How much dog drool is too much?

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Is your dog drooling excessively? We expect a certain amount of salivating from our canine friends especially when they are panting from hot weather. Also, when they smell or see something delicious, they produce an excess of saliva and it spills out of their mouths instead of being swallowed. Some dog breeds are prodigious droolers, such as Saint Bernards, mastiffs, Newfoundlands, etc. If your dog has tighter lip conformation and yet seems to be drooling for no obvious reason then it’s time for a thorough oral exam.

First order of business is check in your dog’s mouth to see if anything is amiss. Carefully pull back the lips and inspect for any broken or infected teeth. Are the gums healthy and pink or are they bright red and odorous from gingivitis? Is there brown tartar coating the teeth or are they nice and white? Many dogs will continue to eat even if there is a tooth-root abscess. If you are concerned that the cause may be dental disease, it’s time for a trip to the veterinarian to see if a good exam and cleaning under anesthesia is the next step.

Next, you can try to pry open the jaw and see if there is a stick wedged on the roof of the mouth. This is a classic condition that is easily remedied with a small pair of pliers to pluck the stick from where it is wedged between the teeth. Often the dog won’t cooperate and a visit to the vet is needed for some mild sedation. Injuries are also common from chewing sharp objects like bones. There could be some blood-tinged saliva to indicate some trauma. We have seen some impressive tongue lacerations that require surgery.

Most dogs don’t complain much so if you observe them having trouble seizing and chewing food it’s time for a good look by a vet.

One area of greatest concern for a drooling dog is the possibility of tumors in the mouth. They can be attached to the gums or inside of the lips or under the tongue. Many oral tumors can be malignant and require significant surgery. Some tumors are benign and surgery is curative. Any suspected oral tumor needs to be evaluated by your veterinarian to rule out cancer.

Don’t forget that some dogs suffer from motion sickness like we do. They can become nauseous especially in the car. This is quite common in puppies. They may even vomit. Thankfully, most puppies grow out of this condition but some dogs will always have some degree of drooling in the car. There is an effective motion sickness tablet called cerenia that usually helps.

This time of year, during grilling season, we see dogs who steal very hot food and burn their mouths, tongues and throats. This can be a very painful experience and these dogs may have trouble swallowing. There are medical treatments to help but prevention is the ticket in these cases. The saliva actually helps protect the tissues from this burning injury.

Hyper-salivating due to foreign materials is another example of a defense mechanism in dogs. As you know some dogs like to chew on anything—be it fertilizer in the garage or mushrooms in the back yard. With all of their salivary glands (mandibular, sublingual, parotid) they can muster a huge salivary response in seconds. This type of drooling is a great first line of defense from foreign material. So, all slobbering isn’t a problem, it can be the solution.