Why Is My Dog Sleeping With Its Tongue Out? [Is it OK?]

I know it may be concerning if your dog is sleeping with its tongue out, but thankfully it’s not always due to severe reasons. There are several explanations for them doing so, and it’s not always related to health problems.

Sometimes dogs do it when they are relaxed, and other times, it could be after playing. However, on the opposite end, there are times when it could be due to underlying health issues.

Sometimes it may be easier to tell but not always. These health issues can be caused by many problems such as dental disease or even injuries you may not realize they sustained.

For example, if your dog is hurt and has experienced trauma to its jaw or head, it could cause its tongues to stick out. But, of course, other symptoms follow and should never be ignored.

So if your dog is sleeping with its tongue out, let’s look at the various causes and when you should seek medical attention.

why is my dog sleeping with its tongue out
Why is my dog sleeping with its tongue out? Is it normal?

Cause 1: Hanging Tongue Syndrome

Hanging tongue syndrome occurs when a dog has lost control of the tongue, resulting in it continuously hanging out of its mouth.

Causes for hanging tongue syndrome include a jaw injury or dental problems. Neurological damage can also cause hanging tongue syndrome and in some cases, certain medications.

A trip to the vet is recommended to diagnose hanging tongue syndrome properly. Your dog would need a physical as well as diagnostic tests. These would include a blood count, a biochemical profile, and a urinalysis.

Treatment

Treatment would ultimately depend on the cause. Most of the time, only check ups and lubricating the tongue are required. This lubrication treatment would include water and olive oil.

There will also be frequent checks to see if the texture on the tongue has changed, as it could be indicative of sunburn or frostbite. Other treatments include antifungal medication or antibiotics if an infection is present.

However, if all control of the tongue is lost the vet may suggest feeding your soft dog foods since it’s much easier to swallow. If your dog has an enlarged tongue known as macroglossia, the vet may recommend surgery to restore quality of life. Especially since macroglossia can, unfortunately, cause difficulty when dogs sleep, eat, and drink. 

a dog asleep with its tongue hanging out
A dog asleep with its tongue hanging out

Symptoms

Symptoms for hanging tongue syndrome include:

  • Bleeding or a cracked tongue
  • Thickening of the tongue
  • Dry tongue
  • Tongue infection
  • Bad breath

Cause 2: Relaxation  

When dogs are relaxed and resting, their tongues may stick out. This simply means they are relaxed and calm as they try to go off to sleep.

It also means they are trying to regulate their body temperature to stay cool while sleeping.

Cause 3: They Are Breathing Through Their Mouths

Believe it or not, dogs can breathe through their nose and mouth as we humans can. However, they can do so simultaneously and it actually benefits them. 

When dogs sleep with their mouths open and tongues out, sometimes it’s just to simply help them take deeper breaths. It’s not always a sign of distress or pain. It could also mean they are just catching breaths and sleeping peacefully. 

boston terrier smiling
The happy smile and MASSIVE tongue of a Boston Terrier!

Cause 4: They Are Panting 

As you know, dogs are quite energetic and can play for a long period. Due to this, they need to cool down as quickly as possible, which is why they start panting.

Panting helps them to store oxygen and increase their breathing rate. In addition, increasing the amount of breaths they draw helps them to regulate and lower their core temperature, thus cooling them down.

So, don’t fret if your dog lies down panting with their mouth open and tongue out after a long day. It’s their natural way of cooling down and getting their body back in balance.

tongue of pug dog
A happy Pug dog with its tongue out

Cause 5: It Could Signal Something Worse 

Unfortunately, there’s the possibility that if your dog has their tongue out, it could be a sign of something wrong.

It could mean your dog is in distress. This distress could be a symptom of food poisoning, stress, or a heatstroke.

All these are problematic conditions and you should monitor any potential symptoms closely. Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • Bruised gums
  • Your dog may appear lethargic
  • High breathing rate
  • Dry gums
  • Seizure  

Food poisoning symptoms include:

  • Tremors
  • Dehydration
  • A reduction in appetite 
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting  

Lastly, the stress in dogs can cause:

  • Panting
  • Shaking
  • A change in their bodily posture 
  • Pacing around 
  • Hiding                  

If you notice any of these symptoms, along with your dog having their tongue out, it may be best to seek medical attention.

chihuahua smiling out for hike
A smiling tiny Chihuahua enjoying nature. They surprisingly DO love a rugged walk!

Breeds That Stick Out Their Tongues 

Certain breeds may stick their tongues out more than others habitually. Some of these breeds include:

  • Mastiffs
  • Chihuahuas 
  • Pugs
  • King Charles Spaniels
  • Bulldogs  

Other Reasons Dogs May Sleep With Tongues Out

Sleeping isn’t the only time a dog may have their tongues out. In other situations, you may need to pay extra attention as it could be due to something else.

poodle with a toothbrush
A cute brown Poodle with a toothbrush. Periodontal disease and gum troubles does impact Poodles!

Cause 6: Dental Problems

Dental issues in dogs can also lead to a hanging tongue. For example, if your dog is suffering from a dental condition that may cause pain, it may leave its tongue out as it sleeps to get relief.

Also, if they need to get teeth pulled due to an underlying dental condition, it will cause their tongues problems. This is because, on top of helping them eat, teeth also act as a barrier to hold the tongue in place. Without this barrier, it will cause the tongue to hang outside of their mouths.

Cause 7: Certain Dog Breed

Many flat-faced dogs may experience sleeping with their tongues out. This will happen because of their genetics and the size of their jaws.

For example, Pugs may experience hanging tongue syndrome either when they sleep or as a permanent condition. They are prone to this since they have a flat face which can cause the jaw structure to be much smaller.

Breeding can also play a role in the issue of jaw size. Since their jaws are small, their tongues can sometimes be too large for oral cavities. Another breed with this issue are Pekingese.

Furthermore, a dog may sleep with their tongues out due to an underbite or overbite, a mouth injury, or because of a jaw or  facial deformity.

Problems That Can Occur With a Tongue Hanging Out

Unfortunately, if a dog has their tongue out for extended periods, this can cause other serious problems. If it’s something they do habitually or are unable to control, you can expect these potential side effects.

gray poodle at the vet smiling
Young Veterinarian doctor listens to the heart beat of a happy gray Poodle

Cracked Tongue

Since they constantly breathe air through their mouths, it will cause the mouth and tongue to become severely dry. This dryness will cause the tongue to become cracked and bleeding.

A cracked tongue can also cause a dry mouth. A severely dry mouth in dogs can cause tooth decay, receding gums, ulcers or lesions, sticky saliva, accumulation of plaque, and food aversions.

A dry tongue with cracks is easily treatable. But, first, Simply ensure your dog remains hydrated. If they are hydrated, it will help to contain moisture in their mouth

Infections 

A dog’s tongue is dry and cracked badly enough, unfortunately, can lead to an infection. That’s why it’s essential that you keep your dogs’ tongues moisturized and, of course, take them to the vet.

Also, if their tongue is hanging out, it increases their chance of capturing bacteria. This, unfortunately, gives harmful bacteria access to their mouths which can also lead to infections and other oral problems.

Frostbite

two labradoodles in snow white
Two light coat Labradoodle with wavy hair enjoying the first snow. Labradoodles LOVE playing in snow

If your dog lives in a frigid environment or climate and has a hanging tongue, this may lead to frostbite. Therefore, it’s best not to take them out in the cold and ensure their tongues remain warm and also moist from hydration.

Conclusion 

The bottom line is to keep a close eye on your dog as soon as you spot their tongues. Pay attention to how often they may sleep with it and if it’s usual, whether or not any potentially strange symptoms accompany it.

As previously mentioned, it’s not always harmless. If they have their tongue out during activities that don’t include sleeping or playing, then you need to take a closer look into this issue.

If they are, for example, panting, but they never put their tongues back inside their mouth. This behavior could be a sign of potential dehydration. They need water and also need to cool down quickly.

Of course, you also want to keep their dental health in mind. Be sure to check their breath, tongue, and mouth. In addition, you want to ensure no visible infections are present.

Apart from a cracked tongue, as mentioned before, lousy breath indicates that dental issues could be present.

If you suspect something may be wrong, always go with your gut. What may not seem much of an issue on the surface could be a problem brewing underneath it all.

So it’s always best to remain safe, especially for your dog’s health.

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