As a dog owner, you’ve probably noticed your pooch sticks his tongue out in a variety of situations.
Unlike humans, sticking their tongue out isn’t a sign of playful disrespect in dogs! Yet, there are many reasons why your dog may have his tongue hanging out, some of which are harmless.
For example, there are a few cases where your dog is trying to tell you he needs something by sticking his tongue out, or there may be a medical issue involved that requires professional attention.
Here are some of the most common reasons why dogs stick their tongue out, and what you should do about it.
Why Do Some Dogs Stick Out Their Tongue?
1. Hot Environment
If your dog has his tongue hanging out, accompanied with what looks like a smile or grimace and heavy breathing, this is panting and is very normal.
Panting is a natural process that keeps dogs cool in hot temperatures and is similar to how humans sweat (although dogs do have sweat glands on their paws, too).
However, it can also lead to dehydration.
If your dog is panting a lot and is in a hot environment (such as in direct sun or in a very hot room) move him to shade or air conditioning to cool his body temperature and make sure he has plenty of water.
This will help keep his hydration levels where they need to be to stay healthy and help cool him down.
2. Excitement or Stress
Again, this is related to panting.
Think of the reasons why humans sweat: because we’re too hot, excited or under stress. If your dog has his tongue out and is breathing heavily, but there’s no reason for him to be hot, then he’s probably excited or nervous.
Perhaps he sticks his tongue out and pants when you approach him with a treat, or when you come home after work and he greets you at the door. This is perfectly normal and nothing to be worried about.
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Your dog may also pant like this when he’s meeting another dog or person for the first time or is going to see the vet.
A word of caution, though:
If your dog is panting around another animal and it seems to be out of fear rather than excitement (you may be able to tell the difference from the sounds he makes or his posture), wait until he has calmed down to prevent any sort of aggression.
3. Comfort and Relaxation
Some dogs will often have their tongue out when they’re asleep or extremely relaxed.
If your dog sticks his tongue out while you’re rubbing his belly or cuddling him, this isn’t him being a brat, it’s actually good news! It means your pup is feeling incredibly relaxed and comfortable, and it’s a sign of trust.
Whether it’s just poking out from between his teeth to hanging out all the way past his chin, your dog’s tongue sticking out is a sign that he feels safe and cozy around you.
4. Hanging Tongue Syndrome
Hanging Tongue Syndrome is pretty self-explanatory. It means your dog’s tongue always or almost always hangs out of his mouth for no discernible reason.
Smaller dogs and brachycephalic breeds (meaning dogs that have that flat or squished face look) are more prone to this condition since their tongue may be too large for their mouths or their jawbone is shaped in a way that doesn’t support their tongue.
However, any size dog could have an overbite or underbite that causes Hanging Tongue Syndrome, and your dog could develop this condition later in life as he ages.
Hanging Tongue Syndrome is usually the result of genetics and isn’t symptomatic of any greater health problem.
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Another reason besides genetics that a dog may develop this condition is because his teeth have rotted out or been extracted due to poor oral care.
This is definitely not a reason not to adopt a dog with Hanging Tongue Syndrome! It just means that you may have to feed him soft food and keep an eye on his dental hygiene.
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The most important thing to remember about dogs with Hanging Tongue Syndrome is that they need access to water at all times because their tongue is always dried out from being exposed to air and not being moisturized by saliva.
5. Neurological Problem
If your dog suddenly develops Hanging Tongue Syndrome for no clear reason along with other odd behaviors, this could very well be symptomatic of a neurological problem. In this case, take him to the vet office immediately.
Also, if you’ve just started your dog on a new medicine and his tongue is always sticking out, this could be a side effect of the medication. Talk to your vet about this and see if the dosage needs to be adjusted or the medication needs to be changed.
And there you have it!
It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your dog’s health. If your dog sticks his tongue out and his symptoms don’t match any of the reasons described above, or if you still have concerns, again, always consult a veterinarian.