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What You Need To Know About Dog Drool

What You Need To Know About Dog Drool

Critter Culture Staff



Dog saliva is fascinating, and if you have a pooch, you'll be seeing a lot of it. But there are a bunch of crossed wires regarding doggy drool. From the idea that dog saliva has magical healing powers to the notion that it's lethal, we're here to help you set the dog saliva facts straight.


Dog breeds that drool the most

Basset Hound dog artisteer / Getty Images

Those adorable breeds with jowls are big-time slobber culprits. Saliva collects and spills over, and depending on how meticulous you are in your home, you may or may not be inclined to clean up dog spit constantly.

Dog breeds that are naturally drooly include basset hounds, boxers, Saint Bernards, bloodhounds, bulldogs, Newfoundlands, Bernese mountain dogs, French mastiffs, and Great Danes.


Drool and dog health

dog drooling Zelma Brezinska / EyeEm / Getty Images

Excessive drooling can indicate that your dog is about to throw up, so direct it somewhere more convenient if possible and ready your cleaning accessories. A single bout of vomiting could be related to eating too much or too fast—any more than that should put you on alert.

How about bad breath? Has canine halitosis knocked you out recently? If you already have a solid dental care routine, you'll want your doggy doc to look at what's causing the stinks and unusual drooling. Hypersalivation can also signify that lil' buddy is allergic to something or consumed something it shouldn't have. Monitor your dog; if other symptoms show up, get in touch with your vet.


Dog digestion

woman giving dog bowl of food

Dogs drool in anticipation of food—your carnivorous dog probably salivates when it watches you eat a juicy piece of meat. But unlike humans, dogs don't have salivary amylase to start digestion in the mouth. Saliva's sole role in doggy digestion is to help food travel down your pup's gullet.

In addition, dog saliva is less acidic than humans, so dogs are less likely to get cavities. Still, saliva traps bacteria, so brushing your dog's teeth is essential to prevent gum disease and pain when eating.


Dog saliva and the weather

Jack Russell Terrier dog drinking water on hot sunny summer day alexei_tm / Getty Images

Dogs also get slobbery when it's hot because they stick their swollen tongues out so heat can escape. Panting facilitates thermoregulation and the evaporation of saliva, which helps your dog cool down. But in cases of heat exhaustion, you might notice excessive panting and an increase in saliva.

When buddy's saliva is thicker than usual, move your dog to a shaded area and give it small amounts of cool water. Contact your vet if you notice a fever, a rapid pulse, or other worrying symptoms.


Dog saliva and wound licking

dog licking itself

The idea that dog saliva can heal isn't unfounded, but it has been exaggerated. Stray dogs loosen dirt from wounds with their tongues, but dogs with owners can have their wounds cleaned with water. Dog and human saliva both have slight antibacterial properties, but wound licking isn't helpful for dogs in domestic settings with access to over-the-counter vet-approved medicine.

And dogs' instinct to lick painful wounds can compromise the healing process and cause more harm. Check whether your dog's first aid kit has products for wound care and bandages for athletic breeds. You might need to make or buy an e-collar to prevent your pup from licking a wound or surgical site too much.


Lip licking and stress

Poodle dog licking his nose dimarik / Getty Images

Like in humans, dog saliva can show an increase in cortisol when stressed. And dogs don't just lick their lips when they're ready to chow down. It's a form of communication that says, 'I'm anxious right now.' It might happen when you scold your dog or when it sees a strange animal or person, and it's sometimes accompanied by an averted gaze or a yawn.

These de-escalating gestures tell the other party to calm down because your dog means no harm. Do what you can to remove the threat so your fur baby can ease up. Without intervention, your dog's defensiveness can become aggressive.


Dog saliva is an allergen

woman blowing her nose with tissue and her dog beside her VioletaStoimenova / Getty Images

Pet allergies are often associated with dander. But dog and cat saliva are a big part of the problem. If you frequently have allergies, it's not just a matter of getting your dog to stop licking you. Dogs lick their fur, and when it dries, the allergy-causing proteins waft into the air. Different dogs vary in terms of how much of these proteins they have.


Dirty dog

dog licking woman's face Sally Anscombe / Getty Images

Dog saliva is certainly not cleaner than humans, especially considering dogs often lick their genitals and eat their own and others' feces. Human and canine oral and gut microbiomes contain very different but almost equal amounts of bacteria. It's rare, but dogs can pass intestinal parasites to people via their saliva, so try and avoid mouth-to-mouth doggy kisses. Young children, seniors, pregnant women, and the immunocompromised should take special precautions.


Dog saliva stains

white dog with tear stain around eyes enviromantic / Getty Images

Dogs with white coats can develop reddish stains due to porphyrins. These molecules contain iron from red blood cells breaking down. Dog stools, urine, tears, and saliva contain traces of these molecules, so when Snowy licks itself, you'll see the evidence. You can use a contact lens solution to clean stains around your dog's eyes.


Extreme cases

Veterinarian Conversing with Dog Owner in Animal Hospital xavierarnau / Getty Images

In Germany, a man arrived at a hospital with a fever, failing kidneys, rashes, bleeding capillaries, muscle pain, and breathing difficulties. Doctors were perplexed until blood tests showed bacteria usually found in healthy cat and dog saliva. Bites and scratches normally transmit the bacteria, Capnocytophaga canimorsus, to humans, but this individual had no such injury. He died because his dog licked him. C. canimorsus infections are super rare, but they can kill patients within 72 hours, especially those with spleen or immune system issues.

The same bacteria has led to several amputations. A Wisconsin man lost his limbs and nose in 2018; in 2019, an Ohio woman also underwent amputations linked to dog licking. Dog owners with extreme flu symptoms should seek medical help ASAP to be on the safe side. If you've been bitten, wash your wound with soapy water and reach out to your doctor for treatment in case of rabies or the above bacteria. Early antibiotics can assist.


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