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Why is my dog drooling?

Why is my dog drooling?
Learn about dogs

As much as we’d love to be able to, it’s impossible to know exactly how your dog is feeling, what they’re thinking and why they’re behaving in a certain way. Every once in a while, you might wonder and be a little concerned as to why your furry friend is drooling excessively.

A bit of slobber never hurt anyone, although it can be pretty disgusting when it gets all over your clothes, floor and furniture. Some people don’t mind the drool, but others will see the gobs of slobber as their absolute worst nightmare.

Let’s delve deeper into all the possible reasons as to why your dog might be producing pools of drool, ranging from the totally harmless triggers to the ones that you might need to investigate further.

What's the difference between drooling and foaming at the mouth?

Drool is when excessive saliva is produced and builds up in the mouth. If you want to get a bit scientific about it, ‘ptyalism’ is the medical term for excessive salivation.

Foaming at the mouth is essentially the same thing as drool, however the drool just turns into a frothy, foamy substance when it comes into contact with the air. Drooling combined with panting can also increase the chances of your pooch foaming at the mouth.

Why is my dog drooling and foaming at the mouth?

Drooling and foaming at the mouth are normal bodily reactions, and there are various triggers that could be setting it off, some being totally innocuous and some that may need further investigation.

You know your pooch the best, so you’re the one who’s most likely to notice if the drooling is accompanied by any other strange behaviours or physical changes. As a result, you’ll be able to figure out if it’s just a bit of normal doggy drool or something that needs medical attention.

Breed

It’s no secret that some dog breeds are big droolers. Typically, it’s the big, bounding giant breeds that are prone to a bit of dribble, and these breeds often have huge, jowly cheeks, loose skin around the mouth and pretty short snouts, which makes it much harder for them to keep in any liquid.

Those loose, large skin jowls allow the saliva to accumulate, and if your hound ever shakes their huge head from side to side, expect a shower of slobber all over you.

Why do dogs drool?

Also, brachycephalic (flat-faced) dog breeds  have squashed up, wrinkly faces that are also unable to hold in any slobber, so these pooches are too likely to drool a bit more than the average canine.

Some of the breeds that are prone to drooling are:

  • Newfoundland
  • Bulldog
  • Bloodhound
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Boxer
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • Great Dane

This type of drooling isn’t a cause for concern, and owners of these breeds will understand that cleaning up some slobber from the floor, their clothes, the furniture and even their face after a few sloppy kisses is just a part of day-to-day life. You’ll want to always keep a slobber cloth to hand.

Exercise

After any kind of intense exercise, your breathing becomes heavier as you try and regain the energy you’ve lost. The exact same thing happens to our pooches when you take them out for walkies.

Your dog will pant  and breathe heavily when they’re exercising to help cool them down and catch their breath again, causing them to drool and foam. Also, the excitement of going out for a run triggers the panting and drooling even more, and this combined with the actual physical activity will get your pooch foaming at the mouth.

There’s absolutely nothing to worry about with this kind of drooling, it’s actually a sign that your dog is happy, healthy and just having a breather on their walk. Give your pooch a drink of water and it should clear up pretty quickly.

As we know, some breeds are more predisposed to drooling, such as brachycephalic breeds. Generally, owners of flat-faced breeds need to be careful and aware of the risks of overexerting their squashy-faced pup as it can be very dangerous. Their squashed up facial structure inhibits their normal breathing, so if they engage in too much physical activity they may struggle to breathe.

As a result, when exercising, flat-faced breeds are more likely to pant and subsequently drool and foam at the mouth.

Heatstroke

Much like it affects humans, heatstroke in dogs is when the body temperature reaches dangerously high levels that your dog is unable to bring back down. Heatstroke can be triggered when your furry friend has too much exercise in the high temperatures, they sunbathe for a little too long or when they’re trapped in a hot space with no ventilation, like a car or a conservatory. It can happen quickly and easily, so you must be super careful in the summer and be sure to never leave your dog in the car alone.

Anyway, a few symptoms of heatstroke include severe panting, dehydration, diarrhoea, vomiting and drooling. Panting and drooling is a method of regulating heat, referred to as evaporative cooling. If your dog is excessively drooling, paired with any other symptoms, you must try to gradually cool your pup down with cool, damp towels and get them to the vet immediately.

Heatstroke can be deadly, so it’s important to try and prevent it from happening in the first place. Limit your pup’s exposure to extreme temperatures by walking them outside of prime sunshine hours and always have cool, fresh water available. Your four-legged friend needs to stay hydrated all year round, and even more so in the summer!

Food

Ever seen food that looked and/or smelled so good that it just made your mouth water? We’ve all been there, you might be thinking of a juicy burger, a delicious roast dinner or a slither of chocolate cake, whatever it is, there’ll be something that gets you salivating.

And it’s just the same for our dogs, they love food and when you’re getting their delicious dinner ready or you have a tasty treat to hand, you might notice a droplet of drool forming.

When your four-legged friend sees or smells something yummy, their brain works to anticipate that they’re going to eat it (it’s the same for humans too), so the drool is an involuntary response from the salivary glands.

Saliva is essential in digestion, working to help the food travel to the digestive system by pushing it down the oesophagus. Therefore, if your pooch sees something tasty, their natural reaction is to produce the saliva that’ll be necessary for digestion. However, since your dog isn’t actually eating anything yet, the saliva starts to pool up in their mouth. Hence the puddles of drool you might notice on the floor after cooking up your meal.

Every dog will experience this, not just those that are prone to drooling!

Poisoning

We all know a curious canine who loves to sniff out everything they can find, steal things from the kitchen countertops and sneakily treat themselves to the food on your plate, even though they absolutely know this isn’t allowed. However, this can sometimes get your pooch into a spot of bother if they pinch something poisonous.

Many human foods, household plants and household chemicals are toxic for dogs, along with various other things, and when your dog ingests a toxin, it can trigger excessive salivation and drooling.

The drool might also be paired with vomiting, weakness, disorientation and collapse. If you think your pup has eaten something they shouldn’t have, you need to contact the vet immediately, don’t wait around until you start seeing symptoms.

Oral health issues

Your dog’s oral health is just important as yours, those pearly whites need to last your pooch their entire life, just like yours! If you notice that your dog is drooling significantly and there’s been no other changes in terms of their physical activity, temperature, emotional state and environment, it’s a good idea to take a look inside their mouth.

Look out for ulcers, signs of gum disease, infections, fractured teeth, tumours, or even just something stuck in your pooch’s teeth, mouth or lips, like a chunk of wood or a blade of grass.

Whatever it is that’s troubling your pooch in their mouth, it’ll prevent them from swallowing as they normally would and then saliva will begin to pool up. As a result, your dog will start dribbling. You may also notice symptoms such as your poor pooch being reluctant to eat, whining and pawing at their mouth.

Book your pet in for their annual vet check-ups so you can always make sure any issues with your dog’s oral or physical health are detected in the early stages. Also, brush your pup’s teeth regularly, much as you would your own. This is the best way to prevent any problems.

Emotions

Just like humans, our canines have a complex set of emotions, they feel excitement, stress, fear, anxiety and more. If you’re able to read your pooch’s body language signs and cues, then you’ll be able to identify how they’re feeling much easier.

Stress, anxiety and fear can all trigger your dog to act a little odd, displaying behaviours such as trembling, pacing, hiding, barking and panting heavily. The barking and panting help trigger the dribbling. So, if you notice your dog is drooling during firework season, likely paired with some of these other behaviours, it’s safe to say that your dog is feeling anxious due to the loud noises.

On the other hand, you might notice the slobber starting when you arrive at the park, when you get home from work or when you have a visitor round, and this is probably just pure excitement!

Why is my dog foaming at the mouth?

Although slobber triggered by an emotional response is nothing to worry about in terms of their physical health, nobody wants their pooch drooling all the time because they’re stressed, fearful and anxious.

To solve this kind of drooling, you need to work out what’s triggering your poor pooch’s intense emotions and either remove the source of the anxiety or help to calm them down.

Seizures

No pooch parent wants to see their beloved furry family member in any kind of pain or suffering from any sort of illness. Epilepsy  is a condition that both humans and hounds can sadly experience, and it refers to chronic seizures that can occur at any random moment. Typically, seizures are characterised by your dog’s legs jerking and making paddling movements, muscle twitches, stiffened muscles, collapse, and of course, drooling and foaming at the mouth.

If you spot your dog having a seizure for the first time, you must contact the vet to determine if the seizure was a one-off event or if the seizures are likely to reoccur.

For example, if your dog has been poisoned, they may have a seizure as a result, which is referred to as a reactive seizure. Once the toxic substance has been cleared from your dog’s system thanks to the vet, the seizure shouldn’t reoccur.

Nausea

Nobody likes feeling unwell, especially when you feel nauseous.

For both people and pooches, feeling nauseous is usually paired with saliva accumulating in the mouth. Our dogs typically experience this at a much more intense level, causing them to drool. This might be followed by your dog being restless, hiding, pacing up and down the house and in the end, vomiting.

Various things can make your dog feel unwell, such as eating something that has upset their tummy, motion sickness from a car ride, anxiety or even several medical concerns. Whatever it is, it’s important to see if you can work out what triggered the drooling and nausea.

For example, if your dog is always throwing up after a car ride, you need to try and desensitise them to car journeys. Start by just having your dog sit in the car without actually driving anywhere. Due to the nausea, your dog might be scared and anxious about actually getting in the car in the first place, and this anxiety will only emphasise the nauseous feeling. Make the car a positive place at this point with a few treats.

From there you need to go on really short car journeys, and we do mean really short, and keep building up the distance from there. After lots of practice, your dog should be ready for a road trip!

If you can’t find the root of the sickness problem whatsoever, a vet trip might be necessary to stop your poorly pup from throwing up.

Medication

A common side effect of various medications is excessive salivation and drooling, and if you’ve got a poorly pooch that’s taking meds, you might notice this as a result. Also, the medication might have a pretty strong taste, which your pooch doesn’t like, causing their mouth to water.

This type of drooling shouldn’t be anything to worry about and should clear up when the course of medication is done.

Rabies

For some reason, when we see a dog excessively drooling and foaming at the mouth, our minds instantly seem to think of rabies. Rabies is a severe disease spread through saliva, generally through bite wounds. It’s fatal, causing permanent brain and nerve damage, presenting itself through symptoms such as:

  • Fearfulness
  • Aggression
  • Attention seeking
  • Drooping face
  • Weakness
  • Inability to walk normally
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Excessive drooling
  • Foaming at the mouth

Fortunately, rabies isn’t prevalent in the UK. However, the disease is sadly rife in various other countries, so if you’re wanting to travel abroad with your pooch, a rabies vaccination will be fundamental.

Other medical conditions

Various other medical conditions can cause your dog to excessively drool, such as sinus infections, kidney disease, liver disease and canine distemper, to name a few.

If you can’t work out why your pooch might be drooling so much, and it’s paired with other strange physical and behavioural changes, it’s a good idea to book in a vet check-up to see if anything is amiss with your pet’s health.

Should I be worried if my dog is drooling?

Drooling in itself isn’t damaging or bad, it all depends on the factors that seem to be triggering the slobber as to whether or not the drool is something to worry about.

Keep an eye on your dog’s behaviour, their physical health, if they’re still eating and drinking as they normally would and if there’s anything happening in their environment that could trigger the slobber (other dogs, loud noises, visitors, playtime and so on).

If you’re worried, seek help from your vet.

Recap

So, if you don’t mind a bit of slobber, don’t worry too much about the drool, it’s just part of the package when it comes to owning a dog!

There are plenty of reasons as to why your pooch is producing a bit of drool, and usually these reasons will be totally innocuous. However, if paired with other strange changes in your dog, we’d always advise speaking to the vet to ease your concerns.

Dr Andrew Miller BVSc MRCVS

Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS

Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.

Sources
  1. Metabolic and toxic causes of canine seizure disorders: A retrospective study of 96 cases Veterinary Journal, 187, (2), Feb 2011, 272-275, doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2009.10.023

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