A dog’s tongue is pretty incredible when you think about it. Your pooch uses their tongue to eat and drink, to help cool down their body, and, of course, to give you tons of slobbery kisses. Some dogs — maybe even your own — have a bizarre but adorable trait of sticking their tongues out all of the time. Sometimes it’s just the tip; other times their entire tongues are hanging out of the sides of their mouths. While this can be a harmless, endearing trait, it can also be a signal of underlying health issues. Here are four possible reasons why your dog’s tongue sticks out.
They’re incredibly relaxed
The good news is, sometimes a tongue hanging out isn’t a sign of anything problematic for your dog whatsoever. Sometimes a tongue hanging out for long periods of time – but not indefinitely – is a sign of pure relaxation. If your pup has just eaten a delicious meal, played to their heart’s content, or is lying next to you with their tongue hanging out for a bit, it could just mean that they’re in a state of pure bliss.
When humans get warm, they sweat. When dogs get warm, they pant. Both of these responses cool down the body, and the way they work is actually the same — they both lead to evaporation. The short, shallow breaths that happen when your dog pants help water evaporate from their tongue and upper respiratory tract. That evaporation helps your dog cool down. If your dog is panting a lot, try to keep them in a cool place and reduce physical activity for a little while. Make sure they have plenty of water. If panting continues for a long time even after your dog appears to have cooled down, it may be time for a trip to the vet, just to be on the safe side.
They started a new medication
The introduction of new medication into your pup’s system could be the cause of their tongue sticking out. If your dog is on new medication and is exhibiting this symptom or any other new symptoms or habits, consult with your vet to make sure this is the right medication for your dog or if you should change tactics.
Hanging Tongue Syndrome
Hanging Tongue Syndrome is exactly what it sounds like: the dog’s tongue hangs out of their mouth, and it’s not a sign of anything else troublesome.
It’s a condition that smaller and brachycephalic (“smooshed” faced) breeds of dogs, like Pugs, are prone to have due to genetics. Their tongues may quite literally be too large for the oral cavity, or breeding may have led to an abnormal jaw bone that doesn’t properly support it. If your dog has an overbite or underbite, they may develop this condition, especially as they age.
But genetics isn’t the only cause of Hanging Tongue Syndrome in dogs. Severe dental disease can lead to the rotting of the lower teeth. When these diseased teeth fall out or are extracted, there is no support for the tongue, so it simply pops out and hangs out to either the side or out the front.
Fortunately, most dogs with this syndrome can enjoy a full, happy, healthy life without many severe issues. However, you should get the condition checked out by the vet, as some oral cancers or masses can also be why your dog’s tongue sticks out.
Are there any problems with Hanging Tongue Syndrome?
The main issue from Hanging Tongue Syndrome is an incredibly dried-out tongue. Imagine how it feels when your lips are incredibly chapped and there’s no lip balm in sight. Now imagine that feeling but on the tip of your tongue. All of the time. This is what dogs with this condition may have to deal with.
If your dog has this condition, keep an eye out for any swelling, bleeding, or cracking of the tongue, and seek vet help if you notice them.
Concerned about how your dog’s tongue sticks out?
If your dog has Hanging Tongue Syndrome, make sure they have access to plenty of water and that the color of their tongue and gums stays the same, as dogs with this syndrome are also prone to infections and even frostbite on their tongues in colder climates.
Discoloration of the tongue and gums is a sign of infection, so contact your vet immediately. A sudden appearance of this syndrome combined with odd behavior could be a sign of neurological problems. If this is happening with your dog, consult your vet ASAP to make sure nothing too serious is happening.
Occasionally, hanging tongue is attributed to factors unrelated to genetics. One prevalent factor is advanced dental disease, which can result in the absence of lower canine teeth. When there is no support for the tongue, it may protrude to the side. Moreover, injuries to the jaw, tongue, or head can cause nerve damage or tongue scarring, further contributing to this condition.
Now that you know what your dog’s tongue sticking out means, read up on what their ear position can tell you!