Dog Has Excessive Drooling and Keeps Licking Paws–Emergency or Not?

Dog drool is sort of something you have to accept when you live with pooches. Some breeds are known for their drippy mouths and no one thinks much about it. But when a dog who normally doesn’t drool and suddenly has excessive drooling and keeps licking his paws it is concerning. 

One of the most common causes for sudden excessive drooling in dogs is nausea. Some dogs will lick their lips, bodies and/or their paws when they feel nauseous, too. Other causes for these symptoms include mouth injuries, neurological problems and toxin ingestion. 

But there are hundreds of possible causes for a dog to drool a lot and lick his paws. Let’s get into the list….

Allergies

Atopy is the cause for most dog skin allergies. It’s caused when a dog’s immune system reacts to something in the environment-usually pollen. Seasonal allergies often cause symptoms in the spring and fall of the year.   

The most common symptom is atopic dermatitis. To a dog owner, this looks like the dog licking and chewing his feet, belly, tail and rump. I’ve seen dogs who drool a lot while they’re in an extreme licking episode. 

Food allergies are much less common causes of itchy skin in dogs. Food allergy can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. 

Dogs with contact allergy/contact dermatitis lick the area due to pain and itching. They can have excessive salivation if there’s significant pain from dermatitis.

brown dog licking paws (dog drooling excessively and licking paws)

Gastrointestinal Tract Problems

Nausea is a major cause of drooling in dogs. Don’t ask me why, but nauseous dogs often go crazy licking themselves and object like carpet or furniture when they feel sick to their stomach. Here’s a partial list of GI problems we see in dogs that can cause nausea:

  • Esophagitis (common)
  • Megaesophagus (uncommon)
  • Gastric Dilatation +/- Volvulus (somewhat common)
  • GI tract blockage from an ingested foreign object (common)
  • GI parasites (very common)

Mouth Problems

There are a few special considerations for the mouth when you’re looking for a cause of a dog’s drooling and licking.

Foreign objects in the mouth are often overlooked. Dogs are famous for chewing sticks and getting a piece of it wedged across the roof of their mouth, between their teeth. If your dog’s drooling it’s always worthwhile to look in his mouth and upper throat for foreign objects. 

Oral trauma is another cause of excessive drooling in dogs. Trauma can be in the form of chemical burns, electrical burns, abrasions, and lacerations.

Dental abscesses are pretty common in all ages, sizes and shapes of dogs. You can’t always see the abscess with the naked eye. Your vet will be able to see it on an intra-oral radiograph. Severe gum disease can also cause a dog to drool.

Mouth tumors occasionally spring up on a dog’s tongue, throat and gums. You might be able to see it during a mouth exam but if it’s in the throat it will require special imaging to find it.  

Dogs sometimes develop diseases of their salivary glands. They can result from traumatic injuries to the neck or infection/inflammation. Dogs with salivary gland disease often have thickened, painful tissue on their upper neck under the jaw. 

Other Causes

Bee/wasp/scorpion stings can cause a lot of pain and drooling if dogs lick or swallow the creature in question. A sting can also cause a systemic reaction that makes a dog drool a lot. Paw licking would be expected especially if the sting happened on one of the feet. 

Severe respiratory disease occasionally causes a dog to drool a lot. They usually have other symptoms like heavy, rapid breathing and coughing. Pneumonia and left-sided congestive heart failure are two of the more common causes of respiratory symptoms in dogs.

Neurological diseases can cause some strange symptoms in dogs. Drooling/hypersalivation is a common symptom in neurological disease. Diseases that cause drooling include focal seizure, brain tumor, central nervous system infection or inflammation, and trigeminal nerve dysfunction.(1) This kind of disease is not easy to diagnose, so make sure to tell your vet about any other symptoms you’ve noticed. 

Hypoparathyroidism in dogs is an uncommon cause of seizures, muscle spasms, excessive drooling, face rubbing and paw licking. The parathyroid gland is located in the throat area and is part of a dog’s endocrine system. Dysfunction of the gland causes low blood calcium and high blood phosphate. The cause is unknown in most cases. Breeds at increased risk of developing hypoparathyroidism include Beagle, Miniature schnauzer, and Toy poodle.

Pain is an uncommon cause of hypersalivation and paw licking. As mentioned above, envenomation from a bee or scorpion could certainly cause both drooling and paw licking from pain. Injuries to an extremity could cause similar clinical signs. 

Heatstroke, overheating and malignant hyperthermia cause heavy panting and excessive salivation. You will notice other symptoms like abnormal gum color (very red or purplish) and warm skin.  

Dogs develop many different systemic diseases that lead to nausea (which causes drooling). Two of the most common diseases that cause nausea in dogs are kidney disease and liver disease. Most of these dogs have many other symptoms. Look for weight loss, poor appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.   

Toxin ingestion, inhalation or skin exposure is very common in dogs. Common dog toxins include pyrethroids (flea/tick preventives), oral exposure to Bufo toads, and organophosphates (pesticides). These are serious conditions that need immediate medical intervention.   

Is Dog Excessive Drooling and Licking Paws an Emergency?

You might not think your dog’s sudden excessive drooling and foot licking are a big deal. You should think again! 

Most of the things I mentioned above are major illnesses. Some of them are even deadly. 

If your dog has suddenly developed these symptoms, seek emergency care immediately. First aid steps you can do at home before you go to the clinic include:

  • Do a mouth exam for evidence of trauma and foreign objects.
  • Rinse the mouth with lukewarm water (only if the dog is conscious).
  • Make note of any other symptoms over the last few days to relay to the vet.
  • Make note of where your dog was right before the symptoms started.

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References

  1. Kent, M., Song, R. B., Glass, E. N., & de Lahunta, A. (2019). A Salivation Abnormality with Trigeminal Nerve Dysfunction in Dogs. Journal of veterinary dentistry, 36(1), 8-16.

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