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Lap Up These Fascinating Facts About a Dog's Tongue
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Lap Up These Fascinating Facts About a Dog's Tongue

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Jun 13, 2022

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Tongues are a prominent feature of a dog's face. They're adorable, can often be seen sticking out, and attract many hashtag contributions on social media. Dog tongues are relatively large, and they serve many functions, from helping to gobble up food to showing you affection by slathering you with slobbery kisses.

1

Temperature regulation

dog panting at home gradyreese / Getty Images

For the most part, dogs use their tongues when they want to cool down. Instead, dogs pant when they feel hot, like after a long walk, and the action causes moisture to evaporate from as far down as their lungs. If you notice your dog panting more than usual, give them a drink, turn up the AC, or put them in a more comfortable room. Never leave them in the car, not even with the windows open!

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2

Varied colors

dog with blue spots on its tongue laying on the grass Elan Irving / Getty Images

Melanin leads to blue or black spots on a dog's tongue. These specks are like freckles—most of the time, they're not a cause for concern and show up pretty early in a pup's life. If, however, they change texture or size or appear suddenly in adulthood, it could be a major issue, and it's worth visiting a vet for a check-up. The Chow Chow and Chinese Shar-Pei have bluey tongues and are unique in this respect. Most dog breeds have pink tongues that turn red when they're overheating or unwell. A tongue that's too pale could indicate anemia. A spotted tongue can't tell you whether a dog is purebred.

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3

They're silky smooth

dog sticking out its tongue

Big cats like cheetahs have rough tongues, and so do domesticated house cats. The coarseness helps cats groom themselves so predators can't smell and locate them. But in dogs, these oral muscles are smooth as silk. Dogs evolved from wolves that hunt in packs, so the power in numbers made a sandpapery tongue less necessary.

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4

Oral health

owner brushing dog's teeth Tatsiana Volkava / Getty Images

It's a good idea to brush your dog's teeth whether they're blowing you away with bad breath or not. You only need to focus on the outer side of your dog's teeth because its tongue takes care of the inner surface for you.

Some unfortunate doggies have tongues that are too long for their mouths, and they may end up nipping them accidentally. Hanging tongue syndrome is more common in brachycephalic dog breeds. If you notice blood in the mouth, it could be related to this abnormality rather than a result of poor oral health.

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5

Power drinking

Dog drinking water from bowl Chalabala / Getty Images

Dogs can't suck water up like humans because their cheeks don't close. Cats are in the same proverbial boat, and they employ a similar drinking method to dogs—only dogs use way more force. Dogs slam their tongues down on water before curling and pulling them up. Large dogs pull their tongues up at an acceleration that's almost eight times the force of gravity, and smaller dogs use about four Gs. Cats prettily lap up H20 around the one G mark. Your canine buddy with a bigger tongue that curls more dramatically is probably the sloppiest drinker in your home.

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6

Dog tongues and self-soothing

Dog licking man's face lying on sofa Capuski / Getty Images

Cats and dogs do a lot of licking when they're stressed out. Sometimes, you might be on the receiving end of these wet stress-busters. Licking releases endorphins that give rise to feelings of relaxation and act as painkillers, so excessive licking could suggest your dog is suffering from a medical condition. Licks also communicate submissiveness.

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7

Tongue cleanliness

Female Hands Holding Golden Retriever Head cirano83 / Getty Images

Dog owners will know that their fur babies put loads of weird and wacky objects in their mouths, including poop. It's gross, but when a dog eats its own poo or licks its privates, it's not the end of the world unless they exhibit other unusual behaviors. Despite being aware of this phenomenon, some believe a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's. Both dogs and humans have bacteria-laden tongues and oral cavities, but the bacteria species are different. Dog pecks are usually safe because quantities of Salmonella and E. coli are too small to harm people. Still, vulnerable individuals should keep a healthy distance from smooches. As a rule, try not to swap spit with your dog. And don't get your dog to lick your wounds because you heard dog saliva has healing powers—it can have the opposite effect and cause infection.

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8

Dog tongues and allergies

sick woman blowing nose with dog in front of her AndreyPopov / Getty Images

If you recently brought a new dog into your home and you've begun struggling with allergies, you may immediately think that dog dander and fur are to blame. Dander is similar to dandruff, except it's not just from the scalp but all over the body. It's so tiny that you might not notice it at all and does indeed cause allergies. But it's not the only problem. Dog saliva also contains allergens that cause owners to break out in hives or experience runny noses and eyes. You may be allergic to one but not the other, so arrange to do an allergy test to confirm.

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9

Dog tongues and taste buds

Pet dog is licking spoon with peanut butter dough Betsie Van der Meer / Getty Images

Humans have about six times as many taste buds as dogs do, but dog tongues have a superpower—they can find water. Dogs share this ability with cats and some other carnivores. Aside from water taste buds, dogs can taste bitterness, sweetness, and sourness. What's missing? Salt. With a meat-heavy diet in the wild, dogs didn't evolve to taste salt.

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10

Speaking in tongues

https://www.gettyimages.ca/detail/photo/silly-dog-tilts-head-in-front-of-barn-royalty-free-image/467923438?adppopup=true#:~:text=Curious%20and%20Happy%20Tricolor%20Dog%20with%20Tongue%20out TheDogPhotographer / Getty Images

A dog's tongue is like a fifth limb it uses to navigate its surroundings and communicate. You may even notice air licking when your dog is hungry or anxious. Dogs use their tongues to pant in a manner you can interpret as laughter, and coupled with their famous eye contact, you'll often feel like you and your canine bestie genuinely understand each other.

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