By Linda Cole
You’re at the dog park enjoying a sunny outing with your pet when in the distance you notice a large dog charging towards yours, foaming at the mouth. Your first thought is that the dog might have rabies. That’s always a possibility of course, but canine rabies has been drastically reduced by having dogs vaccinated. More than likely the dog is just hot from playing and running around. There are a variety of reasons a dog or cat might foam at the mouth, and some could indicate a medical issue that has nothing to do with rabies.
Very often when you see your dog foaming at the mouth, it’s caused by a combination of panting and salivating known as hypersalivation. However, it’s important to pay attention any time you see your pet foaming at the mouth, because there are some common causes and some serious ones that need a vet’s immediate attention.
Common Causes of Foaming
One of the early warning signs that a dog is getting overheated during play or exercise is heavy panting and foaming at the mouth. It’s a signal that the activity needs to stop so your hot dog can drink some water, relax and cool down.
Other common reasons a dog or cat may foam at the mouth are anxiety, an upset stomach, motion sickness, and eating or picking up something that leaves a bad taste in the mouth such as a toad. Some medications or an obstruction like a bone or piece of stick caught in the esophagus that blocks saliva from going down can cause pets to hypersalivate.
More Serious Reasons
A reaction to ingesting flea and tick medications can cause foaming at the mouth. Pyrethrin is an insecticide used in many flea and tick medications, and it can be toxic if your pet ingests some while grooming themselves or another pet. Make sure to put topical flea control between the shoulders and don’t let your pets groom each other until the area where the flea control was placed is dry.
Accidental poisoning is another reason a dog or cat might be foaming at the mouth, and it can become a serious medical issue depending on what and how much toxin was ingested. Other symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, weakness, disorientation, lack of coordination, tremors, seizures, lethargy, depressed breathing, low blood pressure, pale mucous membranes, excessive thirst, irregular heartbeat and agitation.
Many houseplants and outside plants can cause poisoning, especially in cats. Other causes of accidental poisoning include certain human foods and medications (both over the counter and prescription), alcohol, coins (especially pennies), spring flower bulbs, household cleaners, laundry pods, sugar free snacks that contain Xylitol ,and some toad species. Rat or mouse poison, antifreeze, glow sticks and the liquid from a broken snow globe also contain toxins that can poison dogs and cats. Our pets don’t know if something they ingest could be poisonous, which means it’s essential for pet owners to know the symptoms of poisoning.
Seizure disorders can cause a pet to foam at the mouth. Seizures may be an indication of a metabolic disorder such as kidney disease or liver disease.
Foaming at the mouth can be a sign of a stroke, epilepsy, low blood sugar or neurological issue.
Distemper affects the central nervous system, causing gastrointestinal upset and breathing problems. However, not all pets affected with distemper foam at the mouth.
Other medical issues that could cause foaming at the mouth are dental disease, tumors in the mouth, a tooth abscess, oral trauma or stomatitis, which is a painful inflammation of the mouth and gums.
Some cats produce foamy bubbles and drool when they are really happy and purring, but foaming isn’t common in felines. If your kitty suddenly starts to drool and it’s not something she’s always done, that’s cause for concern, especially if she isn’t eating and isn’t acting like herself. (For more information, read Why Do Cats Drool When They’re Happy?).
Any time you see your dog or cat foaming at the mouth and there’s no clear reason why, it’s best to take your pet to the vet immediately. If the foaming does turn out to be caused by a medical issue, an early diagnosis can be extremely beneficial for treatment and recovery.
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