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Some dogs are incredibly slobbery and drool most of the time, while others are a bit better designed to keep their spit inside of their mouths, and somewhat tidier to own! All dogs produce saliva of course – between 500ml and a litre a day for a medium-sized dog breed, and potentially more for dogs that eat only dry food, which requires more moisture to digest.
Dog slobber carries bacteria and dirt and isn’t very hygienic for people – this is why you shouldn’t let your dog lick your face, and should wash your hands afterwards if your dog licks you. However, your dog’s saliva fulfils a wide range of useful purposes for them, some of which you might already be aware of, but some of which are rather more obscure.
Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of dog saliva – and in this article, we will tell you all about six interesting things your dog’s slobber and saliva can do. Read on to learn more about everything to do with slobber!
Dogs have two saliva glands located within their mouths, and this is where all of that slobber comes from! Saliva keeps the inside of your dog’s mouth lubricated, and also forms a vital first part of the dog’s digestive process.
If you’ve ever taken up a dare to eat a stack of dry crackers without water, you will be only too aware of how hard and unpleasant it can be to eat something dry with a dry mouth, and saliva is essential for normal digestion.
Firstly, when your dog is hungry, waiting for their food or if they can smell something good, their saliva glands are triggered to flood the mouth with moisture in anticipation of eating. This additional moisture not only helps to make food easier to chew and swallow, beginning the process of digestion, but it also contains important digestive enzymes that start to work on and break down the food before it even reaches the stomach.
A dog that is following a scent or trying to pick up a scent might lick their nose; this is because moisturising the nose in this way makes scent particles cling to it, making them easier to detect. Your dog might lick their nose multiple times if they are scenting, transferring scent particles into the mouth. In the roof of the dog’s mouth between the palate and the nasal passages is a special area called the Vomeronasal organ or Jacobson’s Organ, and this is a secondary scenting organ that helps to enhance the dog’s excellent sense of smell.
Saliva aids with scenting in many ways, and can help to enhance your dog’s olfactory senses.
Dogs don’t sweat like humans do, and one of the main ways in which they cool down is by panting. The inside of your dog’s mouth has a large surface area that enables heat exchange between the warmer air expelled from the lungs and the cooler air from outside, and the saliva produced in your dog’s mouth aids with this cooling.
When cooler air circulates inside of your dog’s mouth, it cools the saliva, further helping to lower the dog’s core body temperature when they are too hot.
A dog that has a sore spot, graze or wound will often lick it, which is one of the main reasons why dogs usually have to wear a buster collar on their heads after surgery.
This licking of wounds is an instinctive canine behaviour designed to clean, soothe and heal the wound, and may even help the dog’s natural immune system to strengthen the wound and promote healing in some cases. Canine saliva may have a limited level of antibacterial properties that, whilst it won’t actually heal a wound, can help to clean it and remove bacteria that could cause secondary infections.
However, this is not fool proof, and the saliva of another dog that does not share the same home and environment may have a very different effect.
Saliva can also cause problems with wound healing too, which is why dogs usually need a buster collar after surgery, as mentioned previously.
Whilst a dog’s saliva carries some of their own immune antibodies and may have a limited antibacterial effect against certain specific threats recognised by the dog’s body, it also carries a lot of potentially harmful bacteria too, as you might expect – after all, dogs lick themselves everywhere, not a trait usually associated with impeccable hygiene.
If your dog has surgery, the wound itself after closure is the riskiest area of possible infection introduction, and introducing harmful bacteria to it by means of saliva can compromise wound healing and introduce a potentially very nasty infection – so use that buster collar as directed!
If your normally non-slobbery dog is drooling or producing excessive saliva, prepare to stand clear – this is often a precursor to vomiting. When your dog is about to vomit, their mouths produce saliva to help to expel the contents of the stomach.
Additionally, because stomach acid or bile is vomited along with the partially digested stomach contents, this additional saliva helps to neutralise the acid and help to protect the lining of the mouth, stomach, and food tube.
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