When you live with a dog, drool is part of the package. You get used to the slobber that stains your clothes and accept the fact dog drool is an unavoidable part of your life.
It’s usually not a big deal, but sometimes the liquid leaking out of your dog’s mouth gets out of control: there are puddles of it on the floor, wet stains on the couch, and you can’t look at your pup’s face without seeing strings of saliva precariously hanging from their jowls. Excessive drooling could be a harmless result of your dog’s genetics, but there are some cases where extra drool is a sign of something more serious.
Why Dogs Drool
Drooling is a necessary bodily function that helps dogs eat and digest better. Saliva breaks down food while it’s still in the mouth, and it helps dogs swallow hard substances like crushed bones. Like people, dogs produce saliva all the time, not only when they’re eating. This keeps the mouth from becoming dry, and saliva even plays a role in dental health. Whole Dog Journal writes,
“While salivary amylase initiates the first step in carbohydrate breakdown, other salivary enzymes work with the mineral sodium to disinfectant the oral cavity, breaking down bacteria and microorganisms in food. Adequate salivary flow is a dog’s first line of immune defense; if drugs or treatment (such as those used in chemotherapy or radiation cancer treatments) sufficiently limit saliva production, oral health may suffer.”
Dog drool may be causing you more cleanup than you’d like, but it plays an important role in canine health. Remember that the next time you’re walking barefoot across the room and your heel slips in a sticky puddle of doggy slobber. That slobber is the first step in healthy digestion and cuts down on canine cavities.
Drool-y Dog Breeds
All dogs drool, but some breeds do it more than others. Dogs with loose upper lips are the biggest culprits. Bloodhounds, Saint Bernards, Mastiffs, and others have facial traits that lead to leaky lips.
Breeds with tighter top lips are able to keep their saliva contained in their mouth. Dogs with loose mouth skin, on the other hand, can’t help it when their slobber escapes. They can’t stop the slobber from happening, and it’s not their fault they drool more than others.
If you share your home with one of these popular breeds, be prepared to mop your floors more than the average dog owner:
- Saint Bernard
- Great Dane
- Great Pyrenees
Causes of Excessive Drooling
Dealing with drool is part of life with a dog, but there are situations when producing too much saliva is a sign there’s something going on with your pooch.
Stomachaches and motion sickness can cause dogs to drool more than normal. Many pups drool excessively every time they get in the car because the movement makes them feel sick. It’s usually because they’re not used to the sensation of being inside a moving vehicle, and the combination of a nervous tummy and a stressful situation triggers more saliva production.
They’ll continue to coat your backseat in slobber until you help them work through their motion sickness. Try slowly introducing the dog to taking car rides. Start by having them sit in the parked car and gradually work your way up to driving around the block. Slowly getting them used to it will relieve their stress and nausea while putting a stop to the slobbery problem.
Besides car rides, there are countless other situations that can trigger stress-induced drooling. Vet visits, thunderstorms, bath time—dogs tend to drool when they’re experiencing something particularly unpleasant. The response is usually connected to the fact that panting is a common sign of anxiety in dogs.
Dogs pant when they’re nervous, and keeping their mouth open means they let their saliva drip down their chin instead of keeping it contained or swallowing it. You can help by identifying your dog’s specific stress triggers and helping them to either avoid them or work through what bothers them.
When the weather is warm, dogs run the risk of getting heat stroke. They can’t sweat, so they attempt to lower their body temperature through the evaporation that happens during panting.
Panting is an essential function in regulating body temperature, but it’s not highly efficient. Dogs become overheated easily, and heat stroke happens when the body reaches a temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Excessive drooling, rapid heart rate, and appearing to be dizzy are all symptoms. WebMd advises:
“To avoid this, always have fresh, clean water available and shady places for him to cool off. On very hot days, keep him indoors, limit exercise, and never leave him in a parked car.”
Dogs develop tooth decay and tartar buildup in the same ways humans do. When their teeth become coated with plaque and tartar, that bacteria rubs against the inside of their mouth and prompts excessive saliva production. Any kind of pain or discomfort in the mouth can cause extra drool. Broken teeth, gum disease, rotting teeth, and oral tumors are all possible causes.
In some cases, the dog isn’t actually producing more saliva than normal, but oral issues make it painful for them to swallow. Saliva builds up until it spills out of their mouth. If you suspect your dog has a dental issue, look inside their mouth for obvious signs of trouble like chipped teeth, discolored teeth, and discolored gums.
Abnormal or excessive drooling is often a sign a dog either ingested or was exposed to a kind of poison. Poisonous plants including azaleas, sago palms, and lilies can lead to kidney failure and other dangerous health conditions. There are also chemical-based substances like pesticides and cleaning products to worry about. Besides drooling, other signs to look out for include vomiting, lack or appetite, and lethargy.
The Bottom Line…
On its own, a surplus of saliva is nothing to worry about. It’s messy and can add to your list of clean-up chores, but it’s something dog owners get used to.
In most cases, drooling is completely normal. In cases where the dog only drools excessively in response to specific triggers, consider the drool a sign your dog is stressed. Identifying the trigger and helping them overcome that anxiety will often shut off the faucet.
If you’ve noticed they’re drooling more than normal and it’s happening all the time, there’s the chance it’s related to a medical condition. Your veterinarian will be your best resource to rule out possible problems. Schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
Feature image via Flickr/Dallas Floer Photography