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What is Drooling in the Car?

Excessive drooling is referred to as ptyalism. Several conditions can cause your dog to drool while in the car including:

  • Motion and car sickness
  • Mouth disease or tooth decay
  • Heat stroke
  • Excitement and anxiety
  • Other possible causes

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Why Drooling in the Car Occurs in Dogs

Motion and Car Sickness

One surprising cause of drooling in dogs is motion or car sickness. You will notice your dog lick his lips excessively, accompanied by drooling. He may also whine, refuse to move, and vomit. In some cases, your dog may lose control of his bladder or bowels. Motion sickness is more common in younger dogs and can occur in any breed of dog. Stress can add to this; if your dog associates rides in the car with negative experiences (such as going to the vet for shots or other uncomfortable procedures), then he may develop a fear of riding in the car. This also adds a mental element to the physical discomfort your pet feels when riding in the car. However, medication exists to alleviate symptoms of motion sickness. 

Mouth Disease or Tooth Decay

While drooling in most dogs is a good thing, helping to keep teeth healthy, excessive drooling is not. It can be a sign of gingivitis and periodontal disease. You will notice the gums becoming inflamed and sore. Without treatment, teeth will become loose and either fall out or fracture. If your dog has chipped a tooth (not related to periodontal disease), you will notice excessive drooling as a sign that something is amiss. Cuts, bruises, or other injuries to the mouth or gums may also result in drooling. 

Heat Stroke

Even if you are running the air in your car, keep in mind that your furbaby wears a “fur” coat year-round. What is comfortable or even chilly to us may not quite cool off your dog on an especially hot summer day. Also, brachycephalic dogs such as Boston Terriers, Pugs, and Boxers have an even harder time properly panting in order to cool off their system, so if you notice your dog excessively drooling, be sure heat stroke is not an issue. 

Excitement and Anxiety

As previously stated, car rides associated with going to the vet for shots or other unpleasant procedures can cause anxiety in your dog that can lead to excessive drooling. Intense emotions can cause your dog to drool excessively. Anxiety about traveling in the car can lead to this. On the other hand, your dog can be so happy about a ride in the car that he drools as a response as well. Your vet can help you with mild medications if necessary or give you some tips on conditioning your dog so that this is no longer a problem. 

Other Possible Causes

Before considering other causes, it is imperative that you make sure your dog has not been exposed to rabies. Rabies causes foaming at the mouth and is usually accompanied by excessive thirst and other behavioral changes. Your dog may also have a foreign object lodged in its mouth or throat that is causing excessive saliva. Sometimes medication, allergies, or poisoning can cause drooling. Your dog may also suffer from congenital defects (some dogs are more prone to drooling, such as Bulldogs) or from defects in the way the mouth is formed that lead to excessive saliva production.

What to do if your Dog is Drooling in the Car

First, make sure that your dog has not been exposed to rabies. Once you have established this, you may need to see your vet. He will examine your dog and rule out other physical causes for excessive drooling. Your dog may drool simply because he is anxious about riding in the car, or he may have motion sickness. If this is the case, your vet can prescribe a mild medication.

Prevention of Drooling in the Car

If you suspect your dog is suffering from motion sickness, be sure he is facing forward when riding (there are specialty canine seat belts just for this). Lower your car windows to help equalize pressure inside and outside the car (remember, in younger dogs that haven’t fully developed ear structures that support balance, motion sickness has more to do with age than actual stress from riding). Keep the vehicle cool in order to prevent heat stroke. You can also take short rides (in a different vehicle, if possible) to places the dog enjoys, such as the park. Conditioning such as this will keep your dog from equating rides in the car with bad experiences.

Cost of Drooling in the Car

Treating tooth decay in dogs can be expensive, with costs ranging from $500 to 2000. The national average to treat tooth decay is $800. A dog who experiences heat stroke may be hospitalized for several days; therefore, the expense may reach as much as $5000.

Drooling in the Car Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

7 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Hi. I have a 7 month old Goldendoodle who started drooling in the car when I moved back from Virginia to Colorado4 months ago. Now no matter what car she is in or where she is going (to the park, to my work, to my mom's) she just drools voraciously. I got her a dog car seat and make sure she has air on her but it is getting worse. She is fine when we get to our destination. Will she outgrow this? Any ideas? Thanks.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1955 Recommendations
Most likely Luna associated the car ride from Virginia to Colorado as a traumatic experience, probably the relocation (new area etc…); if this is the case she should calm down over time. You should start taking Luna on short rides in the car to a local dog park so she can attach a positive association with the car journey; also comforting her whilst in the car on your driveway may help as well. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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