It's a fact of life: Dog's drool. Glands in your dog's mouth produce saliva, which is an enzyme-rich liquid that helps lubricate your dog's food and begins the digestive process while she is chewing.
But you can have too much of a good thing. Excessive salivation is not normal. In fact, in extreme cases it can lead to dehydration. In order to figure out why your dog is producing so much saliva, you need to get a good look inside her mouth.
What to Do
Here's what to do, depending on what you found:
Foreign objects Look for anything that obviously doesn't belong in your dog's mouth, such as wood splinters, fish hooks, bone fragments, or bits of plant matter or fabric. These could be embedded in your dog's gums or tongue or wedged between her teeth or across the roof of her mouth.
If you find a foreign object in your dog's mouth, use common sense to decide whether it is something you feel comfortable attempting to remove. First, consider the immediate results, both those hoped for and those dreaded. For instance, if there is a large wood splinter stuck in your dog's throat, does it look like it can simply be dislodged, or is it embedded in tissue and cause more pain, damage, or bleeding if you try to extract it? When in doubt, check with your dog's vet.
- Injuries Look closely for bleeding or wounds. Other signs of injuries and irritations are indicated by changes in color. The normal healthy pink or pigmented color of your dog's gums will be an angry red or even purple when those tissues are injured or infected.
If you find one injury, don't stop there. Complete your exam in case there are others, making note of each one as you go. Scrutinize the teeth as well. Sometimes a hairline crack right at the border of the gums can extend into the root, causing pain and salivation. You might see a lot of blood. Since the area inside a dog's mouth is loaded with blood vessels, injuries there bleed a lot. For the same reason, small cuts, scratches, and even ulcerations in the mouth often heal quickly without you doing a thing.
As long as the bleeding is not excessive, place some hydrogen peroxide on a cotton swab or gauze pad and place it on your dog's wound. The hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant and it can also clean the area so you can get a better look at it.
- Infection The presence of pus - usually a slightly yellow to green sticky, pasty material -indicates a bacterial infection. Infection is usually accompanied by a distinctly foul odor that's different from typical “dog breath.”
If you spot signs of infection, take them seriously. You can probably take care of a small amount of pus, irritation, or even mild gingivitis by simply dedicating yourself to a strict tooth-brushing schedule. But most of the time oral infections need veterinary treatment since they can lead to more serious infections such as bacterial endocarditis-an infection of the heart.
Dental problems: Areas of red, sensitive gum tissue, often with tartar accumulation and parts of the tooth roots exposed, with or without pus indicates gingivitis, which is a common symptom of dental disease.
If you discover any fractured teeth, your dog is probably going to need some veterinary attention. Only the simplest cracks and breaks, right near the tip of the tooth and not exposing any of the pulp cavity, can safely be left untreated.
- Growths Any lumps, bumps, or abnormal-looking tissue in the mouth can be referred to as a mass or growth. These can be as benign as warts or as devastating as squamous cell carcinoma, a highly invasive and usually fatal form of cancer.
Warts are the only oral masses you can ignore. They typically go away on their own. Any other swellings, enlargements, or abnormal growths in the mouth should be seen by a veterinarian.
- Pain If at any time when you're examining his mouth, your dog whimpers, snarls, squirms, or attempts to bite you, it is likely that you are causing pain. Stop your exam immediately.
Now, you're probably wondering, “What do I do if I didn't see anything at all unusual in my dog's mouth?” The truth is that drooling can be caused by things outside your dog's mouth, such as pain, nausea, or a neurological difficulty. These issues are best left to your dog's veterinarian to diagnose.
Excessive salivation is rarely cause for a high-speed dash to an emergency room, but it is important enough to address and resolve.
Not every dog likes to have her mouth pried open or even her lips lifted to expose the teeth and gums. This is especially true if your dog's mouth is clenched shut in an attempt to protect something painful inside. Don't expect to solve this problem quickly and efficiently. Your dog doesn't necessarily understand what you're trying to do, so expect this to take some time. Go slowly and speak soothingly.
When to Get the Vet
Contact your dog's vet if:
- You spot a foreign object that you can't safely remove yourself.
- You are unable to stop the bleeding in your dog's mouth.
- There's more than a small amount of pus, foul odor, or discoloration in your dog's mouth.
- Your dog has a fractured tooth.
- You see any growth in your dog's mouth other than a wart.
- You believe your dog may be drooling because of pain, nausea, or a neurological problem.
Daily Health News
Pet Health Resources
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter