Do Cats Drool With Age?

Introduction

Excessive drooling in cats, also known as ptyalism or hypersalivation, can be concerning for cat owners. While occasional drooling is normal, especially when a cat is excited or has eaten something tasty, excessive or chronic drooling may indicate an underlying health issue.

In this article, we will examine the causes of increased drooling in cats, including common diseases, medications, and age-related factors. We’ll discuss when drooling may be considered abnormal and require veterinary attention. You’ll also learn how vets diagnose the cause of excessive drooling and treatment options available. We’ll provide tips for caring for a drooling cat at home and steps owners can take to help prevent excessive drooling in their feline companions.

Understanding the reasons behind drooling in cats and how to manage it can help concerned owners ensure their cat stays healthy and comfortable as they age.

Normal Salivation in Cats

Saliva plays an important role in cats. It helps lubricate food and aid in chewing and swallowing. Cats also need saliva to help clean their teeth and mouth. Saliva contains enzymes that begin breaking down starches and fats while cats chew their food. Normal saliva production ranges from 0.5-2 mL/kg/day in cats (1).

Cats produce saliva constantly in low levels, even when not eating. However, saliva production increases during eating or other activities like grooming, purring, or kneading. Additional saliva is needed to help cats swallow the food they are eating. You may notice a small amount of drool or foamy saliva around your cat’s mouth when they are purring or content. This is completely normal.

While awake, cats frequently swallow their saliva. During sleep, saliva production decreases significantly, which is why you don’t typically notice your cat drooling during naps. Overall, modest salivation that aids in digestion, oral health, and comfort behaviours like purring is considered normal for cats (1).

(1) https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/excessive-production-saliva

Common Causes of Excessive Drooling

There are several medical conditions that can cause cats to drool excessively, including:

Dental Disease: Dental issues like gingivitis, stomatitis, tartar buildup, and tooth decay can cause pain and inflammation in a cat’s mouth, leading to excessive drooling. Cats with severe dental disease may have trouble eating properly. [1]

Nausea: Drooling can be a sign that a cat feels nauseous. Motion sickness, eating something toxic or irritating, infections, kidney disease, and other illnesses can cause nausea and profuse drooling. The drooling is the body’s attempt to expel the irritant. [2]

Oral Tumors: Tumors in the mouth, face, or throat are another potential cause of excessive drooling in cats. The tumor may make swallowing painful or difficult. Oral tumors tend to occur in older cats and require veterinary diagnosis and treatment. [3]

Other oral health issues like ulcers, cuts, and object lodged in the mouth can also lead to drooling. It’s important to inspect your cat’s mouth regularly and have any concerns examined promptly by a vet.

Effects of Age on Salivation

Aging can have significant effects on saliva production and lead to excessive drooling in cats. As cats get older, the amount of saliva they produce tends to decrease. One study found that about 25% of elderly cats suffer from oral dryness and related issues (Vissink et al., 1996). This reduction in saliva is caused by age-related changes in the salivary glands.

The salivary glands atrophy as cats age, resulting in lower salivary flow rates. The composition of saliva also changes, with elderly cats producing saliva that has less lubricating proteins. With less saliva being produced and saliva that is less effective at lubricating the mouth, many older cats will experience thicker, ropey saliva that pools in the mouth. This pooled saliva can then spill out and lead to excessive drooling.

In addition to reduced saliva production, older cats are also more prone to certain oral health issues like periodontal disease and oral tumors. These conditions can be painful and make it difficult for a cat to swallow, also contributing to drooling. Providing oral care and having regular veterinary dental checkups can help minimize these age-related oral health issues.

Other Age-Related Factors

In addition to dental issues, there are some other age-related factors that may cause increased drooling in senior cats:

Cognitive decline – As cats age, they can develop feline cognitive dysfunction (cat dementia) which affects their thinking, memory, awareness, and reactions. Disorientation from cognitive decline can cause increased drooling. According to one study, 28% of cats aged 11-14 years show at least one sign of cognitive dysfunction. (source)

Medication side effects – Older cats are more likely to be on medications for conditions like kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, arthritis, cancer etc. Drooling can sometimes occur as a side effect of medications. Always check with your vet if you notice increased drooling after starting a new medication.

Neurological conditions – Conditions like strokes, brain tumors, epilepsy and nerve damage become more common in senior cats and can cause drooling. If drooling comes on suddenly, it’s important to get a full vet workup to check for neurological issues.

Overall reduced functioning – With advanced age, cats become less able to control bodily functions like swallowing and saliva production. Muscle weakness around the mouth can also cause dribbling. Managing conditions to improve quality of life is important.

When to See the Vet

While a small amount of drooling is normal for cats, excessive drooling or drooling combined with other symptoms warrants a visit to the veterinarian. According to Festival Animal Clinic, you should take your cat to the vet if the drooling persists for more than a day or two. Significant drooling can be a sign of nausea, oral pain, or an underlying health issue that requires treatment.

The following symptoms combined with excessive drooling are cause for concern and indicate a veterinary visit:

  • Loss of appetite or not eating
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath
  • Excessive panting
  • Swollen or bleeding gums
  • Head shaking or ear scratching
  • Loss of balance or trouble walking
  • Lethargy or lack of normal activity

According to WagWalking, drooling accompanied by gagging or coughing up fluid could signal a more serious issue like poisoning or a blocked airway. In these cases, emergency veterinary care is recommended. Don’t hesitate to call or visit your vet if your cat is frequently drooling or showing signs of discomfort or distress. Timely treatment greatly improves outcomes in many conditions linked to excessive drooling.

Tests and Diagnosis

To determine the underlying cause of a cat’s excessive drooling, a veterinarian will typically start with a physical exam, looking in the mouth for any abnormalities as well as feeling for masses in the neck and jaw area. They may also take the cat’s temperature to check for fever, which can indicate infection.

From there, the vet may recommend additional diagnostic tests. Bloodwork can look for issues like kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, or infection. X-rays allow vets to visualize the mouth and throat area for masses, foreign objects, or other issues. An ultrasound of the neck and chest may also be performed. For suspected oral issues like tooth decay or mouth ulcers, the vet may sedate the cat for a thorough oral exam.

In some cases, medications may be prescribed on a trial basis to see if that resolves the drooling. For example, anti-nausea medication may stop the drooling if it is caused by nausea or acid reflux. Antibiotics could be prescribed if an infection is suspected.

Endoscopy or biopsy of oral tissues may also be performed if initial tests are inconclusive and a tumor or other oral disease is suspected. Dental x-rays are also an option for investigating potential tooth issues causing excessive drooling.

While the diagnostic process can be extensive, identifying the underlying cause is important for providing the cat with proper treatment and care. Patience and persistence is key, as it may take several tests to pinpoint the exact reason for the increased salivation.

Treatment Options

The treatment for excessive drooling in cats depends on identifying and addressing the underlying cause. Some common treatment options include:

Medications – If an infection, dental disease, or nausea is causing drooling, a veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics, anti-nausea medication, or pain relievers. Steroids may help reduce inflammation.

Dental work – Extracting damaged or infected teeth, or treating gum disease can alleviate oral pain and discomfort leading to drooling.

Surgery – Removing obstructions, masses, or foreign objects lodged in the mouth or esophagus may require sedation and surgical procedures. Surgery can also correct issues like cleft palate.

Diet change – Switching to wet food or adding broth to meals can make eating less painful for cats with oral issues. Soft foods are easier to swallow if the throat is irritated.

Environmental changes – Reducing stress and providing enrichment through toys, scratching posts, and cat trees can minimize drooling caused by anxiety or boredom.

For neurological disorders like seizures, the underlying condition will need to be managed to control excessive drooling.

In severe cases where the cause cannot be treated, a vet may recommend euthanasia to prevent suffering. With treatment of the underlying issue, most cats can fully recover from excessive drooling.

Caring for a Drooling Cat

Cats that drool excessively may need some additional care and management at home. Here are some tips for caring for a cat that drools:

  • Gently wipe away any excess drool from your cat’s face frequently with a soft, absorbent cloth. This can help prevent skin irritation from the drool.
  • Ensure your cat stays well-hydrated by providing fresh, clean water at all times. Drooling can cause fluid loss, so replenishing fluids is important. You can try adding some low-sodium broth or tuna juice to the water to encourage drinking.
  • Feed moist, canned food instead of dry kibble to help increase fluid intake and make eating easier if mouth pain is causing drooling.
  • Clean your cat’s face after meals to remove any food debris. Drool can cause food to stick to the fur.
  • Groom your cat regularly to prevent matted fur from drool buildup.
  • Keep your home humidity low to help drool evaporate faster.
  • Avoid using plastic bowls, which can harbor bacteria. Stainless steel, ceramic, or glass are better options.
  • Watch for signs of skin irritation from drool exposure like redness or sores and contact your vet if they develop.

While drooling can often be managed at home, be sure to monitor your cat closely and contact your vet if the drooling persists or worsens. They can recommend any additional supportive care needed for your cat’s comfort and health.

Preventing Excessive Drooling

There are some steps cat owners can take to promote normal saliva production and help prevent excessive drooling in cats:

  • Brush your cat’s teeth regularly to remove plaque and tartar buildup that can lead to dental disease and pain (https://hastingsvet.com/why-is-my-cat-drooling-what-can-i-do-about-it/).
  • Schedule regular veterinary dental cleanings as recommended by your vet.
  • Feed a balanced, high-quality diet to support your cat’s oral health.
  • Provide safe toys and scratching posts to minimize stress and boredom that can cause some cats to drool excessively.
  • Avoid medications, toxins, and plants that may trigger drooling when accidentally ingested.
  • Treat any underlying medical conditions, like kidney disease, that can lead to increased drooling.
  • Keep your home calm and routine to reduce anxious behaviors.
  • Use pheromone diffusers/sprays to minimize stress in high-anxiety cats (https://cats.com/cat-drooling).

With proactive care and a cat-friendly home environment, owners can help minimize excessive drooling and keep their cats comfortable.

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