Canine Tongue Color And Signs Of Illness

James Glover
by James Glover
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QuestionWhat color is a healthy tongue color for a dog? My Brittany Spaniel is a 9 year old male who is very active and a healthy weight. His tongue color is more pale blueish white, then toward a pinkish color. He is often breathing heavily. (M Smith - Michigan)

Answer

Most dogs have pink tongues (Chow Chows have black tongues), making it fairly easy to check for symptoms of mouth disorders. While many mixed breed dogs have colored speckles on their tongues, black spots that were not previously there can be a sign of melanoma, a type of cancer. Lighter (often white) marks on your dog's tongue can indicate a reaction to a toxin or allergen - such as if your dog has been licking something some kind of chemical.

A bluish tongue color in dogs can indicate a condition called cyanosis - which essentially means there is a shortage of oxygen in the blood. Cyanosis is usually noticeable in the gums and other mucous membranes and can be a symptom of a number of underlying causes, including heart disease, respiratory disease and exposure to a toxin. If your dog's tongue is bluish in color and you are sure that this is not due to eating anything that could transfer this color (also check toys for transferable dye) then I recommend a thorough veterinary examination to determine if the discoloration is due to cyanosis. The fact that you suggest your dog is often breathing heavily might suggest that he has a respiratory problem.

Disclaimer: This service is meant to provide advice only and is not meant to replace an appointment with a registered veterinarian. Users should always seek a second opinion. Unfortunately we are only able to answer several questions per week so not everyone gets a published answer. And, unfortunately we can't answer by email.
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