A dog with its tongue sticking out can be pretty adorable, especially if they’re about to use it to shower you with slobbery kisses!
However, you may find yourself wondering from time to time why dogs often have their tongues hanging out of their mouths and whether or not it means there is a problem with your dog’s health.
Dogs stick their tongues out for various reasons, including relaxation, panting, excitement, stress, a mouth injury, or Hanging Tongue Syndrome. Understanding why dogs stick their tongue out will help you rule out health issues or know when to contact a vet.
The rest of this article will answer questions about dogs and why their tongues seem to spend as much time out of their mouths as inside!
We will also investigate possible health concerns associated with dogs sticking their tongues out.
NOTE – You might also enjoy reading this post about why dogs huff and puff.
Common Reasons Dogs Stick Out Their Tongues
There are many reasons why a dog may be sticking out their tongue. Here are some common reasons:
1. They’re Relaxed or Comfortable
Sometimes, a dog sticking out its tongue is simply a sign that they’re completely at ease and relaxed.
This is actually a sign of trust, so if you happen to be rubbing your dog’s belly or petting them and their tongue falls out of their mouth, this is an indication that your dog feels at ease with you. Well done!
Other signs of relaxation include:
- Closed eyes
- Exposed belly
- Relaxed posture
- Neutral ears
NOTE – You might be interested to read this post looking at why dogs pull their ears back.
2. They’re Hot and Panting
When humans are hot, they sweat. When dogs are hot, they pant.
Panting regulates the body temperature, and sticking the tongue out cools down the mouth and the blood that goes through the dog’s head. Cooling down these blood vessels stops the dog’s brain from overheating.
Panting is an effective way of cooling down a dog’s body, but if you notice that your dog has been panting for a while and doesn’t seem to cool down, this could be a problem.
Heatstroke can lead to organ damage or death if not addressed in time.
Here are some symptoms of heatstroke:
- Excessive panting that continues for a long time
- Increased heart rate
- Heavy drooling
- Dry mouth
- Dry nose
- Extremely pale or extremely dark gums
If you notice these signs, you must cool your dog down immediately. The best way to do this is to wet them down with a hose or wet towels.
Then, get your dog to a vet as soon as you can. Keep them wrapped in wet towels on the way.
To reiterate, panting in hot weather or after exercise is entirely normal.
You should only be alarmed if the panting goes on for an extended period and your dog shows other signs of overheating.
The good news, however, is that overheating and heatstroke are avoidable.
You should keep the following tips in mind, especially during the summer months:
- Never leave a dog in a car on a hot day
- On excessively hot days, walk your dog at dawn or dusk.
- Always have water with you when exercising your dog and offer it to them frequently.
- Make sure your dog has plenty of shade if you keep them outside.
- Use animal-safe sunscreen on dogs with pink noses.
- Trim your dog, but don’t shave them! Leave some of their coat for protection from the sun.
Certain dogs are more prone to overheating and heatstroke than others. If you have one of the following breeds, you should be extra careful:
- English bulldog
- French bulldog
- American bulldog
- Chow chow
- Golden retriever
- Springer spaniel
- Cavalier King Charles spaniel
- Boston terrier
- Shih Tzu
As long as you keep your dog cool during hot months and monitor them after exercise or exposure to the sun, you shouldn’t have to worry about heatstroke.
Their tongue sticking out as they pant is nothing to be alarmed about; it’s the same as you wiping sweat off your forehead!
NOTE – You might also find this post interesting about why dogs get stuck together after mating.
3. They Have a Mouth Injury
It’s possible that your dog has a mouth injury, and keeping their tongue inside their mouth is uncomfortable for them.
These injuries are relatively common because dogs like to bite things, such as rocks and twigs, that can cause them harm.
Here are some other symptoms of a mouth injury beyond the tongue sticking out:
- Foul smell
- Bloody saliva
- Refusal to eat or drink
- Clawing or batting at the mouth
- Excessive drooling
- Crying or whimpering
If you notice these symptoms, you should take your dog to the vet for a physical examination.
The vet will check for bruising and lacerations. If they find a severe wound, your dog may need oral surgery.
But what if you are in financial difficulty and are worried about vet bills? This website has a ton of great resources for charities that can help you pay your bills.
4. They’re Excited or Stressed
Have you ever been so excited or stressed that you started sweating? Dogs are the same, except instead of sweating, they pant.
If there is no reason for your dog to be hot, but they’re still sticking their tongue out and breathing heavily, they are probably excited or anxious about something.
For example, many dogs stick their tongues out as they greet their owners when they return home. This is because they’re so excited that they start to pant!
This is no cause for alarm or worry. Once your dog calms down, it’ll probably put its tongue back in its mouth and return to normal behavior.
NOTE – You might like to read this post if you want to learn about what causes a dog to hyperventilate.
5. They’re Nauseous
A dog may stick its tongue out when it feels nauseous. If you notice their tongue and any of these symptoms, there may be cause for concern:
- Excessive drooling
- Licking the lips
- Dry heaving
- Eating and drinking more or less than usual
Any of the following conditions could cause nausea:
- Gastroenteritis. This inflammation of the stomach and the intestines could be caused by an infection, a new medication, or new food. It can also be caused by cancer or pancreatic, liver, or kidney disease.
- Motion sickness. Most dogs love car rides, but it causes motion sickness for some. If this is the case, you may need to get anti-nausea medication for your dog.
- Something is caught in their throat or digestive tract. For example, if your dog has a plastic toy and swallows too big a piece, it can get lodged in its throat or digestive tract, which can cause discomfort, nausea, and vomiting.
- Parvovirus. This virus affects puppies and dogs that haven’t been vaccinated for the disease. This can be fatal if it is not discovered in time. Symptoms include excessive vomiting and diarrhea. Typically, there will be blood in both the vomit and diarrhea.
- They overate or ate something bad. Sometimes dogs get access to food they shouldn’t and eat too much of it, causing them to become sick.
Usually, they’ll throw up or have diarrhea for a while, but they’ll eventually feel better. However, if the nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea continue for a while, a trip to the vet may be necessary.
6. You’ve Started Them on a New Medication
Sometimes a tongue hanging out of a dog’s mouth is a side effect of medication.
If you notice your dog’s tongue sticking out more often after starting them on a new medicine, talk to your vet about changing the dosage or eliminating it entirely.
NOTE – You might enjoy taking a look at this post about why dogs smack their lips when you pet them.
7. They Have an Overbite or an Underbite
Sometimes a dog’s mouth structure encourages the tongue to fall out of the mouth.
This is especially true for brachycephalic breeds, otherwise known as flat-faced dogs, such as the following:
- Boston terrier
- Chow chow
- English toy spaniel
- Shih Tzu
These dogs tend to sleep with their tongue out because it naturally falls out of their mouth due to their facial structure.
8. They Have Hanging Tongue Syndrome
Hanging tongue syndrome is a condition where dogs cannot control their tongue, and it sticks out of their mouth almost constantly. This can cause a variety of problems, including:
- Bad breath
- Bleeding or cracked tongue
- Excessively dry tongue
- Tongue infection
Dogs that suffer from hanging tongue syndrome may require tongue lubricants, such as olive oil or water.
You may need to apply these lubricants multiple times a day. They may also need antibiotics or antifungal medications.
Finally, they’ll need food that is soft and easy to swallow to avoid damaging the tongue further. In extreme cases, some dogs may need a glossectomy.
If your dog does require a glossectomy, here are some suggestions for how to care for it after:
- Follow the vet’s instructions regarding a liquid or soft food diet.
- Ensure that there are no items within reach that your dog could chew on after surgery.
- Put a basket muzzle on your dog for a while to prevent damage.
The causes of this condition are varied. Sometimes, the syndrome develops as a result of an overbite or underbite.
Dogs who have had severe dental issues may have rotten lower teeth that can’t support the tongue, so it just falls out of the mouth.
In other cases, nerve damage limits the dog’s ability to control its tongue.
Here are some tips for how to care for a dog with hanging tongue syndrome:
- Encourage them to drink water.
- Give your dog ice cubes or frozen dog treats.
- Freeze chicken broth and give it to them as a treat.
- Apply water directly to the tongue throughout the day.
- Don’t spend too much time in extremely hot or extremely cold temperatures. Your dog’s tongue could get sunburned or frostbitten.
Hanging tongue syndrome certainly isn’t ideal, and if not cared for properly, it can cause a lot of discomfort and pain for your dog, but it’s by no means a death sentence.
Many dogs with hanging tongue syndrome live long, happy lives; they are just a little more high-maintenance. Anything for your dog, right?
Before we continue, this short video has some great facts about dogs’ tongues:
More About Your Dog’s Tongue
Seeing your dog’s tongue sticking out of its mouth all the time may have you wondering about this essential organ.
Here are some fun facts about dog tongues that you may not have known:
- The color of your dog’s tongue can indicate a health issue. Most dogs have pink tongues, but some breeds are anomalies. Chow chows, for example, have dark purple tongues. If you notice that your dog’s tongue is paler than usual, this could mean that it is anemic or malnourished. If its tongue is yellow, this is a sign of liver or gallbladder issues.
- There’s a reason why dogs love licking things. Licking releases endorphins in a dog’s brain, which helps them feel happy and relaxed. However, if they are licking themselves excessively, this could be a sign of anxiety.
- Dogs use their tongues to communicate. For example, puppies often lick their elders to indicate submissiveness. They also lick each other to show love and trust.
- The size of a dog’s tongue determines its bark. Like humans, the size and shape of a dog’s tongue influence how they sound when they make noise, such as barking.
- Dogs don’t have cleaner tongues than humans. This is a common myth. Dogs and humans have lots of bacteria in their mouths, over 600 different kinds, and they’re not necessarily clean.
- Dogs curl their tongue into a ladle shape when they drink water. So if you’ve ever wondered why it seems like your dog can’t help but make a mess every time they drink, this is it!
Dogs shape their tongues into ladle shapes and pull the water into their mouths, which is messy.
This contrasts with cats, who dip their tongues in water and flick it up to catch it in their mouths.
A dog’s tongue is extremely important, so it is essential to monitor how often it sticks out of the mouth to determine if there are underlying medical issues like hanging tongue syndrome.
Most of the time, dogs stick their tongues out for non-problematic reasons. They may be relaxed, hot, excited, or a bit stressed, but none of these reasons are cause for concern.
Occasionally, dogs sticking their tongues out is a sign of an underlying health issue, such as mouth injury, nausea, or hanging tongue syndrome.
Detecting these issues early enough ensures that you can start managing them and return your dog to good health.