Why is My Dog’s Tongue White? (What to Do About It)

Your dog’s tongue plays an essential role in how it interacts with the environment. For example, mothers use their tongues to lick their pups and encourage them to breathe and drink milk.

Puppies and younger dogs lick to show their submissiveness. When the dogs are injured, or their skin is irritated, they lick to soothe the area.

Licking is also a way of how dogs communicate with their human parents. An example would be your dog slobbering you with kisses when it sees you after a long time.

When we think about a dog’s tongue, the image of a bright-eyed, happy dog with a pink tongue hanging from its mouth comes up.

But not all dogs have pink tongues. If your dog’s tongue has turned white, the reason could be a health issue that affects a dog’s circulation system—for example, anemia, injury, infection, or heart disease.

The article will attempt to answer why is my dog’s tongue white and what you can do about it.

How Should a Dog’s Tongue Ideally Look Like?

How Should a Dog’s Tongue Ideally Look Like
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Most dog breeds have a characteristic pink, moist and slobbery tongue. The tongue is one of the primary sensory organs and consists of a complex network of arteries, veins, and capillaries.

The tongue gets its pink or deep pink color due to the underlying blood vessels and high circulation in the organ. So, if the dog’s tongue loses color, the cause is typically a circulatory issue.

There are a couple of exceptions, though, when it comes to the tongue’s color. According to PetMD, two breeds of Chinese origin have blue or blue-black tongues.

Chows Chows and Shar-Peis are the two breeds. Dogs that are a mix of these breeds may have a similar tongue shade or spots of blue-black over them.

Here is an interesting tidbit about a dog’s tongue. During summers or post a high-energy exercise session, you may often see the dog’s pink tongue lolling outside its mouth. This is because panting is how dogs cool down.

When the dog pants with an open mouth, the air moves over the tongue, mouth, and lungs. This leads to quick moisture evaporation, helping the dog regulate its body temperature.

Why is My Dog’s Tongue White? – Possible Causes

Pale to white tongues is a symptom that should not be ignored as it could point to a severe health condition. The possible causes could include anemia, shock, allergies, infections, and chronic conditions.

Let us look at some of the possible causes in detail.

1. The Dog Could Have Severe Anemia

The Dog Could Have Severe Anemia
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The right amount of red blood cells (RBCs) is essential as they are responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the dog’s body. It contains a protein called hemoglobin that carries oxygen.

RBCs are produced in the dog’s bone marrow. They circulate in the blood for three months. When the RBCs start aging or getting damaged, they are removed from circulation. Then, the healthy components are reused to form new RBCs.

Anemia is a condition when the number of RBCs in the blood reduces. There is typically an underlying health issue that brings about anemia.

For example, the causes of anemia can range from blood loss due to trauma, infections, and tumors to auto-immune diseases. Then there are chronic conditions like liver or kidney disease or hypothyroidism that suppress the bone marrow, leading to reduced production of RBCs.

Pale to white gums and tongues is one of the first signs shown by anemic dogs.

Dogs that suffer from anemia can show additional signs like:

  • Weight loss
  • Low stamina
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart rate

What to Do?

If the dog’s tongue has turned white or shows the above symptoms, please visit the vet. Several tests like packed cell volume, blood smear study, urinalysis, and bone marrow biopsy may be required to diagnose the cause.

The treatment for anemic dogs depends on the underlying condition. For example, the vet may prescribe corticosteroids if it is an auto-immune disease. If it is an infection, then antibiotics will be accordingly prescribed.

If the dog is severely anemic, then a blood transfusion will be done to stabilize the dog. The earlier the issue is caught, the better the prognosis. Thus, discussing the dog’s condition with the vet at first sight of symptoms would be best.

Also Read:- Why Is My Dog’s Tongue Cold? The Cold, Slimy Truth

2. The Dog May Have Suffered a Shock

The Dog May Have Suffered a Shock
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Low blood volume or pressure can result in less oxygen reaching the different parts of the dog’s body. Vital organs like the heart and brain may also struggle to receive enough oxygen.

When this happens, the dog’s body will shut the circulation to the skin tissues and focus on getting oxygen to the vital organs. This results in the dog’s gums and tongue losing color, it losing energy, getting sick, and going into a state of shock.

Like anemia, shock in itself is not a condition but a result of a health issue. A dog can suffer different types of shock depending on the cause.

For example, one of the most common shock types canines suffer from is hypovolemic, which occurs due to low blood volume in circulation. The cause could be an injury, ruptured tumors, excessive vomiting, or diarrhea.

Another shock type is distributive, which occurs due to issues with blood flow distribution. The causes of this shock type include bacterial infection and allergic reactions.

Hypoxic shock is another type that may be caused due to severe lung disease or carbon monoxide toxicity.

There are typically three stages to shock – early, intermediate and late. Initially, the dog may show mild symptoms but can worsen as the shock progresses.

Dogs suffering from shock can experience symptoms like:

  • Pale gums and tongue
  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Labored breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sunken eyes

The symptoms of shock should not be ignored, as the condition could be fatal if left untreated.

What to Do?

You should treat shock as an emergency situation. Contact the vet immediately once you notice the signs of shock. The vet may ask you to drive down to the clinic immediately.

In the meantime, make the dog lie on its right side. Place a folded blanket or a towel under its lower back. This position will help improve blood flow to the heart and brain.

Cover the pet in a blanket. Ensure it is warm. Try keeping the pet calm and sane by using reassuring phrases. While waiting for the vet or during transportation, do not offer the dog anything to drink or eat.

The vet will first try to stabilize the pet’s condition with intravenous fluids, oxygenation, and medicine and then work on treating the root cause.

When the dog is discharged, recovery will involve frequent checking of vital organs and functions, oxygen levels, and other vital signs.

Also Read:- Dog Sticking Tongue Out And Shaking? 8 Surprising Reasons Why!

3. The Dog Could Have Internal Bleeding

The Dog Could Have Internal Bleeding
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Blood does not freely exist in the dog’s abnormal cavity. But when an abnormal amount of blood exists in the dog’s abdominal cavity, the condition is known as internal bleeding.

One of the first visible symptoms of this condition is pale to white gums and tongue.

One of the common causes of internal bleeding in canines is cancer. Studies show that there is an 85% chance of cancer being the cause. An example is a hemangiosarcoma, a tumor that is usually found in the heart and liver.

Other causes can include ingesting poisonous substances, injuries, bone fractures, and auto-immune diseases.

A dog that is suffering from internal bleeding can show signs like:

  • Pale gums and tongue
  • Troubled breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Bruising
  • Distended stomach
  • Collapse

What to Do?

If the dog shows signs of internal bleeding, please get in touch with the vet immediately. Be ready to drive the dog down to the emergency clinic.

In the meantime, try to keep the pet comfortable. Do not apply any pressure on the dog’s distended stomach. Before transporting the dog, wrap it up in a dry towel. Again while carrying the pet, support its front and back parts and leave the stomach area alone.

The type of treatment and degree of invasiveness will depend on the cause of internal bleeding. For example, if the reason is a broken bone or a tumor, then surgery may be unavoidable.

Other treatment options may involve the administration of intravenous fluids, pain medication, and oxygen therapy. In addition, the vet may prescribe antiarrhythmic drugs if the dog’s heartbeats are erratic.

During the recovery process, the dog will need plenty of rest. You may have to limit the dog’s movement with a cage in severe cases. In case of surgery, the site needs to be kept clean and monitored for any infection or swelling.

4. The Dog’s Tongue Could be Infected or Injured

The Dog’s Tongue Could be Infected or Injured
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Dogs can develop plaque and tartar on their teeth. If the dog’s oral hygiene is not maintained, then it could lead to issues like bad breath, tooth loss, mouth ulcers, and infections.

These mouth ulcers can leave behind white spots on the dog’s tongue. Ulcers can also result from other health conditions like hypothyroidism, auto-immune disorders, and cancers.

The ulcers can rupture and further cause infections.

Oral papillomas typically develop on the canines’ tongue, gums, and lips. They are commonly known as dog warts. The dog is said to have a cauliflower tongue as warts have an uneven surface, and the growth resembles that of a cauliflower.

These warts may look weird or dangerous, but they typically do not pose serious health concerns. The problem starts when the papillomas become infected. Then the dog can show signs like pain, swelling, and bad breath.

What to Do?

In case of ulcers and infections, it would be best to visit the vet. Treatment may involve a combination of medication and topicals.

Oral papillomas can spread quickly, but they are usually harmless and resolve on their own. But if there is an infection, contact the vet. For severe cases, the treatment will involve anti-viral doses and topicals.

In the case of oral hygiene issues, it would be best to adopt a proactive approach. The mechanical action of brushing is the most effective way of keeping plaque and tartar away.

If your dog is averse to brushing, consider poultry or meat-flavored toothpaste, dental chews, and sprays.

5. The Dog Could Have a Heart or Lung Disease

 The Dog Could Have a Heart or Lung Disease
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The dog’s lungs and heart work in unison to pump oxygen-rich blood to all parts of its body. So when there is an issue with either of the vital organs, blood circulation is one of the first functions that gets affected.

As mentioned above, when sufficient blood is not being circulated, the body focuses on preserving the vital organs. Thus, one of the first symptoms you will notice in the case of heart or lung disease is pale gums and tongue.

Almost 10% of dogs examined have been found to have some form of cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, these diseases are usually serious and may also result in death. Some heart conditions could be congenital abnormalities, while others could be infectious or degenerative.

When it comes to lung diseases, severe cases of pneumonia and chronic bronchitis can cause scarring of lung tissues. In addition, cancer and tumors can also affect the lung’s functionality.

Canines with heart or lung disease can show signs like:

  • Exercise intolerance
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fainting episodes

What to Do?

Suppose the dog shows signs of heart or lung disease; the same needs to be discussed with the vet. The treatment will depend on the cause, health, and age of the pet.

Some heart diseases may be treated with surgery, while others may be managed with a combination of drugs and therapies.

The vet may suggest changes in diet and exercise routine. You are responsible for administering the correct medicine dosage at the recommended time.

Some conditions may be progressive by nature. However, with medication and lifestyle changes, these dogs can still enjoy a decent quality of life.

6. The Dog Could Have Fungal Stomatitis

 The Dog Could Have Fungal Stomatitis
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In this condition, your dog’s actual tongue may not turn white, but the infection would give the tongue a white coating.

Fungal stomatitis is a rare condition among canines. It is an oral inflammation caused by the overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. It may affect dogs with a severely compromised immune system.

Dogs with fungal stomatitis can show symptoms like:

  • Mouth inflammation
  • Drooling
  • Bad breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sores on the tongue

The condition can affect any dog breed, but it is more commonly seen in breeds like Terriers and Maltese. If your dog has been dealing with long-term oral diseases or has been on long-term antibiotics or immunosuppressants, the chances of developing this condition are higher.

What to Do?

Fungal stomatitis is a condition that needs to be treated by the vet. The treatment plan may involve medication to control the problem-causing fungus and pain relief drugs.

If any teeth are severely affected, then extraction would be necessary. The vet may also recommend a full dental cleanup. Further diet changes may also be suggested.

Summary

Dogs are typically supposed to have pink and moist tongues. Therefore, any color changes could be a sign of the underlying health condition they could be dealing with.

So, if you are wondering why is my dog’s tongue white, there could be several reasons for the same. The dog could have an underlying health condition that is leading to anemia, shock, and internal bleeding.

The dog could have an infection or injury around the mouth area. Or it could be a serious heart or lung condition.

Dogs with these conditions, along with a white tongue, show signs like difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance, increased heart rate, and lethargy. Please discuss these signs with the vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

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