Why Is My Cat Drooling Excessively? The Reasons Behind Thick Kitty Spit

Introduction

Cat drooling is the production of excessive saliva that drips or streams out of a cat’s mouth. This condition is abnormal in felines and often indicates an underlying health issue. Cat drooling, especially thick and ropey saliva, can signify dental disease, oral tumors, nausea, neurological conditions, respiratory infections, and other illnesses. While occasional drooling is normal, frequent drooling or drooling thick saliva warrants a veterinary visit to identify the cause. This article explores the most common reasons for excessive drooling in cats and when to seek veterinary care.

Dental Issues

One of the most common causes of thick drooling in cats is dental disease like tooth and gum infections, abscesses, and trauma (Source 1). Cats can’t tell us when they have a toothache or sore gums, so dental problems often go unnoticed until more severe symptoms appear. Dental infections arise from tartar buildup, tooth decay, or trauma that exposes the sensitive inner layers of the teeth. Bacteria then invade the tooth, spreading infection into the root and surrounding gum tissue.

As the infection worsens, it causes significant pain and inflammation. Thick drool is the body’s response, trying to cleanse and soothe the irritated areas. An abscess refers to an enclosed pocket of pus and dead tissue, usually at the root of an infected tooth. Abscesses are extremely painful. The swelling puts pressure on nerves, while the pus oozes toxins that further damage surrounding tissue.

Traumatic injuries like fractures, dislocations, or knocked out teeth also provoke drooling. These acute injuries expose sensitive tooth layers to air, food, and water, causing severe pain. The saliva increase helps coat and protect damaged areas. Other signs of dental disease include bad breath, decreased appetite, swelling under the eye, and pawing at the face or mouth. Since dental infections tend to worsen over time, it’s important to get prompt veterinary treatment.

Oral Tumors

Oral tumors, specifically squamous cell carcinoma, are a common cause of excessive drooling in cats. Squamous cell carcinoma is an aggressive cancer that affects the mouth, lips, and throat of cats [1]. Tumors often form on the gums, tongue, roof of the mouth, and back of the throat. As the tumors grow, they can ulcerate and become painful, making eating difficult for cats. Signs of oral cancer include:

  • Excessive drooling or bloody saliva
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty eating or chewing
  • Weight loss
  • Loose teeth

Oral tumors that occur further back in the mouth and throat may not be visible until they have progressed significantly. By the time a cat starts unexplained drooling due to oral cancer, the prognosis is often poor. However, some oral tumors are treatable if caught early. Any cat showing signs of excessive drooling or trouble eating should be evaluated by a veterinarian promptly.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke can occur when a cat’s body temperature rises above 103°F. It is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate veterinary treatment.[1] As a cat overheats, early symptoms include restlessness, panting, and drooling thick saliva. As heatstroke progresses, cats may pant excessively, become lethargic, and have bright red gums.[2]

The thick saliva is the body’s response to overheating, as the salivary glands produce more saliva to try to cool the body down. However, the heavy panting and thick drool are signs that a cat is in distress and needs immediate cooling and treatment. Left untreated, heatstroke can lead to organ failure, brain damage, and death.[3]

Prevention is key to avoid heatstroke in cats. Providing access to shade, cool water, and air conditioning on hot days can help regulate body temperature. Never leave a cat locked in a car on warm days. If you suspect heatstroke, spray the cat with cool (not cold) water, offer sips of water, and get to a vet right away.

Nausea

Excessive drooling or hypersalivation can be a sign that a cat is feeling nauseous or has an upset stomach. Nausea causes increased production of saliva which can lead to drooling and thick, bubbly saliva.

Common causes of nausea leading to drooling in cats include:

  • Motion sickness, such as from car travel. The motion can trigger nausea and drooling.
  • Ingesting toxic or poisonous substances, like certain houseplants, chemicals, or human medications. Cats may drool excessively as they feel nauseous from the toxicity.
  • Diseases of the digestive system like inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, or liver disease. These can cause nausea, vomiting, and thick drool.
  • Kidney disease or kidney failure, which can create toxins in the blood that lead to nausea.
  • Side effects of medications, like chemotherapy drugs.

Treatment for drooling from nausea depends on the underlying cause. For motion sickness, limiting car travel and using medications can help. Inducing vomiting may help if a toxic substance was ingested. For chronic nausea from disease, medications, diet changes, and treatments for the underlying condition may help.

It’s important to see a vet if a cat has recurrent nausea or vomiting to diagnose the root cause and develop an effective treatment plan. With prompt veterinary care, many causes of feline nausea can be successfully managed.

Stress

Cats may drool excessively due to stress from changes in their environment, travel, or loud noises. New surroundings like a different home or boarding facility can cause anxiety that leads to drooling. The motion and sounds of car rides are stressful for many cats and may cause them to drool during transport. Exposure to loud noises like fireworks, thunderstorms, or construction can also trigger stress drooling. According to the sources, stress drooling is often temporary and subsides once the cat feels comfortable again. However, chronic stress may require behavioral modification or medication prescribed by a veterinarian to manage long-term. Daily Paws advises starting by limiting stress triggers when possible and using calming techniques like pheromone diffusers to ease anxiety.

Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders like seizures, paralysis, and nerve damage can cause excess drooling in cats. During a seizure, abnormal electrical activity in the brain leads to involuntary muscle movements and behavioral changes. Partial seizures may cause drooling, twitching, growling, and other unusual behaviors in cats (Source). Medications like phenobarbital or potassium bromide can help control seizures. Paralysis and nerve damage, often from injuries or intervertebral disc disease, can make it difficult for cats to control their mouths and swallow properly. This leads to excessive drooling as they cannot keep saliva in their mouth (Source). If the paralysis or nerve damage affects muscles involved in breathing, your cat may also cough and have trouble breathing. Treatment involves addressing the underlying cause, which may require surgery and physical therapy.

Respiratory Infections

Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are a common cause of drooling and thick saliva in cats. URIs are typically caused by viral infections like feline herpesvirus or feline calicivirus [1]. The viruses attack the mucous membranes in a cat’s nose, sinuses, and throat leading to inflammation, nasal congestion, and excessive mucus production. This mucus often drips down the throat causing gagging, choking, and excessive drooling as the cat tries to clear its airways. According to VCA Hospitals, cats with calicivirus often salivate or drool excessively as the mouth ulcers caused by the virus are very painful [1].

Other symptoms of upper respiratory infections include sneezing, watery eyes, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing [2]. Pneumonia can sometimes develop if the infection spreads to the lungs. This can lead to more severe respiratory distress and may require oxygen therapy. Most mild URI cases resolve on their own within 1-2 weeks. More severe infections require veterinary treatment with medications like antibiotics, antivirals, and pain relievers.

Digestive Issues

Excessive drooling can sometimes indicate a digestive issue in cats. In particular, inflammation, ulcers, and obstructions in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to nausea and hypersalivation. According to https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/hypersalivation, digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease, ulcers, and foreign body obstructions can cause pain and irritation in the stomach and intestines. This irritation stimulates the vomiting reflex, which is accompanied by profuse salivation.

Cats may drool excessively when suffering from gastrointestinal inflammation or ulcers. The stomach lining becomes irritated and painful, which can cause nausea and vomiting. Thick ropey saliva is often seen, as the cat produces more saliva in response to the nausea. Obstructions in the gastrointestinal tract can also lead to vomiting and drooling. Foreign objects, hairballs, or even severely constipated feces can partially or completely block the intestines. This causes vomiting as the gastrointestinal system tries to expel the blockage.

According to https://www.petmd.com/cat/symptoms/why-my-cat-drooling, gastrointestinal issues like these require prompt veterinary attention. Anti-nausea medication and fluids may be needed to control vomiting and dehydration. Treatment depends on identifying and resolving the underlying cause, whether it’s inflammation, ulcers, obstruction, or another digestive problem leading to excessive drooling.

When to See a Vet

You should take your cat to the vet if the drooling lasts for more than 24 hours or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms. According to the Festival Animal Clinic, drooling that persists beyond a day could indicate a serious medical issue requiring veterinary attention. Some symptoms to watch for include:

  • Loss of appetite or inability to eat
  • Vomiting or regurgitation
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Excessive pawing at the mouth

As explained by WagWalking, drooling combined with these other symptoms may be a sign of dental disease, oral tumors, heat stroke, nausea, neurological issues, respiratory infections, or other health problems requiring veterinary diagnosis and care. Don’t wait – contact your vet promptly if your cat’s excessive drooling persists or worsens. They can examine your cat, determine the underlying cause, and prescribe any necessary treatment to get your furry friend feeling better again.

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