Excessive Drooling (Ptyalism) in Cats

Key Takeaways

Ptyalism is excessive drooling. The symptom is associated with a wide variety of conditions, such as oral or esophageal inflammation, tumors in or around the mouth, foreign objects stuck in the mouth, stress, and poisoning.

• Excessive drooling in cats is not an emergency, but warrants non-urgent veterinary investigation, especially if it persists or is accompanied by other symptoms

• Diagnostics pay particular attention to the oral cavity, and include a physical examination, diagnostic imaging, bloodwork, and biopsy

• Treatment targets the underlying condition

A Closer Look: What is 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.

Possible Causes

Ptyalism is caused either by excessive saliva production, or a dysfunction preventing normal swallowing of saliva.

It is associated with a variety of conditions, including:

• Inflammation of mouth, tongue, throat, esophagus, or GI tract

• Oral ulcers, tumors, or masses

• Oral diseases, such as feline odontoclastic resorption lesions (FORLs) or eosinophilic granuloma complex

• Toxicosis, such as bromethalin, ethylene glycol, or toad poisoning

Foreign objects caught in mouth/esophagus

• Stress or anxiety

• Response to certain medications

• Injuries, including electric shock from biting cords

• Viral infections including calicivirus and rabies

• Conditions causing nausea, such as kidney disease or pancreatitis

Trigeminal neuropathy

Risk Factors

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

• Bloodwork

• Urinalysis

• Biopsy

Treatment targets the underlying condition, once determined.

Similar symptoms

Cats drinking or cleaning themselves may produce or have more moisture around their mouth and nose, which is especially noticeable with long-haired breeds.

Associated Symptoms

Bad breath

• Difficulty eating

Difficulty swallowing




• Weakness

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