Adult human beings are generally pretty good at keeping saliva where it’s supposed to be. Dogs, on the other hand, are more likely to slobber, lick, and drool in the course of an average day. Depending on a dog’s breed, this drool might be nothing more than an enthusiastic lick hello or a wet, ongoing issue that requires pet parents to keep a rag nearby. Drool is a way of life for dogs, but what should an owner do when that harmless dribble turns into a full-on drip? This article will not only address the age-old question, “why do dogs drool?”, but help pet parents to differentiate between normal, healthy drooling – and when it may indicate an underlying health issue.
Why Is My Dog Drooling: Is It Normal Or A Concern?
Separating a harmless, everyday canine reality from a worrisome symptom requires a little understanding of drool. Saliva is a powerful and extremely useful bodily fluid, helping dogs digest food, lubricate the mouth, stay cool through panting, and even expel potentially harmful materials. Certain dogs drool far more than others because of unique jaw anatomy. Dogs like Newfoundlands, Basset Hounds, and Bulldogs tend to produce a large amount of drool because of the cup-like shape of the breeds’ muzzles and mouths. It can be so prolific that some owners buy or fashion “drool bibs” for these breeds to make mopping up drool fast and easy.
Sometimes, however, a dog’s drooling mechanisms seem to kick into overdrive. This will produce long, hanging strings of spittle, and nearby pet parents may start worrying about being in the “line of fire” in the event of a head shake. A dog that is drooling excessively may wake up from a nap with a large puddle seeped into the carpet, cushion, or dog bed beneath them. They may even trail saliva behind them stretching from the last thing they licked. It isn’t a lot of fun to clean up, but it could also be an important signal that something is wrong.
Causes of Excessive Dog Drooling: Understanding The Reasons
Dogs produce excess saliva and drool for a number of reasons that can range from emotional to environmental. Not only is drooling an important part of coping with changes for a dog, it can signal to pet parents that something has gone wrong and indicate a vet visit is necessary.
- Heat-Related Drooling: When temperatures rise, a fur-covered pup doesn’t have the same options for cooling off as his pet parents. While dogs can sweat, they can’t sweat sufficiently enough to lower their body temperature. To shed excess heat, his most readily-available method is open-mouthed panting, which pulls cooler air into his body. This helps lower his temperature from the inside out. Saliva evaporates and helps speed the cooling process, so the more saliva, the faster and better that cooling process should work.
When the heat becomes too much to safely “pant off,” however, a dog may produce thick, excessive amounts of drool. That’s a clear signal to his human companion that he should be taken somewhere cool and shady immediately, and that he needs access to cold, clean water. If the panting and drooling doesn’t start getting better after a few minutes, he should be taken to an emergency vet to be checked out.
- Foreign/Toxic Substance Drooling: When a curious pup gnaws on a potentially harmful plant in the garden, or licks something he shouldn’t, his body’s natural reaction is to get rid of it. If it’s in the stomach, he will vomit. If it’s reached the digestive system, nature will take its course, and will hopefully do so outside the house. When he eats or licks a potentially toxic substance, however, his mouth will also do its best to get rid of it before it’s ingested: that means a lot of drool.
Drooling by itself isn’t necessarily an all-hands-on-deck alert, but if it’s accompanied by shaking, a lack of balance, or vomiting, it’s time to head to the vet. Drooling will also precede vomiting, as saliva protects the mouth and throat from stomach acid moving back up the digestive system. If the vomit / saliva being produced is frothy, this could indicate powerful vomiting contractions in his stomach. This is a sign of canine distress that points to a dangerous substance already in his stomach or digestive system.
- Drooling in the Car: While dogs are often very excited at the prospect of a journey – particularly one with the windows rolled down – the rest of their body isn’t always on board. Just like people, dogs can and do get carsick! This might be as minor as a little extra drool, or it could end up with unexpected doggie vomit in the backseat if he’s feeling extremely out-of-sorts.
Carsickness generally strikes when a dog isn’t used to travelling by car: the movement and acceleration upsets the balance of his inner ear. While there’s no in-the-moment cure except pulling over, taking short, frequent rides from puppyhood onwards can destigmatize car travel and help curtail canine nausea and motion-sickness-related drooling.
- Drooling Due to Dental Issues: For a dog, drooling is the fastest way to remove unwanted tastes, debris, and substances from his mouth. Sometimes, however, the unwanted tastes and textures are part of his mouth. Broken or decaying canine teeth can be incredibly unpleasant to him as much of their grasping and manipulation movements rely on their mouth. While it won’t generally do much good, his body will still drool excessively in an attempt to “remove” a bad tooth or painful gum issue.
If a dog is showing signs of dental-related pain and drooling, he’ll need to go to a vet that specializes in dental checkups. He may need dental work to repair his bite, tooth removal, or medication if his mouth has an infection. Other signs of dental problems include a reluctance to eat hard kibble, very bad dog breath, or pink/red staining on lighter-colored dog toys.
- Drooling Due to Anxiety: Dogs have unique personalities, and sometimes those personalities are a little neurotic. From canine separation anxiety when a human companion goes to work to nervous episodes during big changes or location moves, drooling and dog shaking can be a coping mechanism. If a dog seems “frozen” in place and is shaking and drooling excessively, he may be worried or terrified of something nearby – an unknown person, the vacuum cleaner, another pet, and so on. His body is trying to expel a “toxin” that isn’t physical, but he is reacting to his environment as if it were.
Whenever possible, the best way to deal with anxiety-triggered shaking and drooling is either to remove the cause of the anxiety or to remove the dog from proximity to it. Once a dog feels safe and protected once more, he should be able to turn off the saliva waterworks and stop shivering out of fear and concern. In addition, pet parents may want to speak with their vet and see if CBD-infused dog biscuits or canine nutritional supplements could be effective in reducing the dog’s anxiety.
- Drooling Around Mealtime: This is the least worrisome of a dog’s potential drooling events, because all it means is that he’s very excited for what’s about to come. Whether it’s a savory dog treat from his favorite brand, some succulent scraps from his pet parent’s dinner plate, or another tasty morsel, he’s ready to chow down. Just as humans experience a “mouth watering” effect when they’re exposed to delicious-looking meals, a dog’s body gets ready to chow down before his food bowl even hits the floor.
That saliva his mouth is emitting is filled with enzymes that aid in the breaking down and swallowing of food. In biology terms, the sooner the drooling mechanism starts, the sooner that delicious food can start traveling to his stomach. This type of dog drooling, while it may get a bit sticky or seem gross to human bystanders, is perfectly safe and natural.
Why Is My Dog Drooling So Much: Knowing The Causes
While the causes of drooling do include some potential concerns for pet parents, the good news is that the drool itself is generally harmless. If, however, said drool ends up leaving its mark on carpets, furniture, pillows, or car windows, it can end up being a headache. The most common “drool removal” cleaning remedies include:
- Vinegar and Water: Mix a 50-50 solution in a spray bottle and use on hard surfaces like floors.
- “Magic” Erasers: These smooth sponges can be found in the grocery store cleaning aisle and do an excellent job at removing dried drool from places like walls, porches, and steps. Just dampen slightly, scrub, and wipe clean with a dry cloth.
- Sport-Style Laundry Detergent: If excessive dog drool gets on clothes, a laundry detergent made specifically for activewear will tackle the tough saliva enzymes and stubborn dried-on stains with ease.
Saliva and drool are part of the canine experience, just like shed dog hair, wagging tails, and unconditional love. When a dog owner knows and understands why dogs drool, serious medical issues and complications like canine heat stroke can be avoided – even if sticky, slobbery drool stains can’t!
1) Gibeault, Stephanie, MSc, CPDT. “Is Your Dog’s Drool Cool? When It’s Natural and When It’s Cause for Concern.” American Kennel Club (AKC.org), April 27, 2018, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/why-do-dogs-drool/. Accessed February 2, 2020.
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3) Maher, Denise. “Why Does My Dog…Drool So Much?” VetStreet.com, July 24, 2012, http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/why-does-my-dog-drool-so-much. Accessed February 2, 2020.
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https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/dealing-with-drooling. Accessed February 2, 2020.