A closer look: Excessive Drooling (Ptyalism) in Cats
Salivation on its own is not an unusual reaction, although it is more common in dogs than cats. If a cat tastes something irritating or caustic, smells food, is excited, or is grooming, some increase in salivation is to be expected. This is a normal response and not a cause for concern.
Ptyalism is only identified if extreme salivation occurs without a known cause, or continues over time. The symptom is typically not an emergency, although it can present alongside severe conditions such as toxicosis or cancer. Medical attention is warranted if drooling persists, or if it presents alongside more severe symptoms.
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Ptyalism is caused either by excessive saliva production, or a dysfunction preventing normal swallowing of saliva.
It is associated with a variety of conditions.
Drooling ranges in severity depending on the underlying cause. It may present acutely if there is a sudden change, as in cases of injury or toxicosis. Slower progressing conditions, such as oral masses or tumors, may result in chronic, consistent ptyalism. Alternatively, inconsistent triggers such as stress may result in the symptom presenting intermittently.
Drooling in and of itself is not an emergency. If the underlying cause is severe, especially in cases of poisoning, it may be associated with life threatening conditions. If drooling is accompanied by emergency symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, extreme vomiting, dry heaves, difficulty breathing, or collapse, emergency veterinary attention is required.
Testing and diagnosis
Before performing a physical examination, the patient is first evaluated for other symptoms that may indicate rabies. After physical examination, other diagnostics to identify the cause of ptyalism include:
- Thorough examination of the mouth under sedation
- Diagnostic imaging, including X-rays and ultrasound
Treatment targets the underlying condition, once determined.
Cats drinking or cleaning themselves may produce or have more moisture around their mouth and nose, which is especially noticeable with long-haired breeds.