slobberBy Dan Franklin, DVM

Doggie drool. Just the mention of those words can make even the most devoted petparent grimace. It’s naturally gooey and gets on you, your clothes, furniture, walls and more!

Pets drool or slobber for all kind of reasons—anticipation of eating, purring, excitement—but did you know that same slimy saliva can alert you to a possible health problem with your dog or cat?

Normally, saliva is constantly being produced and secreted into your pet’s mouth from the salivary glands. However, ptyalism, the term for excessive production of saliva, really can also signal a vast array of diseases and disorders.

Some animals have anatomic variations that allow drool to just dribble out of their mouths, almost constantly. This conformation disorder of the lips is a common cause of ptyalism in giant-breed dogs, such as Saint Bernards, Mastiffs, and Newfoundlands.

Sometimes, however, excessive drooling/salivating occurs when pets are unable or in too much pain to swallow. If your pet is experiencing such symptoms, contact MAVH immediately.

Many aspects of your pet’s overall health will be taken into consideration, such as pre-existing conditions, vaccination status, current medications and possible exposure to toxins.

Additionally, a thorough physical examination will be performed, with a special focus on the mouth, neck and nervous system.

Why? Because the underlying causes for ptyalism are many and varied, as the following list will illustrate!

Mouth and throat diseases— Excessive drooling can signal oral trauma, foreign body ingestion (sewing needle), a tumor, gingivitis, tonsillitis, feline leukemia infection, viral upper respiratory infection, immune-mediated disease, and burns such as those resulting from biting on an electrical cord, etc.

Gastrointestinal disorders— Pytalism can result from a portosystemic shunt (PSS)—a congenital condition that impacts liver function—hyperthermia, gastric ulcer, neoplasia, and even a foreign body.

Nervous system disorders: Life-threatening rabies causes excessive salivating. Additionally, other neurologic conditions resulting in difficulty swallowing and/or seizures can cause ptyalism as well as nausea associated with vestibular disease, and anxiety.

Drug and toxin ingestion: Caustic chemicals, including many household cleaning products and some common houseplants can cause ptyalism. It can result from the unpleasant taste and/or the product’s/plant’s composition:

azaleas, dumb cane (diffenbachia), English ivy, etc., organophosphate compounds, insecticides containing boric acid, pyrethrins, ivermectin, caffeine (!) and illicit drugs such as cocaine, opiates and amphetamines, etc.

So even though dogs and cats are supposed to have saliva in their mouths, too much of it is not always a good thing.

Be an observant petparent and you’ll probably know when pytalism is nothing to spit at! As always, help from MAVH is only a phone call away: 301.797.1800.

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