Dogs have a lot of endearing traits, but drooling is not one of them. Drool can get all over your furniture, your car, and your clothes. It can also be all over your dog’s face. All dogs drool for several reasons and they are all perfectly normal. Certain breeds do drool more often and in greater amounts than others as well. As a dog owner, you deal with it because you love your furry friend. Excessive drooling, especially when it comes on suddenly can be signs of a health problem that does need to be identified and addressed. Hypersalivation, also known as ptyalism, is the medical terms used to describe excessive salivation. There is also a condition where excessive saliva accumulates in the mouth, called pseudoptyalism. Whether his drool is normal or medically based there are ways to help him, you and your furniture.
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs drool as part of their digestion. The saliva is produced to break down food and bones and comes from glands in the dog’s mouth. Your dog’s brain sends signals to the glands to produce the saliva for various reasons. Some of the reasons include smelling or seeing food, patterns that trigger it will be mealtime soon, as a response to heat and panting, or when he is anxious. Pavlov even used dog drool to illustrate his stimulus and response in that he would ring a bell prior to feeding his dogs. When he rang the bell they would begin to salivate. When dogs become warm, they will pant and produce saliva to cool down since they do not sweat. While in a car or moving vehicle, some dogs will drool in response to motion sickness. In a healthy dog, he is able to swallow the saliva that is produced so it does not become excessive. At times, the dog’s mouth is trapping the saliva and releasing it all at once. This is most common among breeds that have loose jowl faces such as the Bernese Mountain Dog, Newfoundland, Bulldog, Neapolitan Mastiff, Bull Terrier, Black & Tan Coonhound, Blood Hound, and Saint Bernard. The folds in their soft jowls can often collect saliva and they end up not swallowing it but rather let it overflow or fling it from their faces when they shake their heads.
Drooling that comes on suddenly and is not typical for your dog could be a sign of a medical problem. He could be dealing with heat stroke, bloat, or poisoning, have a mouth injury or dental problem or have a foreign object lodged in his teeth or swallowed. Drooling that comes along persistently or more gradually, or is a change in consistency could be a sign of ptyalism. He may exhibit behavioral changes, have swollen lips, vomit, or have foam in his saliva. Hypersaliosis is when he is producing an abnormal amount of saliva. Pseudoptyalism is when he is not able to swallow the saliva he is producing. Lesions in the oral cavity or central nervous system can cause ptyalism, as well as diseases that affect the esophagus, pharynx, and stomach. Younger dogs may have a congenital problem called portosystemic shunt, where a shunt causes blood to bypass the liver and thus does not allow for it to be detoxified. This is most common in the Irish Wolfhound, Australian Cattle Dog, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, and Miniature Schnauzer. Also, Newfoundlands, Irish Setters, German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Fox Terriers can have a hereditary enlarged esophagus. Various metabolic and neurological disorders can also cause excessive drooling.
Encouraging the Behavior
If your dog has always drooled and is one of the more ‘jowl’ breeds, you may just need to grin and wipe it. Many owners carry a rag or cloth towel with them, and some even have large bibs they have their dog wear at all times to wipe and even catch the drool. Dogs that drool when they are anxious will first need to have their anxiety addressed before the drooling can be addressed. Dogs can become anxious because of trauma, separation anxiety, change in life situation, or post-traumatic stress from sounds such as thunderstorms or fireworks. If your dog only seems to drool during certain situations, speak to a trainer about ways to help him work through his anxiety. Always give your dog ample water and do not leave him outside or in an area that is too warm. A dog that is panting and drooling can be overheating. Heatstroke needs to be dealt with immediately and you need to take your dog to the vet for medical care. Your vet can also check his mouth and throat for a foreign object as well as have him tested for possible poisoning.
Dogs exhibiting ptyalism or pseudoptyalism also need to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. She will look for retching, lip smacking, and depression as well as get a complete medical history and review all signs and symptoms you can recall. A full physical exam, especially of the mouth, neck, and throat along with ultra-sound, x-ray and even a biopsy may be necessary to find the source of the excessive drooling. Once the source of the medical problem is identified, your veterinarian will have a plan to heal your pooch and get him back to having a cleaner and drier mouth.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Drooling around food is common, but excessive drooling may be more of a behavioral problem than a medical one. Often dogs that are not getting enough food at meals will become overly fixated when they know they are being fed. Because his focus is on you and the meal you are hopefully going to give them, he will literally forget to swallow the normal level of saliva and it will overflow and appear to be excessive. Also, dogs that sit beside you at the table and drool are responding to a conditioned response. At some point, he received food from the table and now his brain is telling the glands in his mouth to salivate because there is food on the table. If you do not want your pup creating puddles while you are enjoying your dinner, it is recommended you refrain from ever feeding him from the table. Working with a trainer can help change this behavior if you have already created this problem for yourself.
All dogs drool, and while not charming, it is essential to his digestive process. Some dogs drool for behavioral reasons that can be addressed through behavior modification and working with a trainer. Certain breeds with loose jowls tend to drool more than those with more narrow snouts. And certain breeds can be hereditably predisposed to health conditions that can lead to excessive drooling. Dogs can drool excessively or have difficulty swallowing their saliva for a myriad of health reasons, all of which require a visit to the vet.
By a Black Lab lover Zoe Byer
Published: 02/23/2018, edited: 01/30/2020