a fact of life. But it can be a sign of a serious problem.

  6. Very interesting! I never thought about anxiety causing drooling in dogs. That does make a lot of sense though. Kitties don’t often have issues with drooling, though it does sometimes happen. I’ve noticed it with my Dexter when he is super relaxed and happy.

  7. Layla does drool, never has and it has never entered my mind to even think about it. If the vet has not said anything then I am not going to worry either.

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