Why Is My Cat Dripping Water From His Mouth? The Possible Causes

Introduction

Cats are amazing creatures that brighten our lives in countless ways. Did you know the average house cat can run up to 30 mph? With lightning fast reflexes and superb agility, it’s no wonder cats are record setters when it comes to athletic feats like jumping. But as remarkable as cats are, they can sometimes display odd behaviors that have us scratching our heads. Excessive drooling is one such peculiar habit that cat owners may notice in their feline friends.

Though uncommon, some cats tend to drip excessive amounts of saliva and water from their mouths. This can occur suddenly or develop slowly over time. While alarming to witness, excessive drooling in cats often signals an underlying health issue. Getting to the root cause is key to relieving discomfort and providing proper treatment.

In this article, we’ll explore the common causes of excessive drooling in cats. We’ll also provide tips on when to see the vet and how to manage this condition at home. With the right information and care, most cats can overcome issues with excessive drool and go on to live happy, healthy lives. So read on to learn more about this unusual feline behavior and what you can do if your cat is dripping water from his mouth.

Excessive Salivation in Cats

Excessive salivation, also known as ptyalism or hypersalivation, is characterized by abnormal drooling or dripping of saliva from the mouth in cats. This can occur with or without swallowing motions. It happens when the salivary glands produce more saliva than the cat is able to swallow. Excess saliva then accumulates in the mouth and drips out (Source).

There are several potential causes of excessive salivation in cats:

  • Oral pain – Issues like gingivitis, tooth resorption, or mouth ulcers can lead to excessive drooling (Source).
  • Nausea – Drooling and lip licking may indicate nausea, which has many possible causes including motion sickness, infections, organ disease, etc. (Source).
  • Poisoning – Ingestion of toxins like certain plants, pesticides, or medications can stimulate saliva production (Source).
  • Stress and anxiety – Overgrooming, panting, and drooling can signify stress in cats.

Other causes include foreign objects caught in the mouth, oral tumors or masses, dental disease, respiratory infections, and neurological disorders. Determining the underlying reason for excessive drooling is important for proper treatment.

Oral Pain

One of the most common causes of excessive drooling in cats is oral pain.[1] Dental diseases like tooth decay, gum disease (gingivitis), or mouth injuries can all lead to significant pain and discomfort in a cat’s mouth. Tooth decay usually occurs when plaque builds up on the teeth and erodes the enamel. Bacteria from the plaque infect the gums, causing inflammation, redness, and pain. Gum disease is progressive and can eventually lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Cats may also experience oral pain from mouth injuries like cuts, bites, or scrapes on their lips, gums, or tongue. These injuries expose sensitive nerve endings and make eating and drinking very uncomfortable. The excessive salivation is the body’s response to try to lubricate and soothe the irritated oral tissues. Owners may notice their cat drooling with bloody saliva if the mouth injury is significant. In all cases of oral pain, cats may have difficulty eating, paw at their mouth, shake their head, or even stop eating entirely. Excessive drooling is their way of coping with the oral discomfort. Proper veterinary dental care is essential to treat underlying causes of oral pain and prevent ongoing drooling issues.

Nausea

Excessive drooling can be a sign that your cat is experiencing nausea. Nausea is a common symptom of motion sickness or carsickness in cats. The motion and movement involved in traveling in the car can cause the inner ear upset and provoke nausea and vomiting. Cats that drool excessively and seem lethargic on car rides are likely experiencing carsickness [1].

Eating or ingesting something toxic is another common cause of nausea and excessive drooling in cats. Toxins from poisonous houseplants, chemicals, medications, or spoiled food can all irritate a cat’s digestive system and result in nausea, vomiting, and drooling [2]. Immediate veterinary attention is necessary if poisoning is suspected.

Poisoning

One potential cause of excessive drooling in cats is poisoning from ingesting toxic substances like household chemicals, plants, or medications. Common household poisons that can cause drooling in cats include:

  • Essential oils – Oils like tea tree oil, citrus oils, pennyroyal oil, and oil of wintergreen are highly toxic to cats and can cause drooling, vomiting, and liver damage if ingested.
  • Cleaning products – Bleach, detergents, oven cleaners, and other household cleaners contain harsh chemicals that can irritate a cat’s mouth and esophagus, leading to drooling.
  • Plants – Lilies are extremely toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure. Other plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, and sago palms can also cause drooling and illness.

In addition to drooling, other signs of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, seizures, and collapse. Treatment depends on the type of poison but may include inducing vomiting, giving activated charcoal, and providing supportive care. Prevent access to toxic substances by keeping household chemicals locked away and avoiding toxic plants.

Sources:

[1] https://www.dunnellonanimalhospital.com/site/blog/2021/10/30/cat-poisoned

[2] https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/hypersalivation

Stress and Anxiety

Cats can drool excessively when stressed or anxious. New environments, loud noises, travel, or other unusual situations can trigger a stress response in cats. The stress hormones released in the body can stimulate saliva production, leading to excessive drooling.

For example, a car ride to the vet or boarding facility may cause motion sickness and anxiety in some cats, resulting in drooling. Loud noises like fireworks or construction can also frighten cats and cause drooling.

Even a new person or animal in the home can stress some cats out. The unfamiliarity of the situation leads to hypervigilance and anxiety. To cope, the cat may pant, hide, or drool excessively.

The best way to minimize stress-related drooling is to keep the cat’s environment consistent. Introduce changes gradually and provide a safe space for the cat to retreat when needed. Calming supplements, pheromones, or anti-anxiety medication can also help highly anxious cats.

Sources:

https://www.dailypaws.com/cats-kittens/behavior/common-cat-behaviors/cat-drooling

https://festivalanimalclinic.com/blog/cat-drooling/

Other Causes

There are a few other potential causes of excessive drooling in cats that owners should be aware of:

Heatstroke – Heatstroke can occur when a cat’s body temperature rises above 103° F. One of the symptoms is excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth. This is a medical emergency and requires prompt veterinary treatment to prevent organ damage or death (1).

Kennel cough – Also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough can be caused by several viruses and bacteria. It results in inflammation of a cat’s upper respiratory tract and trachea. Thick mucus discharge from the nose and excessive drooling are common symptoms (2).

Dental disease – Advanced dental disease, abscesses, or oral tumors can lead to excessive drooling even if they are not causing obvious mouth pain. Only a veterinary oral exam can diagnose these conditions (3).

Esophagitis – Inflammation of the esophagus, often from gastroesophageal reflux disease, may result in uncomfortable swallowing and drooling. It requires veterinary management with medications and sometimes diet changes (4).

If an underlying cause for the drooling cannot be identified through diagnostic testing, idiopathic drooling is diagnosed. This means the excessive drooling is occurring for an unknown reason. Symptomatic treatment with anticholinergic medication may be helpful in these cases (5).

When to See the Vet

Occasional drooling is normal for cats, but excessive drooling that lasts for more than a day could signify an underlying health issue. You should take your cat to the vet if the drooling is severe, sudden, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms. According to WagWalking, some signs that warrant a vet visit include:

  • Thick ropes of saliva hanging from the mouth
  • Drooling that lasts for more than 24 hours
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Bad breath
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting or regurgitation

A thorough oral exam and diagnostic tests can help identify the cause of excessive drooling. Early veterinary treatment increases your cat’s chances of a full recovery. Do not attempt home remedies without consulting your vet first, as certain medications can be toxic to cats if used incorrectly.

Treatments

Treatment for excessive drooling in cats depends on the underlying cause.

If a dental issue like gum disease, tooth decay, or oral abscesses is causing the drooling, the veterinarian may recommend tooth extraction or other dental procedures to alleviate pain and resolve the infection (Source). Antibiotics may be prescribed to clear up any infection.

For nausea or poisoning, the vet will induce vomiting if needed and give medications like anti-nausea drugs or activated charcoal to absorb ingested toxins (Source). IV fluids may be given for dehydration.

If an allergy is causing excessive drooling, the vet will try to identify the allergen and recommend avoiding it. Antihistamines or steroids may help reduce inflammation.

For stress-related drooling, calming medications, pheromones, or behavioral therapy can help relax the cat and curb the behavior (Source). Reducing environmental stressors is also recommended.

In severe cases, sedatives may be needed to control excessive drooling. Treatment focuses on managing the underlying condition prompting the drooling.

Prevention

There are several things cat owners can do to help prevent excessive drooling:

Proper oral care – Regular teeth brushing and professional dental cleanings can help reduce plaque buildup and prevent dental disease, which is a common cause of drooling. Use a soft cat toothbrush and cat-safe toothpaste.

Cat-proofing the house – Make sure your home is free of poisonous houseplants, chemicals, and other hazards that could cause drooling if ingested. Keep medications and toxins locked away.

Manage stress – Try to minimize stressful situations like changes to your cat’s environment or introducing new pets. Provide a calm, relaxing home base with places to hide. Use pheromone diffusers and calming treats.

Regular vet checkups – Annual exams allow early detection of health issues leading to drooling. Discuss any drooling concerns with your vet.

With diligent care and prevention methods, cat owners can reduce excessive drooling and keep their feline friends happy and healthy.

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