Have you ever seen a dog hang its tongue and wondered why it did that? Upon further observation and careful study of the dog's behavior, you would likely find out why it does that. Generally, dogs happen to hang their tongues out for a myriad of reasons.
Before getting to the reasons, my personal experience with dogs has helped improve my understanding of dogs. Over the years spent around dogs, I noticed many hang their tongues out due to mannerisms rather than abnormalities.
One apparent reason for hanging their tongues out is that they use it to sense their environment. Dogs naturally have heightened senses of smell and hearing, making them quite sensitive to their surroundings. They used these senses to detect slight changes. This attribute makes them excellent for a guard in homes and offices.
My young Boerboel puppy, Bruno, took an immediate liking to everyone in the family, which is typical of dogs. Even my little sister, who is quite scared of large breed dogs, loves him as a family member. Bruno is quite fond of leaving his tongue out hanging, especially when he senses a pleasant smell in the air. This is typical of him after giving him his regular bath, as we always use a lemon-scented shampoo to give him a nice wash.
Another example of this behavior is when we cook on grills or in the oven. While Bruno doesn't eat from the grill except we give him, he often hangs out his tongue once he smells the roast meat.
Reasons why dogs hang out their tongues
Apart from perceiving changes in their environment, other reasons dogs hang out their tongues include:
A widespread reason for your dog hanging his tongue out is its mood. Some dogs might express excitement, fear, or stress by hanging their tongues out. Just like humans have attitudes that change based on their mood, your dog could, too.
- Congenital Disorders
Some dogs are born with congenital disorders that affect the position of their jaws. Some of such anomalies reduce the space available in the mouth for the dog's tongue. As a result, you might discover your dog hangs its tongue out often.
Except your dog suffers a higher level of discomfort, jaw misalignment disorders are pretty benign. There's little to do about such conditions. You will notice the anomaly best when the dog barks or eats.
In the same vein, some dog breeds have naturally flat faces, providing little room for the mouth for the dog's tongue. It is very common to find such dogs hanging out their tongues. You might also notice tongue hanging in short-snouted, or brachycephalic, dogs, like bulldogs and pugs.
- 'Tasting the air.'
Many mammals use their tongues to perceive environmental changes, like a new scent or pheromone release. As discussed above, dogs also hang their tongues out to 'taste the air' when they sense changes in their environment, like a female on heat or a stranger. This phenomenon is called the Flehmen Response.
- Regulating temperature
Humans sweat when they are hot. The sweat released helps cool the skin surface in hot conditions, so the body stays at a regulated temperature.
Your dog, on the other hand, can't sweat due to its thick fatty layer. Hence, it pants–hangs out its tongues–in hot conditions, so it doesn't overheat. As a result, it is common to find dogs panting heavily on a hot afternoon. Like you, they are only trying to stay cool!
- Trauma to the mouth
Injuries to the mouth could make a dog hang out its tongue. The injuries could be in the form of nerve damage, ulcers, and broken joints within the mouth.
Wounds inside your dog's mouth might cause some discomfort for the dog. It will have to hang out its tongue, so it doesn't experience too much pain. Tumors also cause dogs to hang their tongues outside their mouths.
If your dog had an accident that led to a broken jaw, it might leave its tongue hanging during the recovery period because of that pain. Afterward, the tongue returns to being normal.
- Hanging tongue syndrome
Hanging tongue syndrome in dogs results from several causes, including aging, infections, injuries–as explained above–or nerve damage. Some breeds are more predisposed to developing the syndrome, although other dogs can get it.
Hanging tongue syndrome could lead to tongue infections, cracking, and bad breath. The hanging tongue is also quite susceptible to sunburns and frostbites.
Treatment regimens often include careful monitoring of your dog's movements, drugs, and surgery.
- Mental and neurological disorders
Your dog might hang its tongue because of brain disorders. Hanging tongues might be an indication of a motor nerve problem or a mental problem.
Dogs that suffer from motor loss conditions, like partial seizures, could momentarily hang their tongues. Mental issues are relatively more challenging to analyze, but they are often linked to brain disorders.
What to do when your dog hangs its tongue
Observing your pet closely is the responsibility of every pet owner. Not only does it help you bind well with them, but you also notice their mannerisms and normal behavior. That way, you would easily decipher when something's wrong with your furry friend.
When you monitor your dog's activity, you will find out whether hanging its tongue is normal for it or not. You should take it to a vet for professional analysis if you notice such strange behavior or when it hangs its tongue out for too long.
As stated above, many of such cases are not causes for concern, as it could be an everyday habit for your dog. Other cases could be resolved by using medications, surgery, or simply waiting, especially for injuries to heal properly.
In conclusion, dogs stick out their tongues for several reasons, most of which are highlighted in this article. If your dog does this too often, without putting it back in its mouth, you should consult a vet.