Whether you care for a sweet and slobbery Boxer or a dignified Bichon, you’re likely familiar with your dog’s tongue. Dogs use their tongues in different ways. Some may be stingy with their kisses and only use their tongue to pant or eat. Others may have their tongue lolling outside their mouth constantly. While usually benign, there are a few cases in which a dog’s tongue hanging outside their mouth can be a sign of a serious problem. Let’s talk about eight common reasons why dogs stick their tongues out, and when you should be concerned.
The 8 Common Reasons Why Your Dog Might Stick Their Tongue Out
Dogs only have sweat glands in their paws, which are inefficient at cooling them down. While it’s a good thing that you don’t have to buy them deodorant once they come of age, it does mean that hot weather can be dangerous. Thankfully, dogs are designed to regulate their body temperature through panting and vasodilation. When a dog pants, they quickly draw in and exhale air through their mouth. This helps to increase evaporation of water from the mouth, nose and throat, cooling the body as the air is exhaled. Panting cools similar to sweating, just from the inside out.
Canines may pant when they’re overheated, nervous, or excited. On a side note, dogs also regulate their body temperature through vasodilation. This occurs when their blood vessels expand and move closer to the skin surface, where it becomes cooler. Vasodilation works best in the face and ears.
2. Heat Stroke
If a dog becomes severely overheated, they may be at risk of having heat stroke. Common signs of heat stroke are excessive panting, rapid heart rate, pale gums, and shaking. Take your dog to the vet immediately if you notice these signs. On the way, try to gradually cool them off by turning on the car’s fan and rubbing them with a moistened cool towel. Don’t place ice on your dog as it can cool them too quickly, potentially leading to other complications.
3. Having a Seizure
If your dog is appearing restless or listless in addition to sticking their tongue out, they may be having a seizure. You should take them to the vet as soon as possible for treatment if they exhibit signs such as confusion, convulsions, or excessively licking with their tongue.
4. Severe Dental Disease
Swollen or inflamed gums can cause your dog to stick out their tongue due to discomfort. You may also notice bad breath, bleeding of the gums, or difficulty eating. For some dogs that have lost or had a lot of teeth extracted, the tongue may hang out to one side of the mouth because the teeth aren’t there to help hold it in.
Although uncommon, a tongue tumor is also possible. If your dog suddenly develops a habit of sticking out their tongue, you should schedule a wellness visit with your vet just to be safe.
5. Exploring their World
Dogs often rely on their sense of smell to learn about the world around them. However, they also enlist the help of their tongue. Tasting or licking is another great way for dogs to explore and communicate to people, other animals, and their environment. If your dog’s tongue is hanging out, they may be using it, along with their nose, to determine when the neighbor dog walked by your yard.
6. Feeling Happy
If your dog has a floppy “smile” on their face, they may be sticking out their tongue to express contentment. Spending an afternoon at the dog park, smelling their favorite snack, or seeing you for the first time that day may produce such a reaction.
7. Giving Kisses
While some dogs conservatively ration their kisses, others constantly feel amorous and will target your face, hands, legs, feet, and anything else they can reach. Biologically speaking, all dogs learn to lick their mother’s face to request more food. For reasons unknown, this behavior may or may not translate to their human parents. Sometimes licking is actually for the purpose of asking you to stop doing something too, such as petting. This is called appeasement licking.
8. They Can’t Control it
Rarely, dogs can have issues with their tongue that makes it so they can’t control it. This may be a muscular or nervous disease or injury. Or it could be (very rarely) that they have macroglossia where their tongue is actually too big for their mouth. If your pup’s tongue is constantly hanging out and it appears they have limited movement of it, seek veterinary help.
How Do I Know If Something Is Wrong With My Dog?
A tongue that’s hanging out is often seen on dogs that are content and happy or that are cooling down after a routine walk. While it’s not typically a cause for concern, you should investigate the situation further if your dog is sticking their tongue out more than usual, or exhibiting signs of illness such as excessive panting, shaking, or experiencing trouble breathing. If they can’t seem to move their tongue back into a normal position or are having any trouble eating or drinking.
When the sun’s out, tongues out. Your dog uses their tongue to cool down, investigate their world, and give kisses. A tongue hanging out is often not a cause for concern but can be a sign of heat stroke or a seizure when accompanied with other signs. If you notice your dog sticking their tongue out more than usual, it is a good idea to take them to the vet soon for a checkup just to be safe.