Dog drool. It’s not pretty, but it’s a common, normal part of being a pooch. And when dogs are happy, or excited, or eating something delicious, they especially seem to have an abundance of drool.
Dog saliva is composed of about 98 percent water, and it’s rich in antibacterial compounds, enzymes, and electrolytes. It helps to lubricate your dog’s food, allowing your dog to better break down the food as part of the digestive process. It also helps to protect your dog’s teeth by coating them with proteins and clearing away food particles. It lowers the risk of both tooth decay and gum disease. It can likewise destroy bad breath bacteria.1
But… is there such a thing as too much drool? Is your dog drooling because of stomach problems, or some other ailment?
When Does Healthy Saliva Become Too Much Saliva?
If your dog suddenly seems to be excessively drooling, too much for him to swallow, there might be cause for concern. You know your dog better than anyone else, so you know what their “normal” is.
Excessive drooling is known as ptyalism, and it’s not only unhealthy for your dog’s mouth – it can cause inflammation and irritation… and could be an indication that your dog is unwell. For example, rabies can cause excessive dog drooling and that’s always important to rule out.2 But there are many other conditions that can cause excessive drool.
But First, Breeds Who Are Big Droolers
Some breeds drool much more than other breeds, so it’s important to take this into account as well. This usually comes down to their facial structure. Loose lower lips, for example, aren’t so great at containing saliva.
Some famously big droolers include the St. Bernard, French Mastiff, Mastiff, Bloodhound, Bulldog, Basset Hound, and Great Dane.3,4
Symptoms of Ptyalism in Dogs
The only way that you can really determine if your dog is drooling too much is by knowing your own pup. You know how much they usually drool, so any changes should stand out. Some of the major signs that your dog’s drooling isn’t normal include:
- Excessive drooling with no apparent cause
- Inflammation around the mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty swallowing
- Behavioral changes
- Stomach Bloat
- Pawing at the face5
Could Ptyalism Indicate A Stomach Problem?
While ptyalism can be an indication of many conditions, it can certainly indicate that your pup is suffering from a stomach issue. But even these issues can be quite varied. They include (but are not limited to):6
- Irritation from swallowing a foreign object
- Motion sickness
- Anxiety and depression (can be seen as vomiting and nausea)
- Allergic reactions to food
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- A hernia
- Gastric distension (look for stomach bloat)
- Gastric ulcer
- Infectious disease
You should also look inside your pup’s mouth to check for anything that doesn’t belong there, including small objects, bone fragments, fabric, or wood splinters. If these are embedded in your dog’s mouth, it will certainly be causing excessive saliva.
If your dog’s excessive drooling is clearly accompanied by other symptoms (like stomach bloat, diarrhea, vomiting, frothing saliva, behavioral changes, or anything else unusual) then you should get to your vet immediately. Their first concern is to always rule out rabies. But from there, they will run further tests to eliminate other serious possibilities. It’s helpful if you can let your vet know when your dog seems to salivate the most, as this can assist your vet in determining any triggers.
Even though drooling is common, if you’re concerned your pup is drooling excessively, visit your vet. At the very least, your vet can rule out potential health issues as a cause, giving you, and your best buddy, some peace of mind.
A Summertime Warning
Excessive dog drooling is also a sign of heat stroke in the hot summer months. If the weather is very warm, and your dog:
- Suddenly appears fatigued
- Is panting a lot
- Is drooling in excess
…then you should treat this seriously and immediately.
The first line of defense against an overheating dog is to get them into the shade or some air-conditioning, with plenty of water. If there’s any indication that your dog is struggling to breathe, take them to your vet or to an animal emergency room as soon as possible. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition.7,8
The Bottom Line
Your pooch’s health is always the number one priority. If any symptom or behavior seems unusual to you, then it probably is. You know them best! An excessively drooling dog may be absolutely nothing to worry about, but it’s always best to rule out the alternatives with a professional.
2. Lorenz, MD; Neer, TM; DeMars, P; Small Animal Medical Diagnosis, pg 197-198