Why Is My Dog's Tongue White? (Hint: Call The Vet!) - PawsGeek (2024)

Your dog’s tongue is a well-developed structure of muscles, blood vessels, glands, and nerves. Any changes in texture, color, shape, and coating of the tongue can warn you of potential health problems.

Normally, a healthy dog’s tongue is pink-colored. A white or pale tongue color in dogs is a serious symptom that may indicate an underlying disease. Your dog’s tongue can turn white due to anemia, parasitic infection, poisoning, cardiovascular emergency, or fungi overgrowth.

All the conditions are potentially life-threatening and require immediate medical care. Call your vet or visit an emergency for further testing and a complete diagnosis.

What Color Should Your Dog’s Tongue Be?

A healthy dog’s tongue color is deep pink.

That said, the color may vary from breed to breed. For example, Shar-Pei and the Chow Chow are known for their blue and black tongues. Mutts mixed with these breeds often have spotted tongues with splotches of blue or black.

But what does it mean if your dog’s tongue color turns bright red or yellow? Here’s a short guide on dog tongue colors that can give you a clue about potential health problems.

Why Is My Dog's Tongue White? (Hint: Call The Vet!) - PawsGeek (1)


A bright red tongue usually indicates that your dog is hot. Providing the weather is warm or your pup has been exercising, the red tongue means that your dog’s body is working on cooling itself off.

The surface area of the tongue increases, letting more blood onto the tongue’s surface to be cooled. In this case, a red tongue isn’t a cause for alarm.

However, you should get concerned if your dog is resting and his tongue has a bright red pigment. This might indicate that your pooch is in pain or suffering from inflammation or bacterial infection.


Yellowish or orange tongue pigment in a dog can signify problems with the liver and pancreas as well as potential jaundice or autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA).

Dogs with yellow/orange tongue color can also have whites of the eyes and skin appear yellowish. They can also display a loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Consistently yellow or orange tongue warrants an urgent visit to a vet.


Unless your dog has a naturally blue tongue, blue and purplish undertones may signify poor oxygenation (hypoxia) or a severe lack of oxygen in the bloodstream (cyanosis). These can develop due to congestive heart failure, respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, anemia, or pain medication.

Both conditions are life-threatening and require urgent medical attention.

If you notice changes in the tongue color of your dog, report them to your vet. Keep an eye on other symptoms and behavioral changes that can help your veterinarian make a complete diagnosis.

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What Does It Mean If A Dog’s Tongue Is White?

Typically, a tongue color ranging from white to pale pink is a red flag that your dog isn’t well. It’s either a sign of blood deficiency, bad circulation, or the presence of toxic chemicals.

Here are the most common reasons why your dog’s tongue is white or looks pale.


When your dog is anemic, his body produces low levels of blood cells or hemoglobin. Anemia isn’t a disease but rather a clinical symptom of a bigger problem.


Fleas, ticks, and worms are tiny parasites feeding on your dog’s blood. They carry potentially life-threatening diseases and can cause anemia, leading to whitening your dog’s gums and tongue.


Ingesting toxic substances, such as rat poison or zinc metal objects can interfere with your dog’s clotting ability. This can, in turn, cause sudden blood loss through nosebleeds or internal bleeding.

Internal bleeding

When a white or pale tongue is accompanied by other alarming symptoms such as bloody stool, blood clots in urine, or vomiting with streaks of blood, your dog is likely suffering internal bleeding. Any of the conditions require immediate veterinary attention.

Cardiovascular emergencies

Heart problems such as cardiac arrhythmia prevent your dog’s heart from functioning correctly and pumping enough blood. This can subsequently manifest itself in a white or pale tongue.


When your dog is in shock due to injury or a medical emergency, his cardiovascular system stops functioning properly. His body fails to receive enough oxygenated blood, which results in weakness, rapid heartbeat, and pale or white tongue.

Fungi and viruses

Fungi and viruses such as Oral Papilloma Virus or Candida won’t make your dog’s tongue entirely white. Still, they can cause a white coating or appear as clusters of white lumps on a tongue. These are more common in young dogs and puppies whose immune system isn’t yet fully developed.

No matter the cause, if your dog’s tongue suddenly gets white or pale, keep track of other worrying symptoms to inform your vet about. The signs of emergency to watch out for might include:

  • pale gums
  • weakness and lethargy
  • unresponsiveness
  • bloody or black stools (melena)
  • play bow or “praying” posture as a signal of pain.
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Why Is My Dog's Tongue White? (Hint: Call The Vet!) - PawsGeek (2)

What Should You Do If Your Dog’s Tongue Is White?

A white tongue often signifies an emergency, so the “wait and see” approach isn’t the best course of action in this case.

If your dog’s tongue turns pale or white, call your vet and schedule an immediate visit. The sooner you diagnose a possible cause of unusual tongue color, the lesser the risk of potential complications.

There’s no first aid for anemia, a parasitic infection, or internal bleeding, all of which can cause white tongue in dogs.But here are a few helpful tips about what to do before your vet visit:

  • Keep your dog quiet and stress-free. This is especially the case if you suspect heart problems or internal bleeding.
  • In case of severe vomiting, restrict your dog’s water intake to small amounts or offer them ice cubes.
  • If your dog has ingested human medicine such as NSAIDs or other toxic substances, try to induce vomiting. Use the approved 1:1 mix of hydrogen peroxide and water.
  • Collect fresh urine and stool samples for your vet visit. This way, the lab can do initial testing for common parasites and infections as soon as possible.

Can Anemia Cause White Tongue?

Anemia is one of the most common causes of white tongue in dogs.

In addition to a white tongue, a dog with anemia will have pale or nearly white gums and insides of his cheeks. He will also sleep more, get tired quickly, and might have melena in the stool.

When your dog is anemic, his body produces a low red blood cells (RBC) level. Red blood cells carry oxygen and make sure every system functions efficiently. If there’s a shortage of RBC, your dog’s heart has to work harder to pump more blood and make up for the lack of oxygen. This extra work can lead to heart failure and an increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest in the long term.

Thus, if you suspect your dog has anemia, contact your vet as soon as possible. Anemia can be life-threatening when left untreated, especially for young dogs and puppies.

What Does An Anemic Tongue Look Like?

An anemic tongue in dogs will have a pale pink or white color and may often look dry. Due to the dryness, your dog can drink excessively and develop mouth ulcers that look like white flaky cracks.

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Anemia due to iron deficiency can also change the texture of your dog’s tongue, making it appear smoother. This happens due to the loss of small bumps that give the tongue a rough texture – papillae.

Why Is My Dog's Tongue White? (Hint: Call The Vet!) - PawsGeek (3)

What Causes Sudden Anemia In Dogs, And Can A Dog Recover From It?

Sudden anemia in dogs usually results from severe blood loss due to:

  • physical trauma – a car accident or a fight with other dogs
  • poisoning – ingested toxins prevent clotting and cause internal bleeding
  • parasite infestation – hookworms or ticks feed on your dog’s blood.

Your dog may go into shock due to severe anemia. You can quickly identify a shock state based on your dog’s behavior. Your pet will act confused and weak; he may be shivering and collapse; his gums and tongue will be pale or entirely white.

You can save your dog from sudden anemia if you act fast and contact your vet immediately after noticing any alarming symptoms. If your dog’s anemia is severe, he may require a blood transfusion to boost his red blood cell count.

When the primary cause of anemia is addressed and treated, and his red blood cell count is normalized, your dog can successfully recover.

What Home Remedy Can You Give Your Dog For Anemia?

Never use any home remedies to treat your dog’s anemia until you consult a veterinarian. The reason is that anemia isn’t a disease but rather a clinical symptom.

There are several types of anemia in dogs. Some are hereditary, while others occur due to significant blood loss from a parasitic infection or cancer. Others develop due to a lack of vitamins, like iron deficiency anemia.

The treatment of anemia will differ based on your dog’s diagnosis, and each treatment is case-based. You can’t treat autoimmune hemolytic anemia by adding beef liver to your dog’s diet, just like deworming medicine won’t help improve iron-deficiency anemia.

If you suspect your dog has anemia, visit a registered vet specialist. They will help you identify the cause of your dog’s low blood cell count and develop a treatment plan based on your dog’s needs and test results.

Remember that the longer you treat your undiagnosed dog with home remedies, the higher risk of complications due to anemia.

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Why Is My Dog's Tongue White? (Hint: Call The Vet!) - PawsGeek (2024)


What does it mean when a dog's tongue turns white? ›

If your dog has a pale or white tongue, this generally points to something blood-related. They may be anemic or have internal bleeding. It can also be a sign of leukemia, which is a cancer in the blood and bone marrow.

What does an unhealthy dog tongue look like? ›

A dark red, purple, or blue-tinged tongue could be a sign of heatstroke, toxin exposure, heart/lung disease, or electrical shock. A pale pink-to-white tongue could be a sign of severe anemia due to immune mediated disease, or internal bleeding.

What to do if my dog's tongue is pale? ›

If your dog normally has a pinkish nose and/or tongue, then you may find that they appear pale as well. If your dog is exhibiting other signs along with pale gums, then you should get to your veterinarian right away. If it happens when your vet is closed, then you should contact the nearest open emergency veterinarian.

What color should a dog's tongue be when it's healthy? ›

The normal color of a healthy tongue should be a deep pink. When hot, the tongue will normally be red due to the heat that is being released from the vessels, so the best time to look at your dog's tongue is when he's at rest. The younger the animal, the pinker the color, due to his vitality.

Can dehydration cause a pale tongue in dogs? ›

Sometimes, the color of a dog's gums and tongue can be a telltale sign of a dehydrated dog as well. If the gums and tongue are pale, it can be a sign that your dog needs some much-needed water. If the gums and tongue are pink, the dog is okay, but if they are dark red-pink, it can also be due to dehydration.

What does an anemic tongue look like? ›

Pernicious anemia causes the tongue's surface to look smooth and appear red instead of the pinkish color of a normal tongue. The tongue might also appear thick or beefy in texture. Some tongues might even be swollen or seem to have cracks.

What color should a dog's tongue and gums be? ›

The colour of healthy dog gums varies from dog to dog, but they should generally be a bubble-gum pink or salmon colour. Some dogs have naturally mottled gums which isn't anything to worry about. However, if your dog's gum colour has changed this could be a sign of something more serious.

What are signs of anemia in dogs? ›

Anemic dogs also have little stamina or energy, so they seem listless or tire more easily. Additionally, weight loss, labored breathing, loss of appetite, a faster heart rate, or signs of blood loss (bloody nose, blood in the stool, urine, or vomit) may also be seen.

What does pale tongue mean? ›

What does a pale tongue mean? According to The Mayo Clinic, a white tongue is the result of the papillae's swelling on your tongue's surface. And when debris, dead cells, and bacteria get caught between these enlarged papillae, it can look like a white coating.

What is wrong with my dogs tongue? ›

Inflammation of the tongue is called glossitis. It may be due to infection, irritation, wounds, disease, chemicals, or other causes such as electrical burns or insect stings. A thread, string, or other foreign object may get caught under the tongue.

How do I know if my dog has kidney failure? ›

Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Dogs

Weight loss. Nausea and vomiting. Pale gums. Loss of balance, or stumbling.

What does a normal dog tongue look like? ›

Healthy dog tongues are usually pink, with the exception of breeds with black- or blue-spotted tongues. Even in a pink-tongued dog, black-pigmented areas on the tongue or gums are common. Lesions, blisters, or broken skin on the tongue or mouth should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

How do I know if my dogs mouth is healthy? ›

Healthy Gums

Healthy dog gums should be firm, and can range in color from pink to black. Some dog gums are spotted, which is also normal. Healthy gums are never swollen or discolored. Puffy red or white sections on the gums are signs of periodontal disease.

What color is a dog's tongue when overheating? ›

If you think your dog is overheating, the two best things to be aware of are the temperature at the time of symptoms and the signs of doggy dehydration: Excessive panting. Dark pink to red tongue lolling out of mouth. Dry, tacky mouth and thick saliva.

Does white tongue mean dehydration? ›

White Tongue: A white tongue can be a sign of bacterial or debris buildup on the surface of the tongue. This can be caused by mild dehydration, smoking, dry mouth, or illness. A white film on the tongue could be a sign of oral thrush, which is a type of yeast infection.

How can I rehydrate my dog fast? ›

If your pooch is mildly dehydrated provide your pet with small amounts of water to drink every few minutes or offer your dog pieces of ice to lick. To help restore your dog's electrolyte balance you could also provide your pup with Ringer's lactate (an electrolyte replacement fluid).

What are three 3 health consequences of a dog being dehydrated? ›

Jerry Klein, the AKC's chief veterinary officer and an expert in veterinary emergency and critical care, symptoms of canine dehydration include:
  • Loss of skin elasticity.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Vomiting with or without diarrhea.
  • Reduced energy levels and lethargy.
  • Panting.
  • Sunken, dry-looking eyes.
  • Dry nose.
  • Dry, sticky gums.

Does a white tongue mean anemia? ›

Iron deficiency anemia or pernicious anemia – A pale (almost white), smooth tongue can be caused by a deficiency in iron or vitamin B12.

What are signs of a pale tongue? ›

A white tongue can be a sign of a health condition, such as anaemia, scarlet fever, lichen planus, leukoplakia, geographic tongue, mouth ulcers or oral thrush. But do not self-diagnose. See a GP if you're worried.

What is Richter's syndrome in dogs? ›

your veterinarian may detect mildly enlarged lymph nodes or an enlarged liver or spleen." Rarely, patients with CLL will develop aggressive lymphoma called Richter's syndrome. In these patients, severe lymph node enlargement, coughing, vomiting, weight loss, and neurologic signs can develop.

What are the symptoms of lymphoma in dogs? ›

The most easily located lymph nodes on a dog's body are the mandibular lymph nodes (under the jaw) and the popliteal lymph nodes (behind the knee). Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, lethargy, weight loss, swelling of the face or legs (edema), and occasionally increased thirst and urination.

What is the first indicator of leukemia? ›

Common leukemia signs and symptoms include: Fever or chills. Persistent fatigue, weakness. Frequent or severe infections.

Is my dog's tongue supposed to be white? ›

A dog's tongue can only be white or pale if the tongue is not getting enough healthy red blood cells to turn it pink. This often means severe anemia caused by disease, malnutrition, parasites, cancer, or toxins.

How do you know if your dog is dehydrated? ›

In the early stages of dehydration, your dog is likely to exhibit visible symptoms such as being apprehensive or acting noticeably tired. He or she may pant excessively which can actually cause additional fluid loss. Sunken eyes, dry noses, and dry gums are also possible.

What color is anemic dog poop? ›

Dark, tarry stools, called melena, or dark blood in your dog's vomit or feces are also important warning signs of anemia. If you see either of these, visit your veterinarian immediately.

What food can cause anemia in dogs? ›

Onions, garlic and anything in the chive family can cause something called “Hemolytic Anemia” which is a severe form of anemia where the blood cells can become damaged and are destroyed before new ones can be made.

What are the symptoms of phosphorus deficiency in dogs? ›

Symptoms of a phosphate deficiency include stunted growth, heart problems, and inhibited red blood cell function. Some pet parents of dogs with kidney failure feed their dogs a phosphorus-deficient diet to try to combat the condition.

What color tongue indicates disease? ›

A healthy tongue is pink in color. If your tongue color is white, yellow, orange, red, black, purple, gray, green or blue, it could mean you have an underlying health condition. If you have tongue discoloration that doesn't go away, tell your healthcare provider.

What color is a sick tongue? ›

A pink tongue is healthy and normal. A red tongue may indicate heat in the body like a fever or a hormonal imbalance. A reddish purple tongue is a sign that there may be inflammation or an infection in the body. A pale pink tongue may be a sign of a vitamin deficiency, a weak immune system or a lack of energy.

Is a white tongue always thrush? ›

While a white tongue often indicates thrush, it can be a sign of another condition. Several oral conditions have similar symptoms to thrush, causing them to sometimes be mistaken for thrush.

What is dog stomatitis? ›

Stomatitis is a more severe form of inflammation than gingivitis and usually involves more tissues than the gingiva including the tongue, lips, and other soft tissues in and around the mouth. Stomatitis is often very painful causing a decreased appetite due to the pain.

What is dog Macroglossia? ›

Macroglossia is a very rare condition in dogs. This is. often characterized by an abnormally large tongue that. may have reduced range of motion and cause. breathing difficulties.

Can dogs get yeast infection in mouth? ›

Although extremely rare, a yeast infection can occur inside the mouth, leading to drooling, discomfort, and problems eating. These signs can also be indicators of other oral issues that can be determined by your veterinarian.

What are the 3 early warning signs of kidney disease in dogs? ›

Some of the earliest signs of kidney disease in dogs may include subtle weight loss, urinating/peeing more often and drinking a lot more water. Therefore, if you notice your dog is peeing on the floor or asking to go out more, or if your dog is always thirsty, it's time to visit your veterinarian.

What are the 3 early warning signs of kidney disease? ›

3 Warning Signs That You May Be Experiencing Kidney Failure
  • Dizziness and Fatigue. One of the first possible signs of weakening kidneys is the experience of overall weakness in yourself and your overall health. ...
  • Swelling (Edema) ...
  • Changes in urination.

What happens when a dog's kidneys start shutting down? ›

When a dog's kidneys fail, toxins such as ammonia and nitrogen can build up in their bodies. This, in turn, can cause nausea, vomiting, and/or a decreased appetite. This condition is known as uremia, and it is directly related to kidney failure. Other symptoms of uremia.

Why do dogs lick you? ›

Licking is a natural and instinctive behaviour to dogs. For them it's a way of grooming, bonding, and expressing themselves. Your dog may lick you to say they love you, to get your attention, to help soothe themselves if they're stressed, to show empathy or because you taste good to them!

Will a dogs tongue heal itself? ›

Pets in the tongue tend to heal quite quickly, and don't often need sutures. If the wound is not bleeding, it may heal on its own, and what you can do is Monitor it for any signs of infection or ongoing bleeding. She may need to be fed soft food for a couple of weeks while it heals, but these wounds are often fine.

What does a dehydrated dogs mouth look like? ›

Another way to check for dehydration is to examine their gums. A healthy, hydrated dog's gums are pink and moist. Tacky, dry, or off-color gums can be a sign of dehydration.

How often should you wash your dog's mouth? ›

Dental disease can lead to painful and swollen gums and even tooth loss. To prevent serious dental disease, it is recommended to brush your pet's teeth at home at least two to three times per week and take your pet for a professional dental cleaning once a year.

How can I heal my dogs mouth? ›

Initially, the oral cavity can be rinsed with an oral antiseptic solution and the wound should be explored to determine the extent and depth of the laceration. Any traumatized or devitalized tissue must be debrided. Warm saline can then be used to flush the wound, rinsing away any debris.

What does a sick dogs tongue look like? ›

If your dog's tongue is normally pink, a sudden color change may indicate a medical emergency. A dark red, purple, or blue-tinged tongue could be a sign of heatstroke, toxin exposure, heart/lung disease, or electrical shock.

What is shovel tongue in a dog? ›

Shovel tongue is when the tip of the tongue starts to shovel out or look more of like a heart shaped. So, let's check out Rocky here. Rocky, what's up baba? So, Rocky's definitely got big-time shovel tongue and that's stage two. Stage 2 is totally fine.

Do dogs tongues change color when stressed? ›

Think of a color range on a scale of one to seven; one being plum, seven being pinkish white. Five and a half would be perfect pink! The dark plum, indicates that the dog is in stress. Not enough oxygen is being circulated throughout the body as demonstrated by the color of the tissues in the tongue extremity.

How do you fix anemia in dogs? ›

One or a combination of these treatments may be recommended:
  1. Immunosuppressive drugs.
  2. Deworming or parasite medications.
  3. Blood transfusion.
  4. Bone marrow transfusion.
  5. Intravenous fluids.
  6. Surgery.
  7. Antibiotics.
  8. Change to existing medications.
Jan 31, 2021

What is the survival rate of a dog with anemia? ›

Unfortunately, IMHA has a high mortality rate even in dogs that receive prompt treatment, with 50% to 70% of dogs dying of the disease in the first few weeks after diagnosis. In addition, there are reports that as many as 20% of dogs that recover from IMHA will relapse within the first year.

Can dogs fully recover from anemia? ›

Yes, a dog can recover from anemia, depending on the cause and severity of the condition. Anemia in dogs occurs when there is a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the bloodstream, which can result from a variety of underlying health issues.

What are 3 physical signs of internal bleeding? ›

The signs and symptoms that suggest concealed internal bleeding depend on where the bleeding is inside the body, but may include:
  • pain at the injured site.
  • swollen, tight abdomen.
  • nausea and vomiting.
  • pale, clammy, sweaty skin.
  • breathlessness.
  • extreme thirst.
  • unconsciousness.

How long can a dog live with untreated internal bleeding? ›

In most cases, a tumor on the spleen, which may have been growing for weeks in the abdomen without being detected, ruptures and starts to hemorrhage internally. This condition is called hemangiosarcoma. Dogs can bleed to death within a few hours if the bleeding continues unchecked.

How do vets fix internal bleeding in dogs? ›

Surgery is considered an emergency procedure for a bleeding pet and the removal of the spleen (splenectomy) is often the preferred option.

What is spatula tongue? ›

Spatulate tongue, which means when a dog's tongue is wider at the end, can be a sign of tension, nervousness, or stress. This is especially the case when the spatulate tongue is paired with facial tension, along with agitated movement and a nervous look in the eyes.

What is Cushing's disease in dogs? ›

Cushing's disease results when the body produces too much of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is produced and stored by the adrenals, two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys. Dogs, cats, and humans can get Cushing's disease. It is more commonly found in dogs than in cats.

What is distemper in a dog? ›

Canine distemper is a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs.


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