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What is Foaming at the Mouth?

There are several potential reasons why your cat may be drooling, which can range from a normal body function with minimal cause for concern to a potentially more serious health matter.  While light drooling may be normal, you want to watch for excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth.

Some of the harmless causes of drooling may be excitement or an increasing appetite.  Cats may also drool when given catnip or bitter tasting medications.  However, cats, in general, do not drool often, and foaming at the mouth may indicate something is wrong.  Possible reasons for foaming at the mouth may include the following.

  • Fear, anxiety, or extreme excitement
  • Dental disease
  • Toxic ingestion 
  • Epilepsy
  • Viral infections

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Why Foaming at the Mouth Occurs in Cats

Occasional drool might be normal, but drooling while in an agitated state, or drooling and foaming at the mouth in excess may indicate a more serious health related issue. Drooling can also occur as a reaction to your cat’s mental state if frightened.  Drooling and foaming at the mouth, when not associated with a psychosomatic event such as fear and anxiety, may be a reaction to an illness or toxic ingestion.       

Fear and Anxiety

When foaming at the mouth is accompanied by erratic behaviors, such as hiding, excessive grooming, destruction, or visible trembling your cat may be experiencing fear and anxiety.  Anxiety can be the result of unfamiliar stimuli, conditioned responses to traumatic events, or possibly due to illness and injury. Providing a safe and loving environment helps reduce stressful situations that might bring on anxiety.  

Dental Disease

Dental disease, such as gingivitis, a periodontal disease caused by plaque buildup, and tooth resorption are common dental diseases that can affect cats, especially as they age. Your cat may become uninterested in eating, resulting in weight loss, or shake its head along with excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth. Dental disease that affects the teeth and gums is mostly due to your cat’s diet.  Food left on your cat’s teeth will cause plaque buildup as well as provide conditions for bacterial growth.   

Toxic Ingestion

Drooling and foaming at the mouth may be a reaction to a toxin ingestion and might be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.  Many household products are dangerous, and even some pet products can cause reactions if your cat is highly sensitive to the product or if you use it incorrectly.  Pyrethrin based insecticides, often used in flea and tick treatments for both cats and dogs, can be toxic to your cat if ingested and can cause excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth. 

Viral Infections

Though it is extremely rare for a vaccinated cat to develop rabies, it is possible, and other viral infections can cause excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth in cats, such as calicivirus, an upper respiratory infection similar to the common cold.

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What to do if your Cat is Foaming at the Mouth

Other symptoms and behaviors usually accompany excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth.  A little light drool may be nothing to be concerned with, but if you notice agitated behavior, a lack of appetite, vomiting, or tremors in your cat you will want to seek immediate medical attention.  There are many potential causes for drooling, and it is best to seek support from your veterinarian to identify the best course of action.  Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination, ask you about your cat’s medical history and contact with other animals as well as potential toxic substances to determine the likely cause of the excess drooling.  

Your veterinarian will order your cat’s teeth cleaned if dental disease is diagnosed.  In some cases, advanced dental disease requires removing the tooth.  

Foaming at the mouth due to toxin ingestion requires immediate veterinary care, and it is best to bring a sample of the substance you know or believe may have poisoned your cat.  If poisoning is suspected, your cat may be induced to vomit or given charcoal to absorb toxins in the stomach.  Additionally, IV fluids may be given to help restore your cat after toxin ingestion. 

If a respiratory infection is suspected, your veterinarian may order blood work and x-rays to determine the extent of the infection.  Additionally, your veterinarian will want to know if your cat has recently been in contact with other cats and will be kept away from other pets during the infection as to not spread the disease.  Restorative fluids may be given as well as antibiotics to prevent or treat a secondary bacterial infection.  Rest, proper nutrition, and oxygen therapy may be administered to help fight off an upper respiratory viral infection.

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Prevention of Foaming at the Mouth

You can prevent many health-related foaming at the mouth issues by practicing responsible cat ownership and maintaining a secure home for your cat.  Do not frighten or allows others to scare or agitate your cat purposefully.  Provide a safe, loving space where your cat feels secure and at home to prevent fear and anxiety related issues.  

As your cat ages, common dental diseases may manifest.  Annual or semi-annual teeth cleaning will help keep your furry companion’s mouth healthy.  With a little patience and the right tools, you can also brush your cat’s teeth and gums daily to help keep their mouth clean between hygienic visits.  Never use teeth cleaning products made for humans, including toothpaste as it may be toxic if swallowed.  Natural cat food with higher concentrations of water will also help keep the plaque and bacteria down in your cat’s mouth.  

If administering an anti-flea and tick medication be sure it is made specifically for cats and follow the directions.  Formulas made for dogs will have higher concentrations that may be toxic to your cat.  Most topical medications are placed on the neck behind the head where your cat cannot ingest by grooming, but be aware of altruistic grooming if you have multiple cats or even a dog you are treating.

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Cost of Foaming at the Mouth

Treatment cost will vary depending on the underlying cause of your cat’s foaming at the mouth.  For example, treatment plans for anxiety and fear related drooling may cost $150 whereas if your cat is diagnosed with a dental disease, treatments can cost around $850.  However, the average cost for excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth is around $350.

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Foaming at the Mouth Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Short Hair Cat

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4 years

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6 found helpful

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Foaming At The Mouth

My cat walked into the room like she had been sick and with a white foamy spit all over her face. I recently sprayed her and my other cat with Adams flea spray for cats. This was day before yesterday. I gave the cats fried eggs as a treat this morning. How do I handle this situation? She seems to have stopped foaming at the mouth for now but is acting a little nervous. I got her to lay down for a few minutes. The photo attached was after I wiped her mouth off the first time and she continued spitting it up a little.

Aug. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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6 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Adams flea spray can be very distasteful for cats, and if she licked any of it she will likely foam at the mouth for quite some time. If she is eating normally, you're able to calm her down and she seems okay, then you may be fine. If she continues to act like that, or is vomiting, or does not want to eat, then it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 4, 2020

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Black Cat

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Two Years

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6 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Foaming At The Mouth

Cat foamed at the mouth for about 20-30 seconds and then behaved normally. He typically meows a lot at night and we usually entertain him when we can. The foaming scared me, so hearing him meow now makes me anxious. What should I do about the foaming? Is itg to worry about.

July 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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6 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Cats will foam at the mouth when they taste something unpleasant, when they are nervous, or when they don't feel good. If it was a one time thing, he may have licked something that did not taste good, and it may not happen again. If it does happen again, it would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him and look at his mouth and teeth to make sure that nothing is going on. I hope that all goes well for him!

July 24, 2020

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