Why Do Dogs Drool?

Wet, slimy drool is the enemy of almost every dog owner, but there is actually a reason behind the slobbery habit.

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Dogs have a long list or adorable habits: when they lean on you, chase their tails, or follow you around everywhere, but drooling isn’t one of them. If your dog is constantly leaving wet drool stains on your furniture, rugs, or clothes, you’ve probably found yourself wondering, “Why do dogs drool?” and “What causes that somewhat strange behavior?” If humans can keep their saliva in check shouldn’t dogs be able to do the same? We talked to dog expert, DrRebecca Greenstein, Veterinary Medical Advisor for Rover, for some answers. If you’re curious, this is why dogs lick their paws.

Why do dogs drool?

Drool is just saliva and a certain baseline amount is completely normal for dogs just like it is for humans. “Saliva contains digestive enzymes, which help to moisten food to facilitate swallowing, and help maintain oral and dental health,” says Greenstein. A healthy dog will often start to drool more in anticipation of meal or treat time or if they’re excited or anxious. “Other causes of drooling include ingestion of substances that irritate the lining of the mouth, unpleasant-tasting medications, certain toxins, dental disease, salivary gland trauma, certain tumors, swallowing disorders, and underlying neurological conditions,” explains Greenstein.

Does drooling ever indicate a health problem in your dog?

“Hypersalivation or excessive drooling (known as ‘ptyalism’) can absolutely be a symptom of a surprisingly diverse number of health conditions, ranging from tummy upset to neurological disease to cancer,” says Greenstein. “In some dogs with epilepsy, for instance, staring off and drooling is often a commonly overlooked sign of an impending seizure.” If you notice that your dog is drooling much more than usual, and the drool has blood in it, smells bad, or has a greenish tint to it you should see a veterinarian to test for a medical condition.

Make sure to notice the environment your dog is in when the excessive drooling starts. Sometimes their reaction can be to something that isn’t very life-threatening. For example, drooling can simply be a sign of nausea caused by motion sickness. So if your dog is soaking your car seats on your road trip, that could be why. But, nausea-caused drooling can also indicate something more serious like tummy upset caused by an infection or blockage. So if you think your dog may have gotten into something they weren’t supposed to while they were playing outside and notice excessive drooling, it’s best to consult your veterinarian. Watch out for these other signs that your “healthy” dog is actually sick.

Other symptoms to watch for on top of excessive drooling that indicates something is wrong with your dog are swelling around the throat or inside the mouth, unusual behavior, neurological changes, loss of appetite, vomiting, or signs of malaise.

Are there certain breeds that drool more than others?

Yes, there are certain breeds that drool more than others. If you own a Mastiff, Bloodhound, St. Bernard, Great Dane, or Newfoundland, you know that to be true. “It’s not that they actually salivate more than other dogs, it’s that their large loose lip conformation makes it difficult to contain their natural saliva production and in some breeds, loose floppy tissue can actually act as a funnel for drool,” says Greenstein.

Is there anything you can do to get your dog to drool less?

It’s normal for dogs to drool, so there isn’t anything you can do to get them to drool less (unless they are suffering from a medical issue), but there are things you can do to control the mess that drool creates. “Bandanas and neck kerchiefs are not only a fashion statement but they can serve as a stealth goober bib, especially for the big droolers like Mastiffs,” says Greenstein. “Some water and food bowls have specially-designed lips or rims to limit the amount of splatter and spill and subsequent goo, but they are unlikely to make a huge impact on the overall drooling situation.” Now that you know why dogs drool, learn about the other reasons behind your dog’s weird behavior.

Sources:

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. When she’s not writing for rd.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.