What is Drooling?
Drooling can be described as your cat dropping saliva uncontrollably out of the mouth. Drooling in cats can be unusual and alarming, but could be caused by a number of reasons, some of which can be harmless and some that can be dangerous. Some causes are:
- Mouth diseases and tooth decay
- Heat stroke
- Organ disease
- Poisonous plant ingestion
- Upper respiratory infections
- Oral cancer
- Nausea or excitement
Some of these causes are harmless and easy to treat, but others are not. In order to ensure that your cat is healthy, you should monitor behavior changes and additionally, get to know the signs of some of the more dangerous illnesses. If you have any doubts, take your pet to the veterinarian for an examination and to receive guidelines for what to do.
Why Drooling Occurs in Cats
Unlike dogs, cats are rarely found drooling. Although a little bit is nothing to worry about, if your pet is drooling an excessive amount, you may want to get him checked at the clinic. Here are some reasons why your feline may be drooling:
Mouth Diseases and Tooth Decay
Mouth diseases and tooth decay can be caused by the buildup of tartar in your cat’s mouth, which can rub on the inside of their lip and cause drooling. To see if your cat has tooth decay or a mouth disease, pull back their lips and check the condition of their teeth. If the teeth are brown or look like concrete, or if the gums are red, swollen and bleeding, your cat may have a mouth disease and decaying teeth. Other signs are bad breath, decreased interest in food, and excessive drooling.
Also, watch to see if your cat is eating in a strange manner (such as tilting the head or dropping food) or not wanting to be touched around the mouth. This behavior may indicate it is time to bring your cat to the veterinarian for a professional cleaning. Have your vet check for more serious diseases such as gingivitis, tumors and mouth ulcers. After the consultation, try brushing your feline’s teeth daily as a preventative measure.
If your cat spends a lot of time outside and could potentially get too much sun and not enough water, drooling could be a sign of heat stroke. If you suspect that your cat has heat stroke, call your vet immediately. Cats with flat faces, such as Persians, can be more susceptible to heat stroke, but no cat is completely safe. Cats will show heat stroke by panting, drooling, vomiting, lethargy, high temperatures or collapsing.
When cats get older, they become more susceptible to organ diseases, for example affecting the kidney and liver, which can have drooling as a symptom. Although it gets more common as your cat ages, kittens can have organ disease as well if they are born with liver or kidney failure. Trauma and infection can also contribute to organ disease. For example, signs that your cat’s kidneys may be failing are if they are urinating often and drinking a lot of water, they are showing weakness, they have a dry coat, they are losing weight and have a decreased appetite, their urine is cloudy or bloody, they are vomiting, and have diarrhea, bad breath, a brown tongue, mouth ulcers and constipation.
There are a number of plants that you may have in or around your home that can make your cat sick. Some of these plants include tulips, azaleas and chrysanthemums. If you have any of these plants, be sure to keep your cat away from them as they can make them drool and make them sick.
Upper Respiratory Infections
Upper respiratory infections such as nose, sinus or throat infections can also make your cat drool. If your cat is often around other cats, stays in a boarding facility, or was recently adopted from a shelter, they will have a greater chance of getting an upper respiratory infection. These illnesses get passed around from feline to feline by coughing, sneezing, grooming or sharing food and water.
A cat that is highly stressed can also be more susceptible. Your cat may have an upper respiratory infection if they are congested, sneezing, have a runny nose, they are coughing, have fever, are gagging, develop a loss of appetite, oral ulcers, if they seem depressed or are squinting and rubbing their eyes. Some cats who are flat faced, like Persians, can get upper respiratory infections due to their facial structure.
Oral cancer, also known as feline oral squamous cell carcinoma, is an aggressive type of cancer that accounts for 80% of oral tumors in cats. As cats get older, they are more in danger of contracting this disease. Usually, cats between the ages of 12 to 14 years can get oral cancer. The symptoms of this harmful disease include excessive drooling (sometimes bloody), odor from the mouth, difficulty chewing on one side of the mouth, and swelling in the face. If your cat has these symptoms, take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible, since the best way to fight this cancer is with early detection. The chances of your pet getting oral cancer increase if they live in a household with smoking.
Nausea or Excitement
Cats don’t usually go in the car, and sometimes the motion can cause nauseousness, which can also cause drooling. Other signs can be anxiety, open-mouthed panting and heavy breathing. Aside from being nauseous, your cat can also start drooling from extreme pleasure or excitement. If you are petting your cat petting and giving them affection, they may begin to drool simply because they are enjoying it.
What to do if your Cat is Drooling
If your cat’s drooling is sporadic, it can be caused by understandable circumstances, such as car rides or affection. In these cases, a bit of drooling is nothing to worry about. In all cases, you should keep an eye on your cat, and if the drooling becomes unusually often or your cat is drooling in large amounts, you may want to take them to the vet to ensure that it is not something serious.
Dental diseases will be treated by cleaning and scaling, which will be done at the clinic. Your cat will be put under anesthesia while the vet cleans, polishes and possibly removes teeth, depending on the condition. If your cat seems to be suffering from a heat stroke or cancer, bring them to the vet immediately as it can be life threatening in some serious cases. The key to fighting organ disease is to catch it early, so if you suspect that your cat may be experiencing this, bring them to the clinic for blood and urine tests. In some cases, the veterinarian will take x-rays, ultrasounds or biopsies in order to make a diagnosis. For upper respiratory infections, the vet will determine whether your cat will need antibiotics or isolation. If left untouched, URI’s can lead to more serious consequences like blindness, chronic breathing disorders or pneumonia.
Prevention of Drooling
Many illnesses related to drooling can be prevented by brushing your cat’s teeth once a day, but make sure to use toothpaste that is made for cats. To avoid heat stroke, always have fresh water available as well as nearby shady spots for your cat to cool off. On very hot days, keep your pets inside and limit their exercise if possible. You should never leave your cat in a parked car. Be on the lookout for plants in or around your home that could be poisonous for your feline. To avoid oral cancer, you should avoid smoking in the house or near your feline as it can increase the chances.
To reduce the anxiety and stress brought on by motion sickness, start by helping your cat to get used to car rides by occasionally putting them into the carrier in the backseat of your car without driving anywhere at first. Eventually, you can move out of the driveway and slowly increase the time spent in the car. Draping a breathable cloth over the carrier as you walk out can also keep your cat from panicking.
Bringing your cat for annual checkups can help prevent many illnesses, including organ disease. Keeping your cat indoors and away from unknown pets, as well as washing your hands before handling another pet, can help prevent upper respiratory infections. Keeping your pet up to date on his vaccines and checkups can help him live a long and healthy life.
Cost of Drooling
Depending on the cause of the drooling, treating your cat for this condition can vary in cost. If your cat has tooth decay, treatments have an average cost of $800. Heat stroke and poisoning are dangerous and expensive with treatments averaging at $2500. Medical therapy for an upper respiratory infection may cost $500, and curing motion sickness can cost about $200.
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Drooling Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
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My cat is 20 years old and is starting to drool, he eats and drinks water with no problems. He sounds like he has labored breathing. I’m wondering if I should be worried
Aug. 3, 2020
Jessica N. DVM
Hello- Thank you for your question. It is concerning that you’re noticing changes in his breathing. Cats tend to hide disease until it becomes more serious so I think if you’re noticing more difficulty with breathing that you should get him to a veterinarian. Your vet can perform some chest x-rays to make sure all looks normal. They may also recommend bloodwork and can perform a full oral exam to assess a cause for the drooling. I hope he feels better soon.
Aug. 3, 2020
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My 6 1/2 month year old kitten has been drooling all day today, I am not sure if it’s because his adult teeth are coming in or not. He doesn’t act different but he has been nipping at my fingers. He is up to date on shots too and only an indoor cat. Should I worry?
Sept. 19, 2018
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