Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on July 27, 2021
Remember the slobbering Saint Bernard from the movie Beethoven? OK, maybe your dog doesn’t drool that much! But is it still a problem? There’s normal, healthy slobber that helps your dog eat and digest. And then there’s Niagara Falls. Too much drool, or hypersalivation, can be a sign of illness.
Here are some causes and suggested treatments:
Breeding: Bloodhounds, Newfoundlands, mastiffs, and Saint Bernards are breeds with loose upper lips or “flews,” causing them to drool more than others. Keep a hand towel around, maybe even a bib.
Mouth disease and tooth decay: Tarter buildup can rub against the inside of your dog’s lip, causing drool. To check, pull their lip back toward their ear. Do their teeth look like concrete? Are they brown? Are their gums red, swollen, or bleeding? If so, try a professional cleaning and then daily brushing. Your vet can check for gingivitis, mouth ulcers, and tumors as well.
Heat stroke: Short-nosed breeds, such as pugs, Boston terriers, boxers, and bulldogs, are more likely to have heat stroke. They just don’t pant as well as other dogs. If you think about it, your dog wears a fur coat, even in the summer, so it doesn’t take much for them to get overheated. Dogs that are stuck in the sun or run without access to water may also suffer from heat stroke and drool.
To avoid this, always have fresh, clean water available and shady places for them to cool off. On very hot days, keep them indoors, limit exercise, and never leave them in a parked car. Call your vet right way if you suspect heat stroke — it can be dangerous.
Motion sickness and anxiety: If the only time your dog gets in the car is to go to the vet for shots, of course they’ll be nervous or nauseated.
Open-mouth panting and breathing, which are signs of anxiety, can cause your dog to drool. To make them more comfortable, try putting them in a pet harness or canine seat belt in the back seat without driving anywhere. Then slowly work up to backing out of the driveway and driving around the block. Repeat the routine as needed to ease carsickness. Ginger pills, sold at health food stores, are another solution. Talk to your vet about other remedies. If the motion sickness persists, your dog will most likely need prescription medication to find relief.
Organ disease: Liver and kidney diseases, for example, can cause drooling. As they age, dogs are more likely to get sick. Vets suggest annual checkups to diagnose and treat diseases early.
Poisonous plants or animals: Common plants like tulips, azaleas, and chrysanthemums can not only make your dog drool, but also make them sick. Keep your dog from eating them. Your dog might also lick or eat certain frogs, toads, scorpions or spiders that are poisonous. For a list of poisonous plants, consult the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Stomachaches: Dogs don’t tend to think before eating. Vets report pulling some strange items from their stomachs, from tennis balls to socket wrenches. This can cause nausea, discomfort and pain. Keep dangerous items away from them. If you think your dog has eaten something it shouldn’t have, call your vet right away.
Upper respiratory infections: Drooling can signal an infection of the nose, throat, or sinuses. Dogs that live in homes or shelters with other pets have a higher risk. Stress is also a factor. Only your vet can properly treat an infection. But you can take steps to protect your dog: Keep them indoors, away from other pets, and wash your hands between handling different animals.
You’re the best judge of your dog’s behavior. If they are acting strange for more than a day, seem stressed, are vomiting, or are not eating and playing as usual, it’s wise to see a vet.