Michael, the owner of a Bullmastiff, contacted me about a problem that is very characteristic of this breed: drooling. Michael wanted to know why it occurs in such an intense form, and whether it is necessary to regularly remove the drool with a cloth or towel.
Increased salivation is common for dogs considered to have a phlegmatic personality (i.e., a strong and balanced nervous system with a high tolerance threshold), in spite of the fact that many of them were created to do dangerous work. All the races that drool a lot have a brachycephalic head, meaning that their muzzle is much smaller in relation their head size. Therefore, their nasal canals are disproportionately small in relation to their large body. Such a structure creates a misbalance between the quantity of air needed for normal body functions and the quantity of air that the dog can physically manage to inhale through its nose. Dogs of this type, including the Bullmastiff, often breathe through their mouth in order to inhale a greater quantity of air.
During the process of mouth breathing or constant panting, a large quantity of saliva is produced to prevent the mouth from drying out. This is characteristic for dogs that are large in stature but have a small muzzle. Breeds such as Boxers, Bullmastiffs, Bulldogs, Newfoundland dogs, St. Bernard dogs… all have a small nose and correspondingly small nasal canal through which they have to inhale the air to supply a good-sized body with oxygen. Because these dogs cannot optimally do that, they must breathe through their mouth, which then tends to dry out. To avoid excessive dryness of the mouth, a great quantity of saliva is secreted.
Use of cloth or towel. Yes, it is practical for harmonious living with these pets. But again we have to understand that in doing so, we are disrupting the dog’s natural process. The more we wipe, the more saliva is going to be secreted because the idea is for saliva to moisten the oral cavity, which inevitably dries when breathing through the mouth. That’s why it’s important to know that when choosing a member of a breed such as a Bullmastiff, we are advised to not select the extremes, because the extremes lead to extreme problems. A dog’s nose size is very important. Avoiding extreme contrast in nose-to-body size might not accord with the breed standard, and might not be recommended for the show ring, but there will be fewer problems with this type of dog.
To conclude, drooling is a consequence of man’s intention to have an extremely beautiful dog, to reach excellent performance, and to make the best possible selection. That’s why these dogs have had their noses made shorter. In general, however, a dog with this structure cannot inhale enough air through that kind of nose. We pay the price in living with extreme types of dogs that are beautiful in pictures, but demanding in everyday life. Man has only to be aware of that, and, when buying a dog, be mindful to keep the dog’s health in mind first. A lesson we can learn from nature is to be driven by things that are more natural over things that might, to our eyes, be more beautiful.