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Dog Tongue Color Chart | Symptoms, Causes & What to Do

Dog tongue color chart with symptoms causes and what to do

Understanding your dog’s tongue color can help you keep track of your dog’s health. Although it can’t always be 100% reliable, it can provide hints about what’s happening inside your dog’s body.

Initially, fur parents panic when they see their pet’s tongue turning red or purple. But don’t worry!

It’s not necessarily a cause for concern, as it could be harmless. However, it’s still worth knowing what triggers this to happen.

In this guide, I’ll break down the different colors in the dog tongue, potential reasons, and other symptoms to look out for if you notice this issue in your furry friend.

What Color Should a Healthy Dog Tongue Be?

White dog with healthy tongue color

The color of a healthy dog’s tongue should range from light to deep pink. Apart from that, it shouldn’t be dry or sticky and should have no sores or scabs as well.

However, keep in mind that there are a few breeds that naturally have purple tongues. Let’s talk about that in more detail later.

For starters, a dog’s tongue is a stretched muscular organ that contains a lot of blood vessels and taste buds.

It also has salivary glands with tiny ducts that produce both the mucoid and watery fluid, which are essential for keeping your dog’s mouth moist.

Like humans, a healthy tongue is crucial for our pet’s well-being. It helps with eating, drinking, and swallowing. Moreover, canines also use it as a wound healing tool and for cleaning themselves.

In addition, their large tongues can be an excellent indicator of their overall health. It can predict if your fur baby is lacking red blood cells, dehydrated, or experiencing underlying medical health conditions.

So, how can you tell if something is wrong with your pooch? The answer is by regularly monitoring its tongue! A sudden change in color and texture of a dog’s tongue could be a warning sign of illness.

Dog Tongue Color Chart: What Does a Dog’s Tongue Color Mean?

Two Labrador dogs with pink or pale tongue color

When your dog’s tongue changes into another color, there are only two explanations: a hidden health problem or it ate something strange.

Either way, it’s recommended that you know what these tongue colors might signify.

You’ll find in this section all the information you need to know about the colorings, what causes them to change, and what you should do if it happens to your furry friend.

But before rushing your pooch to the vet’s clinic, it’s noteworthy to examine if it ate something that gives off a certain color. Some foods contain dyes or chemicals that can discolor a dog’s tongue.

Here’s a breakdown of all the tongue colors and their possible causes:

Tongue ColorPotential Causes
Pink– Healthy tongue
Purple/Blue– Not getting enough oxygen
– Heart or respiratory disease
– Physical trauma
– Foreign body attack
– Hypothermia
Yellow– Liver disease
– Pancreatitis
– Gallbladder or gastritis malfunction
Pale/White– Internal bleeding
– Anemia
– Leukemia
– Lyme disease
– Lack of blood flow
– Dehydration
Red– Kidney disease
– Melanoma
– Bacterial infection
– Cut on its tongue
– Poisoning
Black– Heat stroke
– Poisoning

Now, here is a detailed explanation of each tongue color your dog may have:

1. Dark or Light Pink Tongue

As previously mentioned, pink tongues indicate that our pooches are healthy. It’s the most common color, and it usually signifies that they have a good diet and a robust immune system.

Although it might be alarming to see a dog’s pink tongue with black or blue spots, there’s no reason for you to worry. This is a typical genetic condition in mixed-breed dogs such as the Pit Chow or Chow Pei.

However, if these spots rapidly appear on your pup’s tongue and your dog shows signs of discomfort, you should schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

2. Blue or Purple Tongue

If you notice that your dog’s tongue suddenly turns blue or purple, this could be caused by several factors. Before you start panicking, though, let’s analyze the possible causes of this tongue discoloration.

First, it could signify that your pet’s oxygen level is decreasing. This usually happens if it’s suffering from a heart or respiratory disease. Aside from the purple tongue, it may also experience difficulty breathing.

Second, a sudden appearance of a blue tongue could mean that your dog might have ingested some toxic foods. There’s a high chance that you’ll witness other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal distress.

Other than the circumstances above, your furry companion might also be suffering from any of the following:

  • Blunt force trauma
  • Foreign body attack
  • Organ stress
  • Exposure to cold water resulting in hypothermia

To be sure, bring it to the vet as soon as you notice the symptoms I’ve mentioned. But if you originally own a blue-tongue breed dog, then it’s totally normal.

3. Yellow Tongue

The yellow discoloration of a dog’s tongue might be a sign that it has pancreatitis, liver disease, or gallbladder problems.

Regardless, dog owners should take note of the common symptoms of these health concerns, including jaundice or the yellowing of the tongue and skin, loss of appetite, and nausea.

Additionally, all of these conditions are serious and demand immediate veterinary attention.

4. White or Pale Tongue

Dehydration is the usual cause of a pale or white tongue. Aside from that, you might also notice that your dog pants excessively. As a responsible pet owner, ensure that your canine has access to plenty of fresh water every day.

There’s a possibility, however, that your fur baby may be experiencing hidden health problems.

If you discover that its mucus membranes and gums become pale as well, your dog might be anemic. This means that the animal’s body probably doesn’t have enough red blood cells.

Moreover, pale tongues in dogs can be a sign of internal bleeding, leukemia, and Lyme disease caused by ticks. Therefore, get your pet checked out by a vet right away.

5. Red Tongue

When a dog’s tongue color turns bright red, it could be an indication that it’s suffering from an allergy or bacterial infection. These conditions usually come with other symptoms, such as high body temperature and coughing.

On top of that, fur parents might observe their dog’s tongues looking swollen or inflamed — another sign that something’s wrong. In most cases, the redness of the tongue will heal on its own.

However, if your canine has difficulty eating or drinking because of inflammation, you should contact a veterinarian immediately.

Although it is unlikely, a red tongue might also signify that your pooch has kidney problems, melanoma, or it ingested something poisonous.

6. Black Tongue

While other breeds naturally possess a black or purple tongue, it can be another sign of canine poisoning. This occurs when your pup accidentally consumes toxic substances.

Consequently, the cells in your dog’s tongue begin to die and turn black. If you think that this is the cause, seek veterinary treatment for your pooch as soon as possible.

On the other hand, a black-colored tongue in dogs can be a warning sign of heat stroke. They may also experience lethargy, excessive drooling, and seizures, to name a few.

Dog Breeds With Naturally Black and Purple Tongues

Dog breeds with naturally black and purple tongue color

The Chinese Shar-Pei and Chow Chow are two of the most popular dog breeds with naturally blue-black or purple tongues. You’re probably wondering what causes this color difference. Well, the answer is genetics! 

Because these two breeds possess a high concentration of pigment-producing cells, they generate more melanin than many other canines.

The more melanin your pup has, the higher chance it will show a dark or purple tongue. Also, its taste buds and mucous membranes will appear dark-colored as well.

Despite that, owners of these breeds can be at ease. These doggies will still be able to enjoy the sweet taste of treats like those with normal pink tongues.

In addition to the blue-tongued pooches mentioned, here are several other breeds that exhibit a similar unique tongue:

  • Siberian Husky
  • Pug
  • Tibetan Mastiff
  • Akita
  • Newfoundland
  • Pomeranian
  • Dalmatian
  • Rottweiler
  • Shiba Inu
  • Maltese
  • Doberman
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), Chow Chows and Shar-Peis should have a solid blue or purple tongue.

But for the other breeds mentioned on the list above, black spots or extra pigmentation are only natural.

Health Conditions That Can Affect Your Dog’s Tongue Color

By simply keeping tabs on your dog’s oral hygiene, you’ll be able to catch any issues before they become serious.

To make it easier for you, I’ll equip you with a list of illnesses that could be affecting your pooch’s tongue.

Although we already covered some of these health matters earlier, there are still other possible problems for you to consider.

Now, let’s tackle the following common conditions that can influence a dog’s tongue:

  • Asphyxiation: Also known as suffocation, this condition happens when a canine’s airway becomes blocked, preventing it from getting enough oxygen and fresh air. If your pet suddenly has a purple tongue, appears uneasy, and is gasping for breath, it could be experiencing asphyxiation.
  • Stomatitis: Another health issue that influences a dog’s tongue is stomatitis. It’s a condition in which the taste buds and mucous membranes become inflamed and ulcerated. Typically, the canine’s pink tongue will turn red and swell up.
  • Hypothermia: If your pup spends too much time in an icy lake or other freezing areas, it’s likely to develop hypothermia. This condition is characterized by low body temperature, a dark or purple tongue, and extreme shivering.
  • Gingivitis: Neglecting a dog’s oral health can lead to gingivitis, which is an infection or inflammation of the gums and teeth. On top of that, it can cause irritation and redness on a dog’s tongue. If left untreated, this can eventually result in tooth loss or periodontal disease.
  • Oral Papillomatosis: Oral papillomatosis is an illness that causes wart-like growths to form on your furry companion’s tongue. They can be white, gray, yellowish, or brown and come in different sizes. As a result, this sudden rough surface can make it hard for your pooch to eat or drink normally.
  • Soft Tissue Trauma: A bruised or purple tongue indicates that your dog may have suffered a soft tissue trauma. For instance, if a foreign body gets stuck in your pup’s mouth, it can cause injury to its tongue and surrounding soft tissues.
  • Dry Mouth: When pooches don’t get enough water, their salivary glands produce less drool. As such, this can lead to a dry mouth and pale tongue.

As you can see, a change in a canine’s tongue color can indicate a variety of health problems. However, it’s worth noting that most of these conditions are manageable with the right treatment plan.

When Should You Take Your Dog to the Vet?

Vet checking dog tongue closeup

As a devoted canine owner, it can be alarming when your dog’s tongue color abruptly changes. Due to that, you may want to go to the vet clinic as soon as possible.

However, there are some cases where a color change can be temporary and not dangerous at all.

Aside from the appearance of a purple or blue tongue, here are other warning signs you should look out for when monitoring your dog’s health:

  • Presence of blood on its saliva: If your canine starts to bleed from its tongue, something might be seriously wrong with its body. It could be due to internal bleeding caused by an injury or disease, so seek veterinary advice immediately.
  • Lack of appetite: Another indicator of illness is when your dog stops eating. If it has the additional symptoms of a yellow or blue tongue and lethargy, it’s time to make an appointment with your vet.
  • Its mouth smells bad: Of course, if a dog’s mouth shouldn’t smell foul, you should regularly clean it. But if you notice that a strong odor remains after constant brushing, it might be time to see a veterinarian.
  • Vomiting and disorientation: When a purple tongue is accompanied by vomiting and apparent confusion, it’s recommended to take your pooch to the vet immediately.

By knowing what other symptoms accompany a rapid change in tongue color, you can determine if your pet needs urgent medical attention. 

How to Brush Your Dog’s Tongue

Essentially, maintaining your dog’s oral health should be your top priority. After all, a mouth full of bacteria can cause severe dental diseases if left unchecked.

To begin with, invest in a high-quality toothbrush with gentle bristles. It should be small enough to fit comfortably in your canine’s mouth.

Although some people think they can use human toothpaste for dogs, it actually contains harmful ingredients. So, your safest choice is to buy one that’s designed for them.

Once you have the right tools to clean your pet’s tongue, make sure that you do this at least twice a day. Overall, a canine with a healthy mouth is more confident in giving you slobbering kisses!

To learn more about the basics of brushing your dog’s tongue, watch this clip below:

How to Brush your dog's teeth - AKC Vet's Corner

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, it’s clear that the canine’s tongue can provide plenty of information about its overall health.

With the dog tongue color chart as your guide, you can quickly assess if your pet is suffering from any medical condition.

However, before you take your fur baby to the vet due to a sudden appearance of a purple tongue, examine if it’s displaying the other threatening symptoms we’ve discussed above.

Remember that certain foods can also leave a stain on its tongue, but these changes are temporary and do not affect your dog’s health.

Have you ever seen your pooch’s tongue change to another color unexpectedly? Tell us about it in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to bookmark this dog tongue color guide for future reference!