Drooling and Salivation in Cats


Drooling and Salivation in Cats

Excessive salivation in cat

Question: Dear Dr. Richards, Before I start, thank you for your monthly Vet info digest - always appreciated.

I have an 18 month old neutered male cat, previously extremely healthy and lively. Yesterday morning, he started to salivate from his mouth and drip from his nose, profusely! Our vet examined him, there was nothing in his mouth or nose. Nothing appeared abnormal on exam. I have been through my house I believe thoroughly and there are no substances, chemicals etc. that I believe he has eaten. He was out yesterday morning for about 20 minutes, but our other cats were also out, and no other cat has similar symptoms. There is nothing in our garden that I can think of that he could have eaten that would cause this reaction. The vet gave him Atropine to stop the salivation and it did so for about 2 hours. The salivation came back as before and during last night and all today he is dripping out of his nose and mouth. He has eaten today, and drunk an amount of water. My concern is that he will become de-hydrated, and also in finding out what has caused this, and how to remedy the problem. He is not sneezing, coughing and his temperature yesterday at the Vets was normal. He is very quiet though, sleeping in a quiet part of the house, and obviously feels unwell.

Have you any ideas at all? Thank you so much for your attention to this, I am very grateful. Kind Regards, Jane

Answer: Jane-

These are the causes of excessive salivation that I can think of:

In cats, it is important to rule out stuff that they might have eaten, because cats salivate really excessively as the result of ingesting several medications and flea sprays. We have also seen salivation after ingesting small lizards (we have skinks here) and toads. Most cats will leave toads alone so we see this more often in dogs. Once in a while we see salivation in dogs who have ingested bees and presumably been stung, even though there isn't an obvious swelling in the oral cavity. I suspect this could happen in cats but can't remember a case. If the problem has cleared up and not returned, I would lean towards the possibility of an ingested source of irritation, even if there isn't anything that you can find that might have caused the problem.

Dental disorders can cause excessive salivation in cats. If this is a persistent problem at this point, it would be good to look for broken teeth, a trapped foreign body (caught between teeth), odontoclastic lesions (small to large enamel defects right at the gumline), eosinophilic granuloma lesions and gingivitis. Infected or damage salivary glands sometimes cause excessive salivation, as well.

In cats, excessive salivation occurs when there is a portosystemic shunt (liver shunt) but it would be unusual for this to occur suddenly and also for it to appear at this age rather than during the growth period. Other liver disease can sometimes cause excessive salivation so considering the possibility of liver disease is worthwhile if other problems haven't been found and the problem continues.

Cats can have excessive salivation from infection by feline herpes virus (rhinotracheitis virus) or calicivirus. If any other signs of disease do develop, such as fever, sneezing, eye discharges or loss of appetite and especially if the other cats start to show signs of this problem.

This is the list of things that come to mind that cause salivation. Hopefully, the problem has resolved but if not, it would be a good idea to start looking for problems. A good examination of the oral cavity would be the best way to start, probably. It is sometimes necessary to use anesthesia to get a really good look at the oral cavity in cats.

Mike Richards, DVM 5/5/2001


Q: I have noticed lately, probably over the last couple of months that my cat has been drooling a lot. She seems to be healthy, but she has been getting more distant from us..usually only around for food, and things like that. I'm wondering what may cause this, and is it a serious problem? Thanks very much

A: Drooling can occur for a number of reasons in cats. Probably the most commonly identified reasons are gum or teeth disorders. Oral ulcers can sometimes cause excessive salivation. Problems that lead to nausea, such as renal failure or gastrointestinal disease also cause excessive salivation. Some cats salivate excessively when they are nervous or stressed. This is a common reaction to oral medications and application of flea control products, too. Your vet can help sort through these possibilities and hopefully find a treatable cause.

Mike Richards, DVM

Choking and foaming in cat

Q: Hi...im so glad i was able to find this on the internet!! i have a tabby..he is just over a year old..today he was foaming at the mouth..we were out in the yard..and i looked over at him and he seemed to raise his head up and then bubbles came from his mouth..it did not last long at all and he went right back to being his normal self! this is the first time i've seen him do this..he does do a dry heaving type of thing from time to time..i've been told by friends with cats that he is just trying to cough up a hair ball..when i see him doing this i usually will give him the over the counter hair ball remedy...so my question is twofold..1) what do you make of the foaming episode? should i take him to the vet... and 2) could it be related to his choking (hair ball) episodes? pls advise..thanks so much!!!!

A: I think that if you are worried over a problem it is always worth discussing it with your vet, but then I'm biased!

Foaming at the mouth or excessive salivation is common when cats have ingested something more noxious than they expected it to be, when they are nervous, when they have been sprayed with a spray containing alcohol (many flea sprays are alcohol based), when they are nauseous and with a few diseases such as dental disease and calicivirus. There are probably other causes. A brief episode like you saw is probably related to ingesting that was upsetting. I have seen this after one of my cats ate a spider. Licking toads will do this, too. If the problem isn't continuing it is likely your vet won't be able to tell you why it occurred but it may be worth checking for problems.

Hair balls are obviously one cause of feeling nauseous. If you live in an area with heartworms it is another cause of the hacking and vomiting problem some cats have. Inflammatory bowel disease is another. Your vet can help sort through these, too. In general it is a good idea to consider pursuing a diagnosis of vomiting if it is occurring frequently and coughing is almost always abnormal.

Mike Richards, DVM

Drooling excessively after bath

Q: Dr.Mike - I have a 7 year old healthy male cat, neutered since 6 mos., goes out doors only during the day occasionally. Yesterday I took him in to be groomed (belly shave) they bathed him too of course. He was at the vet for about 7 hrs when I picked him up. Ever since we got home yesterday, I noticed that if he sneezes he has a huge amount of clear drool I guess you would call it hanging all around his mouth. Tonight it is very excessive...what is this? and what should I do? - S.

A: I suspect your cat is fine by now. Drooling excessively is not uncommon in cats after bathing, especially if flea control medications were applied during the bath. The only time this is a significant problem is when a product such as an organophosphate dip has been used, in which case drooling can be a sign of toxicity. It is always good to check with the groomer and/or your vet when you see this sign, just to be cautious.

If the drooling continues definitely check with your vet.

Mike Richards, DVM

Excessive Salivation

Q: My eight-year old spayed female cat started drooling heavily today - I've checked her mouth and can see no signs of ulcers on the tongue or of any loose or decayed teeth, nor does there seem to be anything hung in her mouth or throat. This problem apparently started after I'd left for work, as my mother noticed it late this morning but did not tell me about it until I noticed it myself around 7:30 tonight - after hours for my vet, of course! I've put in a call to his answering service, but figured I'd feel better checking somewhere else while I'm waiting for a return call: I can't stand just sitting and waiting! Any suggestions as to probable causes for the drooling? Lil was inside all night and this morning when I left, but was outside when I came in from work. Her appetite does not seem to be suffering, and she's acting perfectly normal except for this massive drooling. I'd greatly appreciate any advice you could give me to get me through the night; if she's still drooling like this tomorrow AM, she's headed for the V-E-T! Thanks!

A: The only thing I can think of to do tonight is a careful review of your household to be sure that this is not a poisoning. Some houseplants, antifreeze and any irritant may lead to drooling. Also, try to rule out any sort of trauma. If these things seem unlikely it will probably be necessary for your vet to sort out this problem.

The causes of excessive salivation that I can find in cats include nausea, oral foreign bodies, esophageal disorders, porto-systemic circulatory shunts in the liver (should have shown up at a younger age) and calici virus infection. I suspect there are a lot of other possible problems.

Sorry I can't be more help.

Mike Richards, DVM

Last edited 12/29/06


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...