What is the first thing you feel when you hear the word drool? Do you think of something endearing like an infant, or do you picture the messiness of a comedic Dogue de Bordeaux on the big screen? What breeds do you associate with drooling? Certainly, a Great Dane surely makes your list. But is it a mythical fallacy or do Great Danes drool?
Great Danes drool moderately. Like all dogs, a Great Dane can exhibit excessive drooling with certain health conditions. Profuse slobbering can be a symptom of a larger problem. Or, like any mammal, including humans, a Great Dane might just drool as a biological response to stimuli such as the thought of food.
Drooling is often more noticeable in Great Danes than in other breeds because of the structure of their mouths, but they are not the most slobbery animals in the canine world.
What are the two ends of the drooling spectrum?
Great Danes are among the more slobbery dogs, but they merely are on the upper end of a spectrum. There are, of course, dog breeds that hardly drool at all, and others that leave a pool of saliva wherever they go.
Least Drooling Dogs
We mention sighthounds as among the least drooling dogs because the Great Dane was historically a designer dog that combined Greyhounds and Irish Wolfhounds with the English Mastiff.
When you compile a list of pooches with dry mouths, an overwhelming number of them are sighthounds and Toy breeds. Herding dogs also have a low tendency to drool much, and it all lies in the conformation of their mouths.
- Irish Wolfhound
- Bichon family – Bichon Frise, Maltese
Most Drooling Dogs
At the other extreme is the Great Dane’s historical second half, the Molossers. Mastiffs and their descendants are renowned droolers along with a few from the hound group. The first thing you will notice is the shape of their heads and lower lips relative to the non-drooling dogs.
- Mastiffs – English, Neapolitan, Dogue de Bordeaux, Bullmastiff
- Historical Roman Mastiffs – St Bernard, Rottweiler, Bernese Mountain Dog, Cane Corso
Why do Great Danes drool naturally?
How much a Great Dane will drool depends on the structure of its mouth, specifically the flews. Flews often refer to a dog’s lips but specifically delineate the upper flaps of the muzzle.
In many dogs, these flaps hang well past the lower lips, and this can lead to the saliva dripping profusely from the mouth.
Even more contributory to drooling are hanging lower lips and a pronounced vestibule (lip hangs dramatically from the teeth almost like a pouch or trough)where saliva can pool.
A Great Dane has prominent flews in keeping with the massive size of its head and the squareness of its muzzle.
Although not desirable in the show ring, some Danes have flews that extend quite a way deeper than the lower jaw, causing the lips to flutter. You can also see a prominent pouch in the lower lip just outside the commissure (where the upper and lower lips meet).
While you will notice the tightness in the lips of a Greyhound, the Great Dane’s lips are much looser.
A Great Dane’s flews and vestibular structures also allow him to fling saliva when he shakes his head, contributing to the idea of a dog that drools a lot. The structure of the lips also lets water pool and subsequently drip from the mouth as well as food.
A head-on shot of a Mastiff’s head shows you the prominent lower jowls with numerous places to collect saliva. Note the broad jaws and extremely loose flews. At the other extreme is the Greyhound, with tight lips and no jowls. In between is the Great Dane.
Medical Reasons for Excessive Drooling in Great Danes
Great Danes drool a fair bit, but what does it mean when there seems to be an abnormal degree of slobbering or ptyalism (excess salivation)?
Excessive drooling can indicate your dog feels nauseated or just vomited. You can generally tell because the saliva is often thick and ropey and just hangs from your dog’s jowls. It is usually accompanied by your dog swallowing and licking a lot and hanging her head.
Make sure your Dane does not have dry heaves and a distended abdomen. These can indicate bloat, which is a life-threatening emergency. You should also consider a veterinarian if your dog seems nauseated or throws up for more than a day at the most.
If you see signs of dehydration (skin retains a tent when you pinch it over the shoulder and dry mucus membranes), abdominal pain, or a change in the color of your dog’s gums, seek veterinarian help sooner.
Contrary to the situation with nausea, Danes with oral or mouth problems may drool excessively because they are reluctant to swallow, and the saliva just collects. Sometimes the saliva is tinged with blood.
Your dog may find it painful to move her tongue or close her mouth. In such cases, saliva can drip or pour out continuously. Several oral challenges that can lead to excessive drooling follow:
- Broken tooth
- Oral tumor – may be accompanied by a bad odor
- Abscessed tooth – may see blood and even pus in the drool
- Problems with the temporomandibular joint (arthritis)
- Gingivitis or active gum infection – prevent tartar build-up and inflamed gums with chews and a healthy dental hygiene routine
- Tongue laceration – examples are from dog fights or accidents with the lid of a can
- Oral foreign body – bone stuck to the roof of the mouth or between teeth, grass blades in sinuses or caught in the soft palate
Salivary Mucocele or Sialocele
Similar to abscesses, salivary mucoceles are cyst-like structures filled with saliva. They usually occur because of a puncture wound or other trauma to a salivary gland or duct.
Since sialoceles represent residual effects from an injury and involve an organ that is not readily visible, the original culprit often goes unidentified.
Nevertheless, a sialocele is one cause of excessive drooling in Great Danes and usually requires surgical intervention as attempts to medically drain them are rarely permanent solutions.
Salivary mucoceles can occur under the tongue (sublingual ranula), on the lower jaw or upper neck (cervical), or in the throat (pharyngeal). Uncommonly, a sialocele can form under the cheek (zygomatic).
Upper Respiratory Infection
Dogs can frequently suffer from canine influenza or Bordetella (kennel cough) if exposed to many other dogs such as during boarding. These dogs often have a nasal drip, coughing, and sneezing, all of which can lead to the production of more mucus and drool.
While vaccinations are available to protect vulnerable dogs, your Great Dane may still become infected by an alternative strain of an upper respiratory virus. Any respiratory difficulties should be addressed by a veterinarian to determine whether your dog needs supportive therapeutics.
Neurologic and Metabolic Challenges
Neurologic and metabolic problems can cause difficulty swallowing and thus, secondary excessive drooling.
- Rabies – luckily, very rare because the pet canine population is almost universally vaccinated
- Megaesophagus – enlarged esophagus from damage or a neurologic problem and dog does not swallow effectively;
- Myasthenia gravis – affects the muscles of the body and often megaesophagus is part of the syndrome
- Seizures – It is common for dogs to drool excessively during and after a seizure; you may see it as foaming at the mouth
Great Danes experience a significant increase in teething when their baby teeth fall out and are replaced between five and seven months of age. Not only will your pup’s chewing increase, but her drooling is likely to seem excessive as well. Increased drooling occurs from an elevated drive to chew and discomfort of the gums.
Medications and Toxins
Your Great Dane may drool after you administer medication orally if it is bitter or otherwise tastes objectionable.
Toxins can cause drooling through a few means.
- Alter metabolism so dog drools – dark chocolate, your prescription drugs, onions, or alcohol
- Caustic burns to the mouth
- Organ shut-down or inflammation – such as the kidneys, gallbladder, or pancreas
Strong emotions can cause excessive drooling
Strong emotions can cause excessive drooling via their inhibition of the swallowing reflex and their tendency to cause an increase in salivation. Sometimes a flood of saliva follows a brief period of no salivation such as after a flight or fight scenario.
- Nervousness or anxiety – saliva often drips off the tongue
- Excitement, happiness, arousal
Biological Reasons for Increased Drooling in Great Danes
Nature has set mammals up to lubricate their mouths for a variety of purposes. Thus, you will see consistent biological responses that manifest as increased drooling in your Great Dane.
- Hunger or anticipation of food – these are not always the same
- Sleep – saliva tends to pool in sleeping animals where the swallowing reflex is diminished
- Sweating – when the temperature rises, dogs sweat through their tongues to cool themselves; the air is also cooled along the moist mucus membranes of the sinuses and adds to the fluid that accumulates in the mouth
- Motion sickness – some Danes never get used to car rides while others may react to erratic driving; do not administer over-the-counter treatments, such as Dramamine, without consulting with your veterinarian as the side effects can be unpredictable, and dosages vary
How to Cope with Great Danes Drooling
Drooling comes as part of the package when you acquire a Great Dane, but several facts can prove helpful.
- Bring towels when you are about to engage in activities that may spark drooling – car rides, veterinary wellness checks
- Large amounts of saliva contribute to the fact that Great Danes are not hypoallergenic – be mindful if you entertain sensitive individuals
- Females are typically smaller with more refined heads and less pronounced flews – they are likely to drool less than males
- Drooling is linked to genetics as well as the environment – diligent research may pay off if you want a Great Dane that drools less than average
- Address medical issues as soon as you suspect them