Foaming At The Mouth: 3 Causes, Treatment and More

Foaming at the mouth is a symptom that is not only uncommon but signifies an emergency. It is the sign of an underlying medical condition that needs medical attention. This means that for a human or an animal to foam, there must be a cause and if medical care is not given, it can result to further complications like coma or even death.

Foaming at the mouth happens when there is excess saliva mixed with air or gases. This foam comes out from the mouth. Normally, people do not bring out much saliva from their mouths while talking, eating, or even drooling. So when even a small amount of bubbly saliva spills out of the mouth unintentionally, a person may need emergency medical attention.


There are some things that can lead to a person foaming at the mouth, some common causes are:


There are many types of seizure disorders and each has its own symptoms. Examples of seizures are epilepsy, tonic-clonic seizure (also known as convulsive seizure), nonepileptic seizures which is typically caused by trauma or psychological conditions. 

Apart from convulsing uncontrollably, common symptoms of seizures are: loss of consciousness, falling, biting your tongue, incontinence drooling, slight foaming, or bubbling at the mouth. 
During a seizure, the mouth is forcefully closed and this makes the salivary glands to be more stimulated causing you to produce more saliva than normal. When the mouth is eventually opened, drool or frothy saliva can come out.

A provoked seizure can cause cause the mouth to foam. The Canadian Medical Association Journal carried out a study in 2009 using a police man as a case study. The police officer whose partner accidentally shot him in the head with a Taser while chasing a suspect. The second officer witnessed his colleague lose consciousness, fall to the ground, and begin foaming at the mouth.

Seizures like tonic-clonic cause the whole body to convulse after loss of consciousness. This type of seizure causes the muscle control to be lost resulting to difficulties in swallowing and closing the mouth. The excess saliva produced are pooled in the mouth and are thrusted through the clenched teeth, mixing with oxygen and gases in the mouth, and developing a foamy appearance.

Drug overdose

Drugs are taken to ease pain, treat an illness or to cause feelings like euphoria and strength. Drugs that cause euphoria (stimulants) like methamphetamine, Ritalin, Adderall and kill pain (opioids) like heroin, Oxycontin, Vicodin are mostly abused. When these drugs are overdosed, they can cause deadly symptoms like:

  • Passing out
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased or decreased body temperature
  • Fast or slowed pulse
  • Shallow and slow breathing
  • Pale or flushed skin
  • Paranoia and psychosis
  • Clammy skin
  • Loss of consciousness

They also cause convulsing or seizures. The foaming at the mouth occurs because of the inability of the heart and lungs to function properly. The heart and lungs become slower in movement and this causes fluids to gather in the lungs, which can mix with carbon dioxide and other gases. This forms blood-tinted, frothy mucus to come out of the mouth like a foam uncontrollably.


Rabies is a virus associated with animals but can be transferred to human beings when an infected animal. Uninfected animals can get it too when they come in contact with the saliva of an animal that is a carrier. Animals that are carriers include foxes, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, bats and skunks. Other animals like dogs, cats and cows may be carriers but they are less common. 

This virus can infect and damage the brain and central nervous system of all types of warm-blooded mammals. One common symptom of this virus when it enters the  human or animal’s body is making it difficult to swallow as the throat muscles become paralyzed. Rabies also cause the mouth to produce more saliva. Saliva may then pool in the mouth and mix with oxygen and other gases when a person is unable to swallow (Medical News Today).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cases of human rabies cases in the United States are rare, with only 1 to 3 cases reported annually. Twenty-five cases of human rabies have been reported in the United States in the past decade (2009-2018). This is to say only very small number of people get rabies each year in America.

Other symptoms in humans include:

  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Frantic behavior
  • Confusion

In animals, other symptoms are: Extreme aggressiveness, biting, lost appetite, and paralysis.


Foaming at the mouth
Foaming at the mouth

Foaming at the mouth is an emergency that needs serious medical attention. The treatment method to be given depends on the cause of the foaming. Let us look at how to treat foaming.

Treatment For Seizures

A person who is having seizures should be removed from harmful objects furniture like tables, chairs or electrical appliances around them. If they are close to a wall, a towel or cloth can be used to create a padding between them and the wall. Also, nothing should be placed inside their mouth.

People having seizures should not be left alone, someone should stay with them. Roll them over to their side after the convulsion has stopped and they start to regain consciousness. Also, make sure their mouth and nose is free from anything. Cover them with a cloth or blanket while they rest, they should also be checked on every 5 minutes to know if they are breathing normally.

If the seizure lasts for more than 5 minutes or if they are not fully conscious with a normal breathing rate 10 minutes after the seizure ended, they need emergency medical care. Also, if the seizure is the first time experience, emergency care is required. People with epilepsy may have seizures that do not require emergency medical care unless the seizures is too severe or is different from other episodes.

Treatment For Drug overdose

A drug overdoses person should be taken to the hospital immediately but first aid can be given while on the way to the hospital. The person should be rolled over to his or her side to clear the airways. 
While at the hospital, the patient can be injected with an antidote known as Narcan to immediately reverses the action of the drug if the drug is an opioid. If it is liquid chemical or alcohol, stomach pump or activated charcoal can be given to remove the toxin. However, overdoses caused by stimulant drugs have no known antidote for treatment.

Treatment For Rabies

Anyone with rabies should see a doctor immediately for treatment which is immunization shots. Before going to the hospital, the area exposed to rabies virus should be washed soap under a running tap for at least 15 minutes, then continue flushing the area with water. Even with the first aid, it is very important to go to a hospital before the rabies form an infection. When it does, there is no cure.


Like humans, dogs also foam at their mouth. Apart from rabies, there are other reasons why dogs foam. Note that there is a difference between drooling and foaming. Drooling is the long strands of saliva that hang from the corners of the dog’s mouth. It can be caused by excitement or anxiety. Foaming on the other hand, is drooling that has been mixed with gas and air. It looks like the bubbles in your bubble bath mixed with their saliva. Drooling is normal in dogs but foaming calls for serious attention.
There are many things that can cause dogs to foam like:

Upset Stomach: When your dog has stomach upset, it can foam at the mouth. Apart from foaming at the mouth, you should look out for symptoms like vomiting, lack of appetite, diarrhea or weakness. Stomach upset is commonly caused by motion sickness or other serious health condition.

Seizures: Seizures can cause the muscles in your dog’s body to contract resulting to aggressive behavior and foaming at the mouth due to hypersalivation. This is an emergency situation and should visit the vertinary doctor.

Toxic Substances: Dogs are like babies, they can take in substances without considering if they are harmful or not. If your dog has taken in toxic substances, it is very important that you take it to the vertinary doctor as soon as possible. Aside from getting him to the vet as quickly as possible, you’ll want to contact the Animal Poison Control Center at the ASPCA. They can give you valuable first aid instructions until you can get to an emergency vet (Outward Hound).

Dental Disease: When dogs have abscess and holes in their teeth, this can cause foaming in their mouth. Other symptoms can include blood in his water bowl, eating difficulties and bad breath.
You can prevent this by practicing good dental hygiene for them. Brush their teeth regularly, give it quality food and fresh water.


Cats also foam at their mouth. Apart from the normal drooling that occurs occasionally, excessive drooling and being agitated is a serious health issue. Some common causes are:

Toxic Substances: Taking in chemicals like household chemicals can cause excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth if a cat inhales them. It can also cause nausea and vomiting.

Fear and Anxiety: Cats can experience anxiety by exhibiting behaviors like hiding, excessive foaming, destruction or visible trembling. Cats can become anxious as a result of unfamiliar stimuli, conditioned responses to traumatic events, or possibly due to illness and injury (Wag Walking).

Dental Disease: When there is a buildup of bacteria in the teeth and gums of your cat, there may be excessive foaming and drooling. This can also lead to weight loss or loss for appetite.


Foaming at the mouth is a serious medical condition in both humans and animals. It can be caused by rabies, substance abuse or seizures. The best way to treat this is by seeing a doctor while applying first aid treatment.

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