Salivary Gland Infections in Dogs: “The digestive process starts in the mouth”. If you ever heard this saying then you probably already know the big role salivary glands play in helping your dog digest that big bowl of crunchy food you place in front of his nose every day.
A dog has several salivary glands, the first one is right under what we call the “cheekbone” the second one is situated at the base of the ear-canal cartilage, and the third and fourth are placed right under the jaw. Most owners are unaware of these salivary glands until they start giving problems. As any gland in the dog’s body, salivary glands may as well be prone to particular conditions and infections.
The primary functions of salivary glands are:
1) to produce saliva which aids in the chewing process
2) to help soften food before being swallowed
3) to provide help in the digestive process by releasing enzymes
4) to keep the mouth moist and bacteria free
5) to flush away food particles
6) to cool down a dog that is overheated and panting
Dogs with salivary gland infections will usually develop key symptoms. Here are some symptoms that may indicate a salivary gland infection:
- Excessive drooling
- Bloody saliva
- Swelling in the neck
- Swelling of the cheek
- Swelling under the tongue
- Difficulty eating
Salivary gland infections may have various causes. Sometimes the salivary duct may become obstructed or a salivary duct may be ruptured(sialocele) from an injury and therefore, causing leakage and an abscess. A sialocele usually causes swelling near the salivary gland and depending on its location it may have several different names:
A ranula develops under the tongue as a swelling that may cause bleeding and problems chewing.
A pharyngeal sialocele develops in the back of the mouth and could cause trouble breathing.
A zygomatic sialocele develops right under the eye and may cause eye swelling.
More often than not, a real cause may not be identified, however it appaears that trauma to the salivary glands may occur due to different reasons. Dogs that chew on sharp objects that splinter such as bones or sticks may easily develop a sialocele. In some cases dog fights, or car accidents may cause trauma. It has also been found that the use of choke collars may as well cause injury to the delicate salivary glands. In some cases, salivary stones may form, these are called “sialoliths” and they may obstruct the normal flow of saliva.
Diagnosis of such swellings are confirmed by physical examination, the vet will palpate each gland looking for swelling and signs of infection.In some cases, where a lump has developed a procedure called “fine needle aspiration” will help the vet evaluate the swollen glands better and come to a proper diagnosis. In this case a small needle in inserted into the lump and fluid is extracted. The fluid is then sent to a lab and biopsied.
Treatment usually consists of treating the underlying cause when found, in most cases, draining the sialocele and administering antibiotics when the area results infected is the preferred method of treatment. In some cases surgery is required to remove the gland (sialoadenectomy. Most dogs recover uneventfully from the surgery even though the area may take some time to heal.
If your dog has always drooled profusely in front of his bowl of food very likely he is just proving to you the Pavlov theory. But if your dog suddenly starts drooling more than usual for no apparent reason, seeing the vet would be recommended.
A prompt vet visit upon discovering trouble with the salivary glands will help the vet come to a proper diagnosis and start early treatment. Many dogs are seen late once they have developed a very large lump under their jaw and surgery in these cases results being much more complicated and invasive.
For further reading: Causes of Drooling in Dogs