Pet ownership does not come without its fair share of drooling and licking from your furry friend, but when these behaviors increase enough for you to take notice and you find your dog is drooling and licking excessively with no obvious cause, then they may be feeling stressed or in discomfort and need veterinary care.
What Constitutes as Excessive?
This will depend on the breed of your pet as well as any possible stimuli he or she may have around them to provoke this type of nonverbal communication and bodily response. Just like with people, what’s normal for one may not be normal for another, so it is important for you as their caregiver to identify any out of the ordinary behaviors as they emerge.
There are some breeds that drool more than others, so what may seem like an excessive amount to you may be perfectly normal for your dog. Although it can be a slobbery mess, the extra drool serves a purpose. The drool helps them eat and digest their food. Some of the dog breeds that are known for excessive drooling are:
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Black and Tan Coonhound
- Bull Terrier
- Neapolitan Mastiff
- Saint Bernard
This is but only a few breeds of the many out there that drool a lot. If you happen to have a breed well known for the amount of slobber they produce, excessive drooling and licking are perfectly normal.
As previously mentioned, some situations of excessive licking and drooling are normal and likely caused by some type of environmental stimuli which can range from food being present to who is in the room. Normal causes for your dog to lick and drool excessively are:
- Food– If there is a plate of food sitting at the edge of the counter and your dog is a big fan of table food, you may have found your reason for any sudden onset of drooling and licking. In this type of scenario where food is present, any excessive amounts of drooling or licking of their lips have a clear cause and shouldn’t be of concern.
- Seeking Attention– Another surprisingly normal situation would be that it may just be your presence in the room. Dogs take notice of what gets them attention, so if they are seeking more attention and have noticed licking their lips draws your worried attention, they may begin this behavior to draw attention to themselves in the same way a child might say they have a tummy ache before bed.
- Another Person or Pet– Your dog drooling and licking excessively may be due to the presence of a perceived threat, this could be from meeting someone new whether they are on two legs or four. If your dog starts drooling and licking excessively in the presence of someone new, it may just be anxiety. Dogs are known to lick their lips as a self-soothing technique.
- Time of Day– You may find that your dog licks or smacks their lips a lot at night before bed or after waking up, maybe even drooling excessively in their sleep. Drooling during sleep is normal as long as they aren’t waking up in puddles or choking on it. Licking their lips or body parts before or after the bed is a soothing activity for them.
- Temperature– Your dog may simply be drooling and licking more because of excessive heat. If you feel it may be that your dog is getting overheated get him somewhere cool before he needs medical attention.
- Car Sickness– If you notice your dog is constantly drooling and licking their lips when inside the car, they may be nervous or anxious, or even car sick. Prior to throwing up, dogs will salivate more. It is pretty common for a dog to drool more during car rides.
Even for some of the environmental stimuli that cause your pet to react in this way, you may want to speak to your vet. If they present any other symptoms of anxiety in situations, they feel stressed (like diarrhea whenever you have guests over or take them somewhere new) you may need something to help with anxiety. Treatment can range from aromatic therapy with plug-in diffusers to anxiety medication.
When to Worry
Now that you know some of the more normal scenarios that may cause your dog to drool and lick more than usual if you find that they continue to lick and drool with no obvious environmental stimuli it may be time to take a closer look at your canine companion.
Sometimes excessive drooling and licking can be because of an undetected health concern. Unlike humans, dogs are unable to verbally communicate what they are feeling or what is bothering them. At the end of the day, you know your dog best, so your canine friend, as well as your veterinarian, are going to rely on what signals you pick up on.
Possible Medical Concerns That Present as Excessive Drooling and Licking
Although drooling and licking excessively may be completely normal in most cases, it can also be a possible symptom of an underlying health issue. If you find you can’t attribute the drooling and lick to any of the above-mentioned stimuli, it may be time to keep a keen eye out for any other strange or uncommon behavior your dog may present.
By being attuned to any other indicative body language from your canine, you will better assist your veterinarian is looking for any alarming medical concerns that may be related to the following conditions:
- Liver Disease
- Kidney Disease
- Partial Seizures
- Ate Something Toxic
- Gum Inflammation
- Nervous System Disorder
- Foreign object lodged in teeth or throat
- Salivary Gland Issues
- Lyme Disease
- Canine Bloat
- Acid Reflux
- Ear infection
- Heat Stroke
Sometimes all your pet will need is a bland diet to help remedy an upset stomach, while other times you may need more of a medical intervention to remedy the problem. For example, medical issues related to poor oral hygiene can be resolved with a bit of dental care, while lodged foreign objects or enlarged salivary glands may need to be surgically removed.
If your dog happens to be suffering from any illnesses, drooling and licking may just be the first sign that they are in discomfort or pain and trying to self soothe. If you notice any other strange behavior it may be time to call your vet and see about getting your dog looked at.
If You Feel Your Dog Got into Something Toxic
With all this in mind, if you suspect your dog has gotten into any harmful chemicals or dangerous human food, like chocolate or coffee, that may have brought on the excessive drooling and licking then you should seek medical attention immediately to better avoid any fatal outcomes. Contact poison control and do not induce vomiting unless otherwise directed.
Canine Bloat- A Veterinary Emergency
If you notice your dog is licking and drooling excessively, has pale gums, and a tight distended abdomen, and is having trouble vomiting, you should get your dog to the vet immediately as bloat is a very serious medical condition that needs immediate medical intervention.
Canine bloat is when your dog’s stomach becomes distended with gas, causing the stomach to twist or flip, trapping the gas, and cutting off blood flow to the stomach. Unfortunately, this can be a fatal diagnosis if untreated and may put your dog into shock before anything can be done.
The sooner you get your dog to the vet the better, as with bloat time is of the essence. The blocked blood flow will cause the deprived organs and tissue to die, decreasing the survival rate to 50% if a portion of the stomach has already died before medical assistance.
If your vet suspects this to be the case they can diagnose your dog rather fast. After taking a quick x-ray to confirm whether or not your dog has bloat, emergency surgery will need to be performed.
What Other Symptoms Should You Look Out For?
If you are concerned your pet may be licking and drooling as a symptom of an underlying cause, call your vet and schedule an appointment. Whether your appointment is an hour from now or in a day or two, take that time to gather your vet’s information about your dog’s health. Here are some questions you may want to find the answers to when looking for other symptoms:
- Is your dog drinking water? Are they drinking more than usual or less?
- Are they eating like normal and holding it down? Have you changed their food recently that may be the cause of their upset stomach? What brand of food are you feeding them and is food readily available to them? If not how often do you feed them?
- If they are vomiting, how often and what color?
- Do drooling and licking occur after any specific activities like playing, eating, or lying down?
- Are they having normal urinary and bowel movements? If not do they have diarrhea or are they constipated?
- Are they lethargic, having trouble walking, or walking with a limp?
- Are they tilting their head, scratching their ears, or shaking their head a lot?
- Is it possible that they have gotten into anything harmful without your knowing?
- Have you noticed any bad breath or difficulty eating? When was the last time they had a dental cleaning?
- Have you noticed any other signs of discomfort like labored breathing, panting, or crying out in pain when touched anywhere specifically or doing a specific activity?
Your veterinarian will likely ask you all of this to get a better understanding of the diagnostic approach they should be taking. Keep in mind the more information the better as a misdiagnosis can still occur. Many illnesses have the same symptoms as one another with very little difference, so the more you can tell your vet the better they will be able to treat your pet.
Stay Calm but Astute
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration when you notice your dog drooling and licking excessively. Although you should not immediately jump into a panic the moment you notice an increase in this behavior, it should also not be brushed off as nothing.
If you are truly concerned, don’t hesitate and speak to your veterinarian for further guidance – it’s always the surest way to get the right advice.