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What are Salivary Disorders?

It is normal for dogs to drool occasionally, some more than others.  If your dog is not usually a heavy drooler but is experiencing hypersalivation, you should take him to his veterinarian.  He may be nauseous or he may have ingested something toxic.  He may just not feel well or he may have a mass on his salivary gland.  Your veterinarian will be able to perform a full exam on your dog and give a diagnosis. Treatment will be determined by his diagnosis as will his prognosis of recovery.

If your dog is drooling excessively or seems to be gulping or smacking his lips, it may be a good idea to have him evaluated by his veterinarian.

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Symptoms of Salivary Disorders in Dogs

Depending on your dog’s diagnosis, his symptoms may vary.  Common symptoms seen with salivary disorders may include:

  • Hypersalivation
  • Mass (hard, soft, non-painful, slow growing and can lead to blockage of the airway)
  • Discharge from the mouth other than saliva
  • Inflammation of the salivary glands
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Painful, swollen salivary glands
  • Retching
  • Hard swallowing
  • Snorting
  • Nasal discharge
  • Difficulty eating
  • Decreased salivary production


There are many types of salivary disorders your dog can develop during his lifetime.  Ptyalism is drooling of saliva caused by hypersecretion of saliva or a possible swallowing disorder.  A salivary mucocele is another condition involving the accumulation of saliva in the submucosal or subcutaneous tissues of the salivary ducts or glands.  Wounds of the salivary glands can develop into fistulas as a result of trauma.  Salivary glands can also develop tumors; however, they are rare.  Sialadenitis is also a condition your dog may develop which is inflammation of the salivary gland.  The salivary gland can also become necrotic.  A condition opposite of the others is known as xerostomia which is dry mouth due to decreased salivation production.

Causes of Salivary Disorders in Dogs

The cause of your dog’s condition can vary depending on what he is diagnosed with.  Overproduction of saliva may be caused by something as simple as nausea or can be from something more serious such as toxins.  Other conditions can be caused by some form of trauma to the salivary glands or ducts.  Growths can develop and be malignant or benign which can only be determined by surgical removal and biopsy.

Diagnosis of Salivary Disorders in Dogs

Depending on your dog’s condition there are different diagnostic procedures your veterinarian will go through.  She will begin by performing a full physical exam on your dog.  She will take special care to palpate his mandibular lymph nodes to check for enlargement.  She will also want to have a good look into your dog’s mouth and throat.  Depending on how cooperative your dog is, she may be able to look at him while he is awake.  If not, due to reluctance or pain, she may want to sedate him in order to give her a proper look.  

If there is a mass or abnormality on the salivary glands, your veterinarian may recommend taking a sample for biopsy.  This will be able to determine if the mass is malignant or benign.  The results will determine the treatment options your dog has available to him.   Imaging may be helpful during the diagnostic process.  Radiographs and ultrasound will be helpful to see the extent of the mass.  

General blood work may also be recommended to evaluate your dog’s blood production and general internal health.  A complete blood cell count can indicate if your dog is experiencing any type of infection or anemia.  The chemistry panel will give levels of the internal organs such as the liver and kidney enzymes.  Blood work gives a good look at your dog’s overall health which is helpful for your veterinarian.

Treatment of Salivary Disorders in Dogs

Your dog’s diagnosis will determine his course of treatment.  If your dog is producing excess saliva, removing the source will help with this.  For example, if he got nauseous from riding in the car, he should stop the hypersalivation as soon as his nausea passes.  If it is from something more serious like a toxin, administering an antidote and ensuring the toxin is properly flushed from his system will result with him returning to his normal self.  

If your dog has a mass on his salivary glands or ducts, it may need to be removed.  You will have to go to a specialist for this procedure since it is uncommon and most veterinarians are not adequately practiced at it.  If the mass is malignant, your dog may need to undergo radiation therapy or chemotherapy.  If it is an abscess, it will need to be drained and medications will need to be administered.  

If your dog is not producing enough saliva, your veterinarian will want and need to determine the cause.  For example, in some cases, your dog’s dry mouth can be a result of a medication he is taking.  By stopping the suspected medication his saliva production should return to normal.  If his dry mouth is a result of dehydration, administering fluids will combat it. Additional therapies and supplements will be prescribed to your dog depending on his needs.

Recovery of Salivary Disorders in Dogs

The severity of your dog’s disorder will correlate with his prognosis of recovery.  If the cause is minor, such as nausea or from taking certain medications, he will recover well once the source is removed.  If it is something more severe such as a cancerous mass, his prognosis of recovery declines.  Take your dog to his veterinarian for a proper evaluation.  Once diagnosed properly, you can discuss your treatment options and prognosis of recovery with your veterinarian.