Something you should know about fluffy dogs: They need a lot of brushing. My Samoyed, Eva, hates the summer months not only because she’s hot, but because she has to endure brushing far more often than she would like. You’d think she would be used to it by now, but she always tries to wriggle away. Recently, Eva started doing something even more unusual as I pulled out tuft after tuft of her white, cloud-like fur: drooling.
Curious about why she was drooling so much during our brushing sessions, I reached out to Sarah Wooten, DVM and Pumpkin Pet Insurance Veterinary Expert, for answers.
Why is my dog drooling so much when I brush her?
In Eva’s case, unfortunately, drooling is a sign of stress. “Excessive salivation is a result of hyper stimulation from a stressor in the environment — in this case, brushing,” says Dr. Wooten.
But why does it happen? “Anxiety can also cause jaw-clenching, even in dogs, which can create excess saliva,” she explains.
Why else do dogs drool?
Aside from seeing a really delicious treat in your hand, drooling in dogs can unfortunately be a sign of a health issue. Dr. Wooten lists the following reasons your dog might drool excessively:
- Nausea from sickness or motion sickness
- Pain from any part of the body
- Periodontal disease
- Salivary gland disease
- Esophageal problems (gastric reflux/esophagitis, esophageal foreign body, hiatal hernia, mega-esophagus)
- Neurological disease (vestibular syndrome or palsy)
- Stomach ulcers
- Oral trauma (like a stick stuck in the gums, broken tooth, burns from chewing on an electrical cord)
- Oral tumor
- Heat stroke
- Eating a toxic plant or chemical
- Immune-mediated disease, like pemphigus
- Infections (rabies, spirocercosis, pythiosis, botulism, tetanus)
- Severe liver or kidney disease
- Certain medications or chemicals (caffeine, pyrethrin, ivermectin)
- Insect or snake bite
Given the length of this list, it may be very difficult to diagnose the cause of your pup’s drooling on your own. So, call up your vet if you think there’s something wrong.
Keep in mind, of course, that some dogs naturally drool a lot because of their mouth shape. (Loose, droopy lips don’t hold in saliva very well!) Drool-y breeds include the Bulldog, Bernese Mountain Dog, Bloodhound, Great Dane, Golden Retriever, Newfoundland, Rottweiler, and Saint Bernard, among others.
At what point should you take your dog to the vet for drooling?
It’s always good to go with your gut feeling if you think your furry friend isn’t doing well. That being said, Dr. Wooten suggests visiting the vet if your dog:
- Is drooling more than normal and it lasts for longer than a few hours
- Drools in conjunction with any other abnormalities
- Acts sick in any way
- Ate something they shouldn’t have
- Was bit by an insect or snake or has been injured in any way
Your vet will be able to examine your pup and run diagnostic tests to figure out the cause.
For dogs that drool when they’re stressed, do you have any tips on how to reduce stress?
I do my best to keep Eva out of stressful situations — but sometimes, certain stressful events need to happen (like vet visits and grooming). So, I asked Dr. Wooten what I can do to relieve some of her stress in these situations.
“Try using a lick mat covered in something delicious to distract your dog while grooming,” she says. “Keep grooming sessions short and positive, and try having multiple, short sessions during the day … Only groom small parts of your dog at a time, stop as soon as dog starts drooling, [and] stay positive and calm.”
It also helps to figure out the exact cause of drooling. For example: Does it happen when Eva sees the brush, or when I touch a specific part of her body? “Try to find out when exactly your dog starts drooling, and try to stay ‘under that trigger,’” says Dr. Wooten. “You will need to be aware of when the drooling actually starts, and stop before that happens to condition a different response in your dog. It can help to work with a canine behaviorist.”
In addition, she suggests:
- Using over-the-counter calming supplements
- Asking your vet for an anxiety medication
- Follow-up grooming with play sessions and other fun things to build a positive association with brushing
- Exercise your dog before grooming, so they are tired and mellow
Thanks to Dr. Wooten’s grooming tips, I’ve noticed that Eva is less drool-y when I take out the brush. With time, I hope that she’ll get even more comfortable with our brushing sessions!