Why is My Dog Drooling?

If you have a dishrag routinely peeking out of your back pocket and it's not a fashion statement and wet wipes are strategically placed throughout your home, chances are you're the proud owner of one of the several dog breeds who have a genetic propensity to drool.

Close-up of a Dog - Border Collie, mouth opened with the tongue out.
credit: Jose A. Bernat Bacete/Moment/GettyImages

Keeping a towel handy to wipe up the mess, fondly known by aficionados as "slingers," or tying a dashing bandana around his neck is a prerequisite with giant breeds who have loose, flappy upper lips, or saggy, droopy jowls. These lovable pooches include the dogue de Bordeaux (remember the movie Turner and Hooch?), Newfoundland, Neopolitan mastiff, and Saint Bernard (who can forget charming Beethoven) whose copious strings of drool end up everywhere with one shake of their massive heads, sticking like al dente spaghetti to walls, furniture, the ceiling, and you.

Other big dogs like the bloodhound and Swiss mountain dog and popular medium-sized ones, too, like the English bulldog and schnoodle are no slouches either when it comes to drooling and doling out sloppy kisses. Not so charming, perhaps, but for breed enthusiasts, slobber is just a minor inconvenience and more than worth it to live with one (or more) of these incredible dogs.

But if your dog is not a bona fide drooler, yet suddenly starts drooling excessively known as hypersalivationyou'll need to determine if he needs immediate veterinary care. Excess drool may be caused by tartar build-up on the teeth, tooth decay, or a tummy ache, which need to be addressed as soon as possible, but are not an emergency in most cases. But excess drool in an otherwise drool-free dog could also require immediate veterinary care for severe, debilitating dental problems or mouth ulcers and tumors, a periodontal disease with painful abscesses, heatstroke, upper respiratory infection, blockage in the oral cavity or esophagus, or a sign of pathological diseases. Let's take a look at the biology of drooling, some of the common reasons for excess drool, and signs to watch for.

Bull Mastiff
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Drooling 101

Drool... you gotta love it — well, tolerate it — or hate it. But either way, drooling is completely natural for some dog breeds, and most any dog will salivate at the mere thought of a yummy treat.

After all, drool is simply saliva, and dogs, just like their people, produce saliva, a thick liquid produced by glands near the jaw that empties from ducts into the mouth. Viscous and enzyme-rich, saliva is made up of 98% water, and also contains antibacterial compounds and electrolytes, all of which contribute to overall health. One of the key enzymes in saliva is amylase which initiates the digestive process when it mixes with food during chewing, breaking it down into digestible pieces.

Saliva is also instrumental in moistening food to aid in swallowing while continuously lubricating the mouth, thus improving the sense of taste. In contrast, consider the lack of saliva, which produces an uncomfortably dry mouth. Saliva also bathes the teeth with proteins and minerals that protect tooth enamel and decreases the incidence of tooth decay, as well as gum disease, by flushing food particles from the teeth and gums. And doggy bad breath is reduced thanks to saliva's antibacterial effects.

Bottom line, saliva is natural and beneficial to your dog's body. And due to certain dog breeds' substantial waterworks and loose upper lips, when saliva fills the mouth, the dog can't swallow it all, and the overflow is drool. Drooling is expected in these guys. But excess drool is never a good thing, especially in a normally non-drooling dog.

Why your non-drooling dog is suddenly drooling

If hanging out relaxing with your dog on the sofa means drool dribbling into your lap, and you're OK with it, you've already come to terms with this mild annoyance associated with your giant breed's genetics. But when your dog, who never drools except in anticipation of dinner, when she's super excited, or occasionally nauseous as in motion sickness — all short-lived drooling episodes — suddenly starts to droll excessively, it's cause for concern, and you'll need to seek veterinary care immediately, or in the near future, depending on the situation.

Cloeup small black dog mouth with teehand tongue, Shipperke, background with copy space
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Foreign bodies: When plant matter, food, a stick, or any foreign body becomes stuck in a dog's teeth, the roof of her mouth, or embedded in the gums, it causes excessive drooling. If your dog is pawing at her muzzle or rubbing her face on objects, or the floor, she may have something lodged in her mouth. If you suspect a foreign body, seek veterinary care immediately to have it removed.

Dental and gum problems: Prevention is the best medicine for dental and gum problems for dogs, and people, too. Beyond tooth decay, severe problems result in erosion of the bone that supports the jaw. In this case, drool may be blood-tinged. Gently lift your dog's outer lip to examine her teeth. You'll see tartar buildup quite clearly, and inflamed gums will be red and often swollen. You may also notice she is dropping food out of her mouth or chewing on only one side to avoid the pain. Seek veterinary care as soon as possible to have her mouth examined for tooth decay and gum disease.

Mouth injuries: Ulcers, cuts, and burns in the oral cavity all cause hypersalivation along with obvious pain. Even the sweetest people-loving dog can become aggressive or reclusive when in pain. Watch for any abnormal behaviors and take her to the vet immediately to have her mouth examined.

Lumps, bumps, and warts: Growths in your dog's mouth will cause excess drool. And while many warts are harmless, always have your vet check out any lumps, bumps, and other growths since tumors may be either benign or cancerous.

Gastrointestinal problems: Gastric reflux fills the mouth with harsh, acidic stomach juices causing hypersalivation and sometimes difficulty in swallowing, as does a hiatus hernia or enlarged esophagus. Acid reflux usually passes, but if it's chronic, it can be indicative of a more serious underlying issue. Consult with your vet as soon as possible.

Toxins and caustic agents: If your dog has ingested poison or any caustic substance it will trigger extreme salivation. If you suspect your dog may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 (there may be an associated fee) where experts can help, or get her into your vet immediately.

Conclusion

Whenever your dog exhibits excess drool along with behavioral changes, lack of appetite, difficulty swallowing, pawing at the face, or obvious discomfort or pain, it's time to seek veterinary care.