Dog Tongue Colors & What They Mean

Four Minutes
May 11, 2023

Why are we talking about dog tongues? It may seem odd, but you would be shocked at how much your dog's tongue can tell you. Your dog’s tongue isn’t just for eating, drinking, and licking. What their tongue looks like and how they use it can provide valuable insight into their health, behavior, and hygiene.

Dog tongue colors can be especially indicative of various health concerns. Here are three facts about dog tongues and what they may be telling you.    

Fact #1: The Color on a Dog’s Tongue Could Indicate Their Health Status

For the most part, a healthy dog’s tongue should be colored pink. However, there are a few dog breeds who are an exception to this rule. Some dog breeds have tongues of a different color, naturally.

If your dog isn’t a breed that has a naturally differently-colored tongue and their tongue isn’t a healthy pink, it could be an indication of cancer, diabetes, or another disease. Here are what some of those other dog tongue colors might indicate:1

What does it mean if a dog’s tongue is blue or black?

Chow chows and shar-peis have completely blue-black tongues. The Eurasier and the Thai ridgeback breeds may also have solid or spotted blue tongues. If your dog’s tongue is blue, is spotted,or you see a single black spot on dog tongues, it’s typically not a cause for concern. These pigmented skin cells on the tongue are completely normal and are comparable to a birthmark.1

What does it mean if a dog’s tongue is purple?

If your dog has a purple tongue, that may be a sign of low oxygen in their blood called hypoxia, typically caused by a heart condition or a circulation problem.1

What does it mean if a dog’s tongue is red?

If your dog has a red tongue, it can mean a variety of different things. They may be overheating, dehydrated, or experiencing hypertension. They could also have an infection of some sort.

It could also be stomatitis, which just means inflammation of the tongue. Stomatitis can point to underlying health conditions like diabetes, cancer, or bladder stones.1

What does it mean if a dog’s tongue is yellow?

If your dog has a yellow tongue, that’s often a sign of liver or gallbladder problems. Similar to how humans with liver problems can turn yellow. This is called jaundice, and it’s similar to how humans with liver problems could have a more yellow hue in their skin.1

What does it mean if a dog’s tongue is a white?

If your dog has a pale or white tongue, this generally points to something blood-related. They may be anemic or have internal bleeding. It can also be a sign of leukemia, which is a cancer in the blood and bone marrow.1

When In Doubt, Get Your Dog Checked Out     

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Fact #2: Panting Could Be a Sign of a Dog’s High Body Temperature or Anxiety

As humans, we have sweat glands all over our bodies to help us regulate our body temperature, but our dogs don’t have that luxury. Since dogs don’t sweat like humans do, they pant to help them regulate their body temperatures following strenuous activity, or even when experiencing anxiety.

When dogs pant, they draw cool air through their mouth and into the upper respiratory lining, resulting in the evaporation of moisture (also known as thermoregulation).

If your dog is panting, they are either hot and cooling themselves down or anxious and trying to regulate their system.

Fact #3: Dog Tongues Are for More Than Just Doggy Kisses

Some dogs just want to attack you with their kisses. You walk in the door and they’re sitting right there, ready to show you some love. However, that’s not all your dog’s tongue is used for.

Your dog uses their tongue every day to drink water, eat food, and explore their surroundings (including places and items they shouldn’t get into). Like with humans, a dog’s taste buds have the ability to sense bitter, sweet, salty, sour, and savory tastes.

They also use their tongue to groom themselves. If you watch closely, you may notice your dog cleaning themselves (lightly) throughout the day. Just know that while your dog can groom themselves, they still should have their regularly scheduled bath provided by their pet parents.

If your dog is incessantly licking an area on their body, this may be a sign of a skin condition or other irritation. Pay attention to where they’re licking to make sure the area isn’t raw or inflamed.

Treating the Underlying Conditions in Your Dog

Your dog’s tongue could help you determine if your furry friend needs to see the veterinarian. If at any time you notice your pet's tongue changing color or if your dog is panting excessively, you might want to consider taking your pet to get checked out at your vet.

Dog insurance could help cover some conditions your dog’s tongue is warning you about. Learn how pet insurance works and get started with a free quote today!

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1 “Your Dog’s Tongue Color is A Telltale Sign of Its Health,” The Upper Pawside

Coverage underwritten and issued by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85254 or Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations. Application is subject to underwriting review. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC for details. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator for this coverage. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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