Ailments of the salivary glands

The parotid gland

so140112steveIn dogs, there are four main pairs of salivary glands. Of these, you can actually feel one of them, the parotid gland. It is situated just below and behind the ear (or either side) in the space between the angle of the jaw and the muscles of the neck. The parotid gland, like the other salivary gland, drains into the dog’s mouth via a duct the (parotid duct or Stensen’s duct). This canal can become blocked up by salivary salts (concrement). The parotid gland then becomes so swollen that you can actually see the gland.

There are other causes for the swelling of the parotid gland. The literature speaks of cancerous formations in the gland but, in all my years of practice, I have never encountered a parotid cancer.

Nearby abscesses could affect the gland and, of course, any foreign body sticking itself into the gland could lead to an infection and cause pain. Usually, there is no infection associated with the parotid gland, rather it is a local irritation. Such irritation could stem from a physical injury, for example, the collar is too tight or you yank on the chain too abruptly. When the gland swells, some people speak of “mumps”.

The result of an inflammatory condition of the parotid gland, besides the swelling and the pain, is the unwillingness of the animal to eat/swallow. If there is an abscessing of the gland, then the abscess can burst into the larynx or pharynx area, and the mess can even get into the lungs causing pneumonia.

The treatment (if it is not an infection) would be a local fomentation and an application of a stimulating liniment (warm soap water would suffice). If there is an abscess or any form of infection, then antibiotics—under veterinary supervision and advice—may be introduced together with some anti-inflammatory steroids.

Hypersalivation (drooling)

This is a condition which results in the increased secretion of saliva from the salivary glands (aka ptyalism).  It is characterized by profuse dribbling (drooling).


(i)            Contact with certain drugs, eg, those containing mercury, bismuth, etc.

(ii)           Contact with poison, eg, Triatox, organophosphates (malathion, supona, etc), arsenic, etc.

(iii)          Contact with poisonous toads.

(iv)         Local irritation as a result of stomatitis.

(v)          Teething in young animals.

(vi)         Foreign bodies stuck in the gums, inside of the cheek or in the tongue.

(vii)        Any traumatic injury in the mouth.

(viii)       Cancerous growths in the mouth.

(ix)         Infectious, diseases, eg, the nervous form of canine distemper of which we have seen a lot in the past – before dog owners began vaccinating their animals.

(x)          Convulsions (fits). This is a disorder of the nervous system.

(xi)         Other disorders of the nervous system, eg, motion sickness; apprehension/anxiety.

(xii)        Salivary cysts (we’ll deal with this later).

(xiii)       Psychological reaction, eg, animals anticipating food or fondling (in cats)


First of all, one has to determine what the original cause is; whether for example, it is local or systemic, or if a poison is involved. If it is the latter, then specific antidotes will have to be used.  If irritation/inflammation is the origin, then the specific cause in the oral cavity would have to be addressed. For example, if the increased salivation is caused by plaque build-up, or a gingivitis (inflammation of the gum), then one would have to treat that specific ailment. If a foreign body is stuck in the mouth, it has first to be removed. Nervous symptoms have to be treated accordingly; tranquilizers may have to be used in certain cases. If a major disease (eg, canine distemper) is the root cause, then one has to direct one’s efforts towards the therapy of that particular disease.

Enjoy the coming week.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-Heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.


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