Drooling Cat Mystery. Why Is My Feline Friend Seemingly Fine With Excess Saliva?

Excessive Salivation in Cats

Excessive salivation, also known as ptyalism, refers to abnormal or excessive production of saliva or drooling in cats. Small amounts of drooling are normal, especially when a cat is relaxed or happy. However, excessive drooling or salivation can indicate an underlying health issue.

Common causes of abnormal drooling and excessive salivation in cats include:

  • Nausea – Drooling is often one of the first signs of nausea in cats. Issues like motion sickness, eating something toxic, and viral infections can cause nausea and excessive salivation.
  • Oral pain or injury – Injuries, ulcers, or dental issues like gingivitis, fractured teeth, or abscessed teeth are common oral causes of drooling in cats. The pain causes increased saliva production. [1]
  • Respiratory disease – Upper respiratory infections from bacteria, fungi, or viruses can cause nasal discharge and drooling. The cat is swallowing the discharge dripping down the throat.

Excessive drooling is considered abnormal if the cat is drooling more than usual, drooling when not relaxed or happy, or if the drool is especially thick or stringy. Most causes of abnormal salivation require veterinary attention for diagnosis and treatment.

Dental Issues

One of the most common causes of excessive drooling in cats is dental disease, particularly periodontal disease. Periodontal disease refers to inflammation and infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth, including the gums, periodontal ligament, and bone. It typically starts with plaque buildup on the teeth which leads to gingivitis (inflamed gums). If left untreated, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis where the inflammation spreads deeper below the gumline, damaging tissue and bone. Periodontal disease is painful and makes eating difficult, which can cause drooling.

Cats may also drool excessively due to broken or infected teeth. Fractures expose the inner pulp of the tooth, allowing bacteria to infect the root. Abscessed teeth are also very painful and can lead to pus draining into the mouth. Both conditions require immediate veterinary treatment.

Sometimes foreign objects like grass, sticks, or string can become stuck between the teeth or wrapped around the base of the tooth. These items irritate the gums and cause discomfort and drooling.

Nausea

Nausea is one of the most common causes of excessive drooling in cats. Nausea causes an accumulation of saliva that the cat is unable to swallow, resulting in drooling. Common causes of nausea in cats include motion sickness, eating toxic plants, and food allergies.

Motion sickness can occur when cats travel in the car or experience vertigo. The motion disturbs the cat’s vestibular system, which controls balance and spatial orientation. This confusion leads to nausea and drooling. Providing proper restraints in the car, adjusting travel times, and using anti-nausea medication can help prevent motion sickness.

Cats can experience nausea after ingesting toxic plants like lilies, poinsettias, and philodendrons. These plants irritate the gastrointestinal tract or contain toxins that induce nausea. Keeping houseplants out of reach and learning to identify common toxic species can protect curious cats.

Food allergies or intolerances are another source of nausea for cats. Allergens like beef, dairy, chicken, or grains can provoke an abnormal immune response resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive drooling. Elimination diet trials supervised by a vet help diagnose food allergies. Feeding hypoallergenic diets prevents exposure to problematic ingredients.

Oral Injuries

Cats can suffer oral injuries that lead to excessive drooling. Common causes of oral injuries include:

Bites or scratches – Cat fights can result in bites to the mouth or face that cause pain and inflammation. Scratches around the mouth can also contribute to excessive drooling. Treating bites and scratches involves cleaning the wound, controlling pain and infection, and allowing the area to heal (source).

Burned mouth – Cats may burn their mouths by chewing on electrical cords or eating hot foods. This causes painful blistering and swelling. Burn injuries require pain medication, antibiotics, and allowing time to heal (source).

Irritation from grooming – Excessive licking and grooming around the mouth can lead to irritation, sores and inflammation. This may cause drooling. Treating the underlying cause of obsessive licking, such as allergies, can help (source).

Medications

Some medications can cause excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth as a side effect in cats. Common culprits include antibiotics like amoxicillin, sedatives, and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like meloxicam or carprofen (Source 1). These types of medications often have a bitter taste, which triggers the salivation response. Additionally, some cats may drool excessively after receiving oral medications due to stress or difficulty swallowing the medication initially (Source 2).

Other oral medications are known to cause dry mouth or throat as a side effect, which then stimulates the salivary glands to produce more saliva. Medications in this category include steroids, antihistamines, and some antibiotics (Source 3). Excessive drooling after giving your cat medication may be alarming, but it is usually harmless if your cat is acting normally otherwise. Be sure to consult your veterinarian if the drooling persists or is accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy.

Infections

One of the most common infections that can cause drooling in cats is an upper respiratory infection (URI). The feline calicivirus is a highly contagious virus that often causes URIs. It attacks a cat’s mouth, nose, throat, and upper airways, leading to ulcers and inflammation that are very painful. Calicivirus causes excessive drooling because the ulcers in a cat’s mouth hurt when eating or drinking, according to the VCA Hospitals.

Another virus that causes URIs and drooling is the feline herpesvirus. Like calicivirus, it attacks a cat’s upper respiratory system causing nasal discharge, eye discharge, sneezing, and excessive drooling. The drooling is again due to the painful mouth ulcers caused by the virus, according to Cornell University’s Baker Institute for Animal Health.

Abscesses in a cat’s mouth can also lead to excessive drooling. Abscesses are pockets of pus caused by bacterial infections. They are very painful and can make it difficult for a cat to swallow or eat, leading them to drool, states the ASPCA.

Neurological Issues

Neurological conditions like seizures, nerve damage, and rabies can sometimes cause excessive drooling in cats. Seizures occur when there is abnormal electrical activity in the brain, causing involuntary muscle movements, drooling, and even loss of consciousness. If a cat has recurrent seizures, it likely has epilepsy. Nerve damage, often from trauma, can disrupt normal neurological signaling to the mouth and throat muscles, resulting in excessive drooling. Rabies is a viral infection that affects the central nervous system, and increased salivation is one of the early symptoms as the virus makes swallowing difficult. While rare, rabies is almost always fatal once clinical signs appear, so any potential exposure should be discussed with a veterinarian immediately.

According to PetMD, neurological issues like seizures, nerve damage, and rabies impacts a cat’s ability to control its mouth and throat muscles, leading to excessive drooling. State Street Animal Clinic notes that neurological disorders can also cause other symptoms like tail biting, vocalization, and dilated pupils along with drooling. So excessive drool combined with other odd behaviors may indicate an underlying neurological problem.

Sources:

Cat Drooling: What Does It Mean

https://www.petmd.com/cat/symptoms/why-my-cat-drooling

https://www.statestreetanimalclinic.com/blog/could-your-cat-have-a-neurological-disorder

When to See the Vet

Drooling in cats can sometimes be a harmless, temporary issue. However, excessive or sudden drooling, especially when accompanied by concerning symptoms, requires veterinary attention.

You should bring your cat to the vet right away if the drooling lasts for more than 24 hours. Persistent hypersalivation indicates an underlying condition that needs diagnosis and treatment.

Drooling that is accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or other signs of illness also warrants an urgent vet visit. These symptoms suggest your cat may have ingested a toxic substance, have an infection, or be seriously ill.

Additionally, contact your vet if your cat has excessive thirst or a complete loss of appetite along with the drooling. These are signs of dehydration or other systemic issues that need medical care.

While occasional drooling can be normal, uncontrolled or prolonged drooling is not. Don’t wait to see if it resolves on its own. Get veterinary help promptly when alarming drooling persists beyond 24 hours or occurs with other worrying symptoms.

Sources:
https://gallant.com/blog/first-2-hours-my-cat-is-drooling/
http://lifewithdogsandcats.com/life-with-dogs-and-cats/my-cat-suddenly-started-drooling-so-i-took-her-to-the-emergency-vet/

Diagnosis

To diagnose the underlying cause of excess drooling, the vet will first perform a physical exam and take the cat’s medical history. They will check for signs of injury, infection, or other issues in the mouth, nose, and throat. The vet will also feel for masses, pain, or irregularities that could point to a specific condition. According to PetMD, the vet will ask questions about the cat’s appetite, activity level, medications, and other symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. The vet may also take the cat’s temperature to check for fever.

The vet may run bloodwork to look for signs of infection, kidney disease, diabetes, or other illnesses that could cause increased drooling. They may also order a dental exam to inspect the teeth and gums up close. Dental x-rays can reveal abscesses, tooth resorption, or other hidden dental issues. Imaging like ultrasound or CT scans can also help identify masses, foreign objects, or other internal problems that provoke drooling.

Treatment

The treatment for excessive drooling will depend on the underlying cause. Here are some common treatments:

If the drooling is caused by a dental issue like teeth abscesses, your vet may recommend a dental cleaning and tooth extraction. Proper at-home dental care like tooth brushing can also help prevent dental disease.

Medications may be prescribed to control nausea and vomiting if that is causing the drooling. Anti-nausea drugs like Cerenia and Maropitant help reduce these symptoms.

For oral injuries, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications may be given. Pain medication can make your cat more comfortable.

If dehydration is an issue from excessive drooling, your vet may administer intravenous or subcutaneous fluids. This helps restore fluid balance.

Treating any underlying illness, like kidney disease or neurological problems, can help resolve the drooling. Your vet will tailor treatment based on the specific condition.

No matter the cause, keeping your cat comfortable and monitoring their appetite and hydration is important. With proper treatment guided by your vet, excessive drooling can often be resolved.

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