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What is Salivary Gland Swelling?

There are several categories into which salivary gland swelling falls, each having a variety of causative factors.  These swellings of the salivary glands result in puffiness or “growths” in the head and neck area where the salivary glands are located.  Many of the salivary gland swellings seen in dogs are benign while others are not - some requiring surgery, some of which are more major than others. If you notice your pet drooling, if he has lost his appetite, or if you see that he is vomiting or regurgitating, a veterinary visit is warranted.

Salivary gland swelling in dogs is a condition which can develop from a variety of reasons and disorders, causing a swelling in the head and/or neck of the canine.

Symptoms of Salivary Gland Swelling in Dogs

Some of the symptoms of salivary gland swelling in dogs may not be a surprise to you at all, given the very simple name of the condition, while other symptoms may be new to you:

  • Enlargement of an area anywhere on the neck and/or head of the canine
  • Drooling or leaking saliva
  • Enlargement may be painful to touch or palpation or not  
  • May be intermittent or constant
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Mucous discharge
  • Can be bilateral or unilateral
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Regurgitation
  • Gagging

Types

 

There are three basic types or categories of salivary gland swelling disorders:

  • Inflammatory

    - Can be caused by infection or foreign body presence

  • Neoplastic

    - Another term for a malignant cancer which is more commonly found in aged canines

  • Traumatic

    -  This type can be caused by bites, blunt trauma to the head, oral injuries, salivary stones, ruptures to the salivary glands or the ductwork to which they are connected

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Causes of Salivary Gland Swelling in Dogs

Within the above three types or categories of salivary gland swelling in dogs, there are four main salivary disorders commonly found in dogs:

Mucoceles

These are like cysts (usually fluid filled) resulting from a trauma which has damaged or ruptured the salivary and allowed salivary fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues.

Neoplasms

This is a tumor. Although this is relatively rare in dogs and cats, it seems that it is more frequently found in cats than in dogs.  And, when found in either species: 

  • The afflicted animal is usually over ten years old
  • While there is no particular breed associated, it seems that Poodles and Spaniels may be somewhat predisposed
  • Most are malignant, with carcinoma and adenocarcinoma being the most prominent type
  • Infiltration and metastasis to local or adjacent lymph nodes or lungs is both possible and common
  • They tend to recur after excision
  • They respond well to radiotherapy whether surgical options are utilized or not

Sialadenitis

This is an inflammation of the salivary gland  and can be caused by trauma from penetrating wounds or systemic infection which affects the salivary gland or the nearby tissue. It has been reported as a component in systemic diseases like rabies, distemper and the paramyxovirus which is responsible for causing mumps in humans.

Sialometaplasia

Also called necrotizing sialometaplasia or salivary gland necrosis or infarction, this is caused by squamous changes in the cells of the various parts of the salivary components (ducts and lobules) with ischemic necrosis (death of tissue due to lack of blood supply) in the salivary gland lobules. It is mostly found in small breeds like Terriers who are between 3 and 8 years old.

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Diagnosis of Salivary Gland Swelling in Dogs

Diagnosis will likely begin with a complete history provided to your veterinary professional that includes the symptoms noted, the severity and duration of those symptoms, elimination habits, dietary regimens and eating patterns along with your assessment of the attitudes and behaviors noted in your family pet.  Your vet will need to do a physical examination of the afflicted pet which will include palpation (touching and applying a little pressure) of the swollen nodule and the surrounding tissue.  This is necessary to determine if the swollen area is an abscess, tumor or a variety of retention cysts, and, based upon the findings, the vet may order additional testing.  

He may need to get sialography,also called radio sialography, (radiographic imaging of the salivary tract) to get a better appreciation of the swelling site.  He will likely need blood chemistry evaluation to ascertain if there is any infection and inflammation present.  The vet will likely also need a specimen of the fluid which has accumulated in the salivary gland area for laboratory review and analysis. Once your veterinary professional has gathered all of the information from the testing various modalities chosen, he will develop and initiate an appropriate treatment plan.

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Treatment of Salivary Gland Swelling in Dogs

Treatment options for salivary gland swelling in dogs ranges in intensity.  Here are some of the options which your veterinary professional will be considering when he develops the appropriate treatment plan for your canine family member:

  • Aspiration of salivary gland swelling is a temporary solution and will likely need to be repeated several weeks or months down the road; this option has the potential to introduce bacteria into the area, making an infection more likely if one has not already developed
  • Surgical removal of the salivary gland and those mandibular and sublingual glands located on both sides of the affected area of swelling
  • Sometimes a marsupialization procedure is utilized in addition to the surgical removal of the mandibular and sublingual glands in an attempt to help drain the fluid into the oral cavity; marsupialization is a procedure which involves making an elliptical cut in certain areas of the cystic lesion and suturing it to the rim of the oral mucosa
  • Sometimes, a drain is placed in the area of swelling to allow drainage from the area while it heals
  • Surgical removal of the tumor if that is the source of the swelling
  • Accompanying radiographic treatment of the areas affected and adjacent to the tumor removal site

Other treatment options which can be added to any of the above would include medications given for bacterial infections and anti inflammatory medications to help ease any discomfort and promote the healing process.

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Recovery of Salivary Gland Swelling in Dogs

In most cases, recovery of your doggy family member with timely and appropriate treatment generally has a good prognosis.  Don’t worry about the surgical removal of the infected, inflamed or ruptured salivary glands seeming like a drastic procedure as the canine salivary tract has an abundance of salivary glands.  There will be plenty of salivary glands remaining to perform the necessary functions of that canine system.  Your doggy family member will not suffer any ill effects from the absence of some of these glands.  

Of course, if your pet has a malignant tumor at the root of the salivary gland swelling, then prognosis may not be as good especially in view of the fact that recurrence and infiltration and metastasis to nearby tissue is fairly common.  But, it is important to understand that most of these tumors are treatable in dogs.  Radiotherapy combined with surgery or without surgery has been shown to be the best option for treatment of malignancies.

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Salivary Gland Swelling Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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American Bulldog

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Nine Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Saliva Glands

No reall symptoms and don’t seem to bother at all. No change in appetite or personality. What would cause it? She has had issue with a bacterial infections in her left ear in the recent past.

Sept. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello If her salivary gland is swollen, that typically means that there is something obstructing its drainage. Even if it is not bothering her, I recommend that you take her to a veterinarian for an exam. Good luck.

Sept. 10, 2020

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Treeing Walker Coonhound

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Nine Months

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Mass On Neck

Our dog has a swollen mass that we just noticed today on her neck/jaw line It is beneath the skin and a hard mass that does not move about the size of a baseball. She is not in pain and it is not affecting her day to day activities.

July 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Possible causes for what you are noticing in a young dog maybe an infection, an abscess, a local reaction, or a bony abnormality. If it does not resolve over a day or two, or she seems uncomfortable, then it would be best to have her seen by your veterinarian. They can look at your dog, see what the lump might be, and get her any treatment if needed. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 25, 2020

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Misia

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Labrador Retriever

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7 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Enlarged Lymph Nodes
Gagging
Drowsiness
Lethargy
Drooling
Loss Of Appetite

Hoping someone knows what is going on with my baby! My dog Misia has had the following symptoms in the past month: retching,fever, swollen lymph nodes, swollen salivary glands, excessive drooling with blood, loss of appetite, loss of energy, conjunctivitis, ear infection, and lastly now has a lump on stomach. She has had the following tests: blood work-nothing was present aspirate- abnormal white blood cells ct-scan- was not clear biopsy- negative for cancer or abscess fungi and bacterial cultures- negative medication: antibiotics- not responsive anti-inflammatory medication- non responsive Diagnosis unknown and symptoms are not improving. They are suspecting it could be: salivary gland nectrosis or sialadenitis or sialoceles.

July 11, 2018

Misia's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Without examining Misia I cannot say for certain but there are many conditions which may affect the salivary glands and in some of these cases the cause is undetermined or idiopathic; phenobarbital it used commonly for salivary gland disorders especially in idiopathic cases. I cannot really give any other suggestion as you’ve already tried antibiotics, anti inflammatories and now phenobarbital. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 11, 2018

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molly

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bichon poo

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9 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Node In Neck

In December our 9 year old bichon poodle had an elarged salivary gland removed. A few weeks later we noticed it seemed like it was back. Our vet said more than likely it was the lymph node and gave us antibiotics but it has done nothing. It doesn't bother her at all but I'm concerned

Feb. 11, 2018

molly's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. If the swelling is still there and hasn't improved, it might be a good idea to have a recheck with your veterinarian, as they can take an aspirate of the swelling and determine what the cause might be, and if it is anything to worry about or how best to resolve it. It may be a lymph node that has become reactive to the surgery site, but without having the aspirate, it is hard to say. I hope that everything goes well for Molly!

Feb. 11, 2018

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Lola

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Chihuahua

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9 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

As of today I noticed Lola scream when I pet her. Once I found the source of pain I noticed that underneath her left ear it is swollen. She also screams and runs away when try to touch it. She also screams if I try to touch that ear at all. She is eating and drinking normally, and her energy level is the same as it usually is for a 9 year old chihuahua. What could this be?

Jan. 19, 2018

Lola's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are a few possible causes for the symptoms you are describing and in each case you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination; salivary gland disorders, ear infection, abscess among other causes. Without examining Lola I cannot say what the cause of the sensitivity is but you should visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Jan. 19, 2018

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Casper

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Bichon Frise

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Drooling

My 1 year old dog. Two nights ago I noticed that my dog was drooling excessively, his blanket was super wet, I thought that he vomit or peed but it was all saliva; his face and part of his neck was soaking wet. It’s been two night with the same thing. But the estrange part is that his saliva doesn’t have odor. His teeth and gums are healthy. He’s eating and drinking water as normal. No vomiting or problems breathing either. Any ideas what it could be?

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Gizmo

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Chihuahua

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19 Months

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Eyes - Bilateral
Swollen Glands Back Cheek Under Ear

My 19 month old Chihuahua Gizmo had a right swollen top lid, then his, what appears to be salivary gland on the same right side began to swell along with his eye lids. Now his left eye swelled and his left what appears to be salivary glad is swollen. His left salivary glad ruptured from scratching and is getting flatter and flatter but his eyes are still very swollen. He was given Prednisone oral and a Convenie injection 10 days ago but the doc doesn't seem to know what it is. And he's not gtting better.. :( He is eating perfectly fine, plays with his brother and urinates and poops fine as well. Any help is much appreciated.