Why Is My Cat Drooling So Much Even Though They’re Eating?

Introduction

Excessive drooling, also known as hypersalivation or ptyalism, is characterized by abnormal amounts of saliva production in cats. While some drooling is normal, especially when a cat is excited or happy, excessive drooling can indicate an underlying health issue.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, excessive drooling in cats is often caused by oral disease, nausea/vomiting, or neurologic dysfunction. However, excessive drooling can also occur with heat stress, respiratory disease, poisoning, anxiety/stress, and certain medications.

When a cat has excessive drooling while eating, it is important to identify the underlying cause. Potential causes include dental disease, oral injuries, nausea, and food allergies. Examining the cat’s teeth, gums, and mouth along with a full clinical workup can help diagnose the problem.

While excessive drooling can occur in cats of any age, kittens and senior cats may be more prone due to their developing teeth/gums or age-related dental disease. Excessive drooling can lead to irritation and infections around the mouth, so identifying and addressing the cause is important.

Possible Causes

There are several possible causes for a cat drooling excessively:

Dental Disease

Dental disease like gingivitis, abscesses, or tooth decay can cause drooling in cats. The buildup of tartar and plaque causes irritation and inflammation in the mouth, leading to excessive saliva production. Dental disease is very common in cats, with over 70% of cats over age 3 having some degree of it. Symptoms besides drooling include bad breath, bleeding gums, tooth loss, and difficulty eating.[1]

Oral Injuries

Injuries to the mouth like cuts, wounds, or foreign objects stuck in the mouth or throat can cause drooling. Cats may drool excessively as the body tries to flush out the irritation. Oral injuries are often caused by rough play, falls, or chewing on sharp objects. Other symptoms may include bleeding, swelling, pawing at the mouth, and changes in eating and drinking habits.[2]

Food Allergies

Food allergies or intolerances can manifest as excessive drooling in some cats. Allergies cause inflammation in the mouth, stimulating saliva production. Common food allergens for cats include beef, dairy, and fish. Diagnosis involves an elimination diet trial. Treatment involves identifying and avoiding the allergen.[3]

Nausea

Nausea is another potential cause of drooling in cats. The nausea stimulates the salivary glands and production of excess saliva. Possible causes of nausea include ingesting toxins, gastroenteritis, motion sickness, and certain medications. Other symptoms with nausea may include vomiting, lethargy, and appetite changes.

Dental Disease

One of the most common causes of excessive drooling in cats is dental disease, which covers a range of conditions affecting the teeth and gums. Periodontal disease, which involves inflammation and infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth, is particularly prevalent in cats. According to the ASPCA, by the time they are 3 years old, 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease.

As periodontal disease progresses, plaque and tartar build up on the teeth. This leads to receding gums, bone loss, and eventually tooth loss if left untreated. The bacteria from plaque and tartar enter the bloodstream and can affect internal organs. Oral pain and infection from periodontal disease can cause a cat to drool excessively as well as exhibit other symptoms like bad breath, decreased appetite, and irritability.

In addition to periodontal disease, broken or infected teeth, oral tumors, and foreign objects lodged in the mouth can also lead to excessive drooling. Serious dental issues often require professional veterinary treatment, like deep cleanings, tooth extractions, or antibiotics. But owners can help prevent dental disease through regular teeth brushing, dental diets, treats, and oral rinses.

Sources:

[https://www.caldwellanimalhospital.org/2019/02/13/dogs-drool-and-cats-do-too-signs-of-common-dental-diseases-in-your-cat/]

[https://icatcare.org/advice/dental-disease-in-cats/]

Oral Injuries

Oral injuries such as lacerations, burns, and electrical shock can cause a cat to drool excessively. Lacerations or cuts to the lips, gums, tongue or roof of the mouth often occur from sharp objects or trauma and can be quite painful leading to increased saliva production (The Spruce Pets, 2023). Burns from hot food or liquid, or from electrical current passing through the mouth, cause severe irritation and inflammation resulting in profuse drooling. According to WagWalking, electrical shock often occurs when a cat chews on an electrical cord. The painful burn causes immediate and excessive drooling. It’s important to inspect your cat’s mouth for any lacerations, burns or swelling and seek veterinary care for treatment to prevent secondary infection and promote healing.

Food Allergies

Food allergies can cause excessive drooling in cats. Cats may experience allergic reactions to ingredients in their food such as beef, dairy products, chicken, fish, wheat, soy, lamb, and eggs (Allergies & Drooling in Cats | Pets – The Nest).

Symptoms of food allergies in cats may include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Itchy skin or recurrent ear infections
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of appetite

If a cat has an allergy to an ingredient in their food, switching to a new protein source or hypoallergenic diet may help resolve the allergic reaction and excessive drooling (Cat Drooling: What it is and Why They Do it). It’s important to consult with a veterinarian to help identify food allergies and determine an appropriate diet.

Nausea

Nausea is a common cause of excessive drooling in cats. The nausea can stem from several conditions including:

Motion sickness – Cats prone to motion sickness may drool excessively in the car or during travel. The nausea triggers extra saliva production and drooling.

Medication side effects – Some medications, like anesthesia or chemotherapy drugs, can cause nausea and excess drooling as a side effect.

Liver or kidney disease – Severe nausea is common in advanced stages of liver and kidney disease. Toxins build up in the blood, causing nausea and profuse drooling.

Other causes of nausea like gastrointestinal issues, pancreatitis, infections, brain disorders, or metabolic diseases can also lead to excessive drooling. If the cause is treated, the nausea and drooling often resolve.

Diagnosis

To diagnose the cause of excessive drooling in cats, the vet will first perform a thorough oral exam. They will look for any injuries, masses, dental disease, or other abnormalities in the mouth, gums, and teeth that could be causing pain or irritation.

Dental x-rays may also be recommended to check for dental issues like abscesses, tooth resorption, or root exposure that are not visible from just an oral exam. X-rays allow the vet to see below the surface for any hidden problems. According to https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/hypersalivation, dental x-rays are an important diagnostic tool for identifying dental disease as a potential cause of drooling and hypersalivation.

If no oral cause is found, the vet may recommend food elimination trials by putting the cat on a novel protein diet containing a protein they have not eaten before. This can help determine if the excessive drooling is caused by a food allergy or intolerance. According to https://festivalanimalclinic.com/blog/cat-drooling/, food allergies are one possible cause of irritation that leads to excessive drooling and salivation in cats.

Treatment

If your cat’s excessive drooling is due to dental disease, your vet may recommend a professional dental cleaning and extraction of infected or damaged teeth. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to treat any existing infection in the mouth. It is important to address dental issues right away, as they can lead to more serious health problems if left untreated.

For cats with food allergies, your vet may suggest trying a hypoallergenic or novel protein diet trial for 8-12 weeks to see if symptoms improve. This involves feeding a brand of cat food with limited ingredients that your cat has not eaten before. Some common options are duck, venison, kangaroo, or hydrolyzed protein diets. Antihistamines may provide additional allergy relief.

If nausea is causing the drooling, your vet can prescribe anti-nausea medication. Common options include Cerenia, metoclopramide, or maropitant citrate. These help control vomiting and excess salivation.

Surgery may be necessary in some cases to remove foreign material, tumors, or abscesses causing excessive drooling. Your vet will determine the best treatment plan for your individual cat based on examination and diagnostic testing.

Home Care

There are a few things you can do at home to help manage your cat’s excessive drooling:

Brushing your cat’s teeth regularly can help reduce plaque buildup and dental disease, which is a common cause of drooling. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and cat-safe toothpaste. Brush gently in circular motions and focus on the outer surfaces of the teeth. Brushing daily is ideal, but a few times per week can still be beneficial.

Wiping your cat’s face frequently with a warm, damp cloth can help keep their face clean and prevent irritation from excessive saliva. Gently wipe under the chin, around the lips and nose. You may need to do this multiple times throughout the day depending on the amount of drool.

Providing easy access to fresh water can help keep your cat hydrated, which may reduce excessive drooling caused by nausea or oral discomfort. Clean water bowls daily.

Feeding soft foods may make eating more comfortable for cats with sore mouths. Avoid hard kibble and provide canned food, broths, or kitten formula.

Using shallow food and water dishes can make access easier if your cat is having difficulty eating or drinking due to oral pain.

Make sure your cat gets adequate rest and limit stress. Anxiety and fatigue can contribute to excessive drooling.

Monitor your cat’s appetite, energy levels, and litter box habits. Notify your veterinarian if you notice any changes that could indicate an underlying health issue.

When to See a Vet

In most cases, occasional cat drooling is normal. According to PetMD, it’s generally not a cause for concern if the drooling is infrequent and your cat seems otherwise healthy and happy.

However, you should contact your veterinarian if the drooling persists for more than a day or two. Prolonged excessive drooling can be a sign of an underlying health issue. PetMD recommends seeing a vet promptly if your cat is drooling and exhibiting any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty eating
  • Swollen mouth or face
  • Bad breath
  • Decreased or lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Upper respiratory signs like nasal discharge or sneezing

Early veterinary care can help diagnose and treat any issues before they become more serious. According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, it’s especially important to have prolonged drooling evaluated, as it could potentially indicate a blocked salivary duct, oral tumor, or other medical problem requiring prompt veterinary attention.

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