Excessive Drooling

Jun 4, 2011 by Dr Michael Ray    28 Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

When cats drool, we should always wonder what is causing this symptom.  Although some cats will drool when they are purring excessively and really comfortable, most drooling cats are having a problem that needs our attention.  An outdoor access kitty may have some of the most serious culprits to blame such as a broken jaw, or some other head trauma, including battles with other animals.  Indoor only cats can avoid these episodes but may still have reason to drool excessively.  In many cases the drooling is directly due to pain, so it  should be addressed immediately.

Dental disease is the most common reason to drool for indoor only cats.  This type of drooling is often associated with a foul odor and sometimes even blood in the drool.  These additional findings at home absolutely dictate that the cat be examined immediately.  Most cats are not receiving home care (getting their teeth brushed daily!) and most owners do not inspect their cats teeth with any frequency at all.  Genetics are the primary factor in a cat’s tendency to develop dental disease and  some studies indicate as many as two thirds of cats have dental lesions by age 3.  Resorptive lesions of the teeth are the most common type of dental disease in a young cat.  In addition to these common resorptive lesions, we also see classic periodontal disease of the mouth where tartar has invaded the gum line and destroyed the periodontal ligament.  The difficulty of home care and the reluctance of cats to allow oral inspection dictate that they have an oral exam often; and, that we are proactive with dental prophylactic cleanings to identify and minimize these problems.  Drooling will commonly be seen with all forms of dental disease, including infectious stomatitis, peridontal disease and odontoclastic resorptive lesions.

Another cause of drooling in an indoor only cat would include an oral mass.  We do see mouth cancer in cats and early treatment is crucial to success.  Unfortunately many oral cancers do not leave us with favorable treatment options.  These cats often have swelling of their face, and sometimes even a deviation of their normal jaw alignment.  If your cat allows, open and close their mouth as you look from the front.  The jaws should “go together” nicely and then we know the cat has proper dental occlusion.  Sometimes, periodontal disease will cause swelling of the face and poor dental occlusion.  A veterinarian can help you differentiate these causes upon oral exam.  Any excessive drooling should be seen by the doctor, especially if poor dental occlusion is noted. Mouth cancer is most common in older to middle aged cats, rarely seen before about 7-8 years of age.

Indoor only cats sometimes get bored and I have seen foreign bodies lodged in the oral cavity.  I removed a sewing needle that had imbedded in the hard palate of a bored indoor only kitty.  I also removed a very stubborn twigg that had lodged in an outdoor access cat’s mouth.  Both if these cats had excessive drooling and the drool had begun to smell foul.  Fortunately, they both recovered very well.  It is worth mentioning that all causes of excessive drooling seen in the indoor only cat can also be seen with outdoor access kitties.

The final cause of drooling to cover is drooling due to nausea.  Many cats are nauseous, even though they do not vomit.  Some cat doctors even go as far as to say that inappetance or anorexia is the most common sign of nausea.  Many of these cats will drool either periodically or consistently.  If a cat drools when food is placed in front of them, and they then do not consume the food, nausea should be considered.  Causes of nausea are numerous and many cases have multiple causes.  As you can see from this blog, a drooling cat should be seen by a veterinarian very soon after the symptom is noted.

Dr Michael Ray

Dr. Ray is a Marietta Georgia native and graduate of Osborne High School. He received his bachelor of science at Georgia Southern University, and went on to graduate with his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida in 1997. After graduation, Dr. Ray completed an internship in Small Animal Medicine and Surgery at Animal Specialty Group in Los Angeles.

Dr. Ray has spent most of his career working in Feline Only hospitals, and is very excited to have the opportunity to own his own cat practice. Dr. Ray has been the Medical Director of The Cat Clinic of Roswell since March 2008.

The Cat Clinic of Roswell
1002 Canton Street
Roswell, GA 30075

Phone: 770-552-PURR (7877)
Fax: 770-552-8855
Email: info@catclinicofroswell.com

Website: http://www.catclinicofroswell.com/
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  • R. Naccarati

    Hi Dr. Ray!
    I’m not too far from you- Cumming is where our US home is. However we are not there very often, as my husband works here in Riyadh,KSA. We are ex-pats, Living here has presented many problems with taking care of mostly feral cats. But that isn’t my problem today, my feral colony is healthy & I try to provide shade along w/their food & water.

    My big problem is- I have adopted someones throw-away…. long story. Bella is 20 (at least, she was 19 for so long..lol). She was a longish haired mostly toothless cat, due to periodontal disease, or so the vet here said… I found out her age & history, because he is the same vet who has treated her the most. As is common here, some people never take their pets to see a Doc…:( So I suspect she didn’t until it became apparent she was having troubles, maybe 6 or 7 years ago) The 1st time I took her, he updated her vaccinations, and did surgery to remove more teeth. He also informed me that she should be on prednisolone 5 mg 1 a day for the rest of her life. I cleaned her up, gave her a full course of anti-B’s 10 days + the pred. & returned her to her owners. They promised to keep her inside only. Well over the past 2 years, she kept coming to eat w/my ferals. If she looked ok I let her go home. But after my 3 vet visit with her I said no more! She was a solid matt, obviously sick & in pain. It took myself and 2 helpful friends almost 2 months to get the last of the matts- I would not stress her & do it all in a day & the Dr. did not recommend that kind of stress either.

    So now to my point & Question. The Dr. here is a very nice caring guy… he says periodontal disease.
    After reading about “infectious stomatitis”, I am worried, I mentioned that to him, he made a face, but did not directly answer. Since she has become well enough, finished yet another course of Clavamox, and gets her steroid everyday like clockwork, I decided to let her roam freely inside my house w/my other 3 indoor only cats. Sometimes she sneezes on the food or elsewhere- I do not allow my 3 to eat from the same bowl & I change their water often. Bella, still has her own room & still for the most part eats in her room. I feed her 4x’s a day plus on demand (Desperately trying to put weight on her) I have her on a mix of Royal Canin Urinary Tract & Kitten. Dry, but I wet it & it’s her fav. Another problem here, is lack of consistently in what is available.
    The biggest problem Bella & I have is her drooling… it’s definitely not from pleasure. It is clear, but thick & slimy & causes her trouble when she’s trying to eat. However it’s not only restricted to eating.
    Can I give her something to help dry it up? I tried Benedryl 1/2 of a 25 mg. pill (something I have to bring in my suitcase) no help. They have Claritin here…? I also give her 1/16th of a 50mg. Tramadol (also brought from USA for me). That seems to give her arthritis some relief. The Dr. here said 1/8 was ok, but that just was too much- maybe not for the pain, but she was drunk-like.

    Some people ask, why not just put her to sleep, out of her misery…. I don’t know if you believe this or not, but I honestly feel Bella would prefer to die naturally. I know we should not ascribe our human feelings onto our pets, but… this is how I feel about her. I have had to put pets of mine & other throw aways & ferals w/FeLuk & FeAids, in the hopes of preventing the spread to our feral colony’s on our compound. We have about 40 & those are split between myself & a few others who care about cats.

    So, is there more I could be doing to help Bella & keep her comfy?

    I know I am not one of your patients, but I’d be glad to pay for an office visit, for your answer :)

    Sincerely R. Naccarati

    a link about cats in KSA-  http://www.openpaws.org/ , (when the time comes for Bella to go, I will be calling Dr. Lana, who founded Open Paws, however she has no answer for this problem, she is from S.Africa, don’t know if it makes a difference, but I’d feel better w/advice from an American Vet.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670857710 Marcus Brown

      Sounds like you are doing a great job of taking care of your cats.  Has Bella had a sedated exam of her mouth?  Have they taken radiograph of the mouth? 

    • Steve Bailey, DVM

       Dear R. Naccarati,

      Feline Drooling (pytalism) can be a frustrating and elusive problem.  While it can be related to disease of the liver or kidneys, it can also relate to  and gastrointestinal concerns (difficulty swallowing, occult nausea).   Some cats will drool affectionately, but this does not sound like your cat’s problem.

      Given the serious matting and the drooling I think it is likely in your cat that the drooling is related to painful dental disease, or disease of the mouth/throat.  A good place to start is by performing a thorough examination of the oral cavity, with you (old) cat anesthetized. Dental radiography is essential to assess health of the remaining dental tissue, including retained tooth roots where is appears teeth have been ‘lost.” If your veterinarian is not comfortable investigating these issues you could explore possible referral to one who is.

      I would not be trying medication aimed at reducing saliva formation until you determine the specific cause.   

      Steve Bailey

  • Dr. Ray

    Hello part-time neighbor,
    I am also very concerned about infectious stomatitis.  Although some of these cats will need to be on steroids, “forever” is not likely.  I also agree with Dr. Brown that a full mouth radiograph would be helpful.  Many of these cats also need courses of antibiotics and sometimes steroids too!  But once the teeth are removed, they should improve  in the affected areas.  Radiographs will also help diagnose or rule out retained roots at previous extraction sites.You also mention that she does not groom very well, which is typical of affected cats.  Cats like to look good, so any help with her grooming will be much appreciated.  It also sounds like she needs more maintenance than that “new owner” home provides.  I know you have a lot on your plate with all you already do for the other cats, but maybe caring for her regularly would be less work than dealing with the result of her not being maintained.  It sounds like you have conceded that fact already, which is good for her.If your doctor is willing, I would also be happy to talk with him directly.  Of course, I would love to chat with you sometime on the phone to see if that helps!  You do not need to worry about paying for that phone consult, as I am happy to help.
    20 is definitely an older cat, but teeth are teeth!  We deal with these cats the same regardless of age.  Planning their anesthesia is different; but they often need surgery to properly maintain their mouth.  I personally would never shy away from anesthesia just because of age.
    Not everyone loves cats like you and I do.  I face that fact more often than I want to, right here in Georgia!  There is nothing to dry her out with the drooling directly.  But she is not doing well, and that drooling is likely due to a painful mouth.  I think she most likely needs more surgical help with her mouth (extractions, or retained root removal) before the medical management will be effective.  
    Not an easy solution.  I also think you need to be comfortable communicating your desires and questions to your vet.  If they do not listen, the care will not be ideal.  Adequate communication and follow up are crucial to feline care.  Part of being a caring veterinarian is listening to the client’s concerns.  I agree with you that euthanasia for bad teeth is not ideal.  However, you have a great history with this cat and have become her advocate.  When you feel the time is right, that may be her best solution.  I do think that thinking ahead and planning a little is appropriate at this time.
    Please call me at the clinic, or have your vet contact me if they are interested.
    Dr. Bailey also presents an excellent point about other causes of drooling (possibly nausea related).  She should get a blood and urine workup prior to anesthesia at this age.  The blood and urine samples, along with a systemic blood pressure measurement could assess her candidacy for anesthesia and rule out some of these other causes.  Dr. Bailey also mentions that a referral may be appropriate if your vet is not comfortable or experienced with these procedures.  Definitely a consideration.

    Hope that helps,
    Michael Ray, DVM
    The Cat Clinic of Roswell
    770-552-7877

  • Amy Halpern

    I have a cat who has been drooling excessively since Ive owned here . She will be fine for a while and then will have a bout usually it only lasts a couple of days and then shes fine…this time its lasting over a week and shes very lethargic..but she is eating and her weight is fine..my vet hasnt a clue we have retested her for toxoplasmosis as that has been an issue shes had since ive owned her…We live in Smyrna and go to Cumberland Animal Clinic and have seen Dr Dehaven,,,do you have any ideas???

    • http://www.facebook.com/michael.ray.3785 Michael Ray

      My first thought is that is that we should be concerned. Especially if the drooling is associated with lethargy. I would need to examine the cat and either review or obtain a lab database (blood and urine usually). We could then begin to rule out and ultimately diagnose a cause of her drooling. We have to consider nausea and dental disease number one and two until proven otherwise. I am not familiar with Toxoplasmosis causing drooling but that is never a bad test to run. Because dental disease is so commonly to blame, a diagnosis may occur with just a physical exam. If she needs dental surgery we would still want to get a lab database. We would love to see your cat and try to help. And obviously some causes of drooling are undetermined but this sounds like pathology to me. Contact us as needed, 770-552-7877

  • Amy Halpern

    Want to add that she is about 8 months old

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.ray.3785 Michael Ray

    I did not see this part when I first replied. That is an interesting age to be affected. And you said since you had her. Some cats will have significant inflammation during eruption of their adult teeth but that would not cover the earlier times in life. And almost all cats are done with this by age 8 months. This process is also rarely associated with lethargy. Again, only an exam would rule out dental disease.

  • disqus_5wNJWGZqzu

    drooling excessively , lethargic oNLY since getting a penicillin shot yesterday by vet . .

  • disqus_5wNJWGZqzu

    drooling excessively , lethargic oNLY since getting a penicillin shot yesterday by vet . .

    • Michael Ray

      As long as it is temporary, I might hang tight. But cats have to eat everyday, so that would be your pressing concern. Penicillin shots concern me a little too. I hope your kitty is OK

  • Walter Taylor

    Our 15 y/o neutered male house cat (Jinkie) has had a terrible drooling problem for over 5 years. In 2006, we had to move from our rental condo due to severe mold infestation which necessitated removal of all drywall, cabinets and floor coverings. Jinkie had conjunctivitis, keratitis, and purple goop emanating from his eye sockets, so we took him to a ophthalmology vet who tested him for Bartonella. Jinkie was a “Strong 4+Positive” to the IFA Bartonella serology test, required antibiotic and interferon therapy, but tested serology negative 6 months later on follow-up. I understand that “sialometaplasia” or excessive drooling, is a symptom of Bartonella in cats and dogs and I am concerned that Jinkie’s previous Bartonella infection was not effectively treated. Since Jinkie’s 2006 Bartonella infection, I have had a retinal detachment, uvietis, iritis, recurring fevers, sensorimotor demyelinating polyneuropathy and positive CDC IFA serology tests for Rocky
    Mountain Spotted Fever and Rickettsiapox. Bartonella researchers state the following on page 21of their research article, Bartonellosis: an emerging infectious disease of zoonotic importance to animals and human beings, “Importantly, there is evidence to support serologic cross reactivity between B. henselae and Rickettsia spp. antigens in dogs and in humans”. Mentioned in the same research article above as a reference is, Saunders GK, Monroe WE. Systemic granulomatous disease and sialometaplasia in a dog
    with Bartonella infection. Vet Pathol 2006; 43:391–392.

    My question to you Dr. Ray is, since Jinkie had Bartonella previously and drools

    excessively and has what appears to be a nipple at the base of his throat (papule?),
    could he have had a Bartonella relapse from biting me, if I was not adequately
    diagnosed or properly treated for my 4-fold increasing titer Rickettsia infection
    in 2010… which may have been a Bartonella infection? BTW…. my medical records show that military doctors thought I had “Cat Scratch Disease” in September 1957 and I was then hospitalized for 40 days between May-July 1958 for acute glomerulonephritis…. also a Bartonella symptom.

    • http://www.facebook.com/michael.ray.3785 Michael Ray

      I have not seen Bartonella cause excessive drooling in cats, nor have I associated drooling with a solitary structure in the mouth, unless it is a mass. That is not a likely cause with the duration of this problem, because oral masses are often aggressive. This structure is described as much more benign that an oral mass.
      He could have follow up testing done with Bartonella (again) and also be treated with the latest regimen your vet recommends. I would especially consider testing again if you have history that could put you more at risk for this known zoonotic probem. Obviously, I would recommended a MD advise you with your care and diagnostic testing. I am also not as suspicious that Bartonella has your kitty any symptoms since it is usually much more benign in the feline body. And without continued trauma from the cat, I think your Bartonella exposure could have been from elsewhere. Obviously much of your history is before this current cat! Further examination and or testing of this cat could likely tell us more. Statistically, I would suspect dental disease.
      As far as cats getting Bartonella from people, it is unlikely. Most feel that adult immunocompetant cats often harbor Bartonella as normal skin and nail flora. They do not have to work that hard to “get” Bartonella. Associating it with a symptom is another debate.
      Michael Ray, DVM

  • Chris

    My cat is 1 years old and drools at night only. Why is this?

    • Michael Ray

      A lot of kitties drool when sleeping. I would get an oral exam at your vet’s office to be safe. You may not have a problem at all!

  • carrie

    my kitten is 7 months old he has been sleeping allot and doesn’t want to play, he has woken up 3 mornings with brown wet smelly stuff round his mouth. (not sure if its blood)
    i have tried to have a look but cant see anything he is still eating but not as much as he normally would. does anybody no what is wrong thanks

    • Michael Ray

      I would definitely go to the immediate length of having a veterinarian take a look. Unfortunately, if the kitty is reluctant to allow, it might be an even better reason to look in his mouth. Sometimes sedation is best for the cat.
      Now, what is potentially comforting is that kittens are often teething around this time and the gum inflammation can be significant and may create crowding in the mouth which could lead to infection. Again, let your vet take a look to be sure. While most teething is uneventful, some have a problem with the process.

  • Jess

    We have a 6 month old female bangul kitten! 2 days ago i woke up too seeing her with a horrible clogged nose… mind you this happened before when she was a small baby and its cleared its self up… but this time she now has a clear slim around her mouth it has a “Puss” like smell too it… ANY IDEA’S WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED!

    • Jess

      ALso she is very sluggish this time around also, she wants too just sleep upstairs in the bathroom if i bring her down too the food and water bowl she wants nothing too do with it… her mommy was a Bangul the dad was a wild outside cat. she was born outside also… but brought in right after birth if that helps at all.. i did alot of research and i cannot come across anything that is answering my question. As i said before this has happened and cleared its self up so i dont wanna rush her too the vet if its not a big deal Thank you!!!

  • Priscilla Wooten

    I am very worried about my 8 yr old strictly indoor cat. I need to get him to a vet, but right now we are only living off of my Husbands small workers comp check. We’ve had our cat since he was only 6 weeks old, so we are very attached. He started drooling excessively within the past few weeks. Another new thing he is doing is licking constantly and then literally pulling his fur out just on one side. He has no fleas, because we’ve checked. Any idea what could be going on here? I am in Paulding County. If you know of any vets in Hiram or Douglasville that would be willing to see him and allow us to work out a payment plan, please let me know about them. I will call them asap.

    • Michael Ray

      Hello Mrs. Wooten,
      Excessive grooming and missing fur on the side is still likely a flea allergy and not seeing the fleas on the cat or in the home will not eliminate that likelihood. Does the cat have any flea control on board? (Advantage Multi and Revolution are my 2 favorite products) Other skin allergies would have been more prominent over the years and you may not be describing a ongoing situation. The original Advantage is now called Advantage 2 and available over the counter if you want to keep costs down.
      Now drooling is not commonly associated with skin disorders, so you may have 2 separate problems. Dental Disease is the most common cause at his age. Can you check out his teeth and comment on any halitosis present? If he is eating really well and not vomiting, nausea is less likely.
      I do not know many veterinarians in that area but check out catvets. com and use their zip code locater! You will then at least have a vet that is a member of the AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners).

  • charm

    my 1yr 8months cat suddenly started drooling today. this never happen before. they sleep with me together with my female cat. last night i heard a sound of puking under my bed and when i checked in the morning, there was nothing there but a dry liquid on the floor. and today my mom noticed him drooling excessively while sleeping. it seems he drools whenever he pauses or starts to feel sleepy and when he is sleeping. he eats fine, play and drink like usual. what could be wrong?

    • Michael Ray

      Hello Reader,
      I think having a feline veterinarian examine the mouth to be safe is the best idea for your cat. Since this is not an established habit, it is more likely to be associated with a problem. However, most dental problems are not going to cause a waxing and waning type drooling but more commonly cause a persistence of drooling.
      So you have a little bit of a mixed bag, so an exam will help us decide which way to go with this cat. It is also encouraging that he is eating well, playing and drinking as usual. Also pay special attention to his grooming habits, since the cats often drop off with their grooming when a mouth problem exist.
      A second cause of drooling which can be periodic is nausea. His vomit under the bed may support this theory. Again, an exam and discussion with a qualified cat doctor should help you develop a plan quickly. I recommend you search catvets.com and plug in your zip code to find a good cat doctor. I think an exam will help this kitty a lot in figuring out his cause of drooling. I hope that helps you and your cat.
      Michael Ray, DVM The Cat Clinic of Roswell

  • Erin

    My male cat, about two years old, began drooling about a day ago. He lives both indoors and outdoors, and I’ve never seen this happen before. The drool isn’t very stringy, it simply smears along his chin and smells sour. It also isn’t very frothy and doesn’t seem to have any color. I’ve also noticed that he’s been somewhat more sluggish, although is otherwise eating, drinking, and relieving himself as normal.

  • Ins Kagakit

    I really don’t know what happened or what my cat ate outside :( This morning he was just fine yet he keeps on sneezing, then I decided to bring him outside the house first. After a few hours, I just saw my cat drooling in an excessive manner. What could be the problem? Please help me :(

    • Michael Ray

      Hello Reader,
      I think having a feline veterinarian examine the mouth to be safe is the best idea for your cat. Since this is not an established habit, it is more likely to be associated with a problem. However, most dental problems are not going to cause a waxing and waning type drooling but more commonly cause a persistence of drooling.
      So you have a little bit of a mixed bag, so an exam will help us decide which way to go with this cat. It is also encouraging that he is eating well, playing and drinking as usual. Also pay special attention to his grooming habits, since the cats often drop off with their grooming when a mouth problem exist.
      A second cause of drooling which can be periodic is nausea. His vomit under the bed may support this theory. Again, an exam and discussion with a qualified cat doctor should help you develop a plan quickly. I recommend you search catvets.com and plug in your zip code to find a good cat doctor. I think an exam will help this kitty a lot in figuring out his cause of drooling. I hope that helps you and your cat.
      Michael Ray, DVM The Cat Clinic of Roswell

  • Courtney Hollon

    I have a four and a half month old kitten she was recently spayed and doing fine and healed from that but today she has been excessively drooling. At first I thought she fell in the toilet cause she has a fascination with the toilet and investigates if someone forgets to shut the lid but then I realized it was drool and it went on for about 2 hours then stopped and it hasn’t happened since. I am assuming its from teething cause she had her adult top k-nines come in and the baby ones were restricted for about a week before they finally came out with in the past couple of a days. Just wanting an opinion.

    • Michael Ray

      Hello
      The timing for teething is perfect. Kittens lose their baby teeth and begin to get their adult teeth at 4 months of age. Most of the time, the process is done by 6 months of age. More times than not, the owner will notice nothing from the cat during this teething phase. But drooling is a possibility in some cases. A feline veterinarian can determine if the process is occurring normally. You obviously have a less pressing problem than if the drooling were continual. The second possibility is nausea which sometimes happens as they recover from surgery. Please let a qualified cat doctor take a look very soon.

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