If you’ve found yourself exclaiming, “my dog’s tongue is pale,” then you may be interested to learn more about what a healthy dog tongue looks like and what a pale color tongue may indicate.
In general, a pale tongue is a warning sign of underlying health conditions affecting your fur baby, and you may need to run some diagnostic tests to figure out the precise cause. Proper treatment will usually follow, and sometimes urgent treatment may be required to save a dog’s life.
A dog’s tongue is a vital organ. They use them to lick their wounds clean, swallow food, bark, regulate their body temperatures through panting, and show affection.
Below, we explore what a healthy tongue should look like and the possible causes of a pale tongue. That way, you’ll know what to look for and when to seek medical treatment from your veterinarian.
What Color Tongue Should a Dog Have?
A dog’s tongue should usually be pink, but certain dog breeds have naturally unusual color tongues. For example, a Chow has a purple-bluish-colored tongue. It’s a good idea to try and remember what your dog’s tongue usually looks like so you can recognize when it seems strange.
There are various colors that your dog’s tongue may change to, each indicative of a particular health issue. For example, if it’s pale or white, it could mean your dog is anemic, which means they are not absorbing iron sufficiently or are malnourished. If a tongue turns yellowish, it could indicate a liver problem, and if it turns blue or purple, it could be a sign of cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, lupus, or poisoning. If it’s very red, that could mean your dog is dehydrated, has an infection or fever, or has another condition like diabetes or cancer.
That’s why it’s beneficial to always keep an eye on your dog’s tongue color, and if you notice a change, you may need to consult a vet.
Below we look at some of the conditions that may be present when your dog’s tongue turns a pale shade. Often, you may need to rush your dog to seek urgent medical assistance if the tongue color is due to bloat or shock.
What Can Cause Pale Tongues in Dogs?
A pale or white tongue is a warning sign that something’s not quite right with your dog’s health. Here are some of the triggers that can cause a pale tongue in dogs.
Anemia in dogs can be fatal, so you need to take a pale tongue seriously and get treatment right away. Similar to when humans are anemic, there are physical signs or symptoms of anemia beyond white gums to look out for, like lethargy or atypical fatigue, loss of appetite, or blood in their feces or urine.
Many things can cause your dog to become anemic, like trauma, a cut in their intestines (for example, if they ate something sharp), a tick-borne disease, infection by parasites, nutritional imbalances, or cancer. Anemia can lead to shock, so it’s essential to take your dog to the vet and find the anemia’s cause.
If your dog’s tongue has a white color layer on it, rather than the actual tongue being white, then this could mean your dog has oral thrush or Candida.
Candida in dogs is a rare condition that is either a sign of a compromised immune system (or autoimmune disease) or a result of antibiotics.
Chronic Diseases and Conditions
Various chronic conditions can cause a dog’s tongues to turn pale pink or white. Each of the conditions below can cause a pale tongue and will typically include other symptoms.
These chronic conditions and diseases include cancers like leukemia, gastrointestinal disease, heart disease, liver disease, and respiratory diseases. Some of the chronic conditions that cause tongue discoloration include the following.
If an animal experiences physical or emotional trauma, it can lead to a slowing of their circulatory system, rapid breathing or panting, and a cold-feeling body.
Shock can also occur with internal bleeding in animals that experience physical trauma. If an animal is in shock, it can be life-threatening and cause the tongue to turn pale. It’s best to take your pet to a veterinarian immediately if you suspect shock.
Kidney disease can also cause gums to turn a pale color. Typically, you’ll also notice other signs, like your dog drinking more water than usual and urinating frequently. Your fur baby may also experience loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.
Loss of Blood
Internal bleeding causes blood loss and can result from physical injury or a chronic condition or disease. For example, ulcers in a dog’s stomach can bleed and cause pale gums.
Gastric Dilation-volvulus (also known as bloat)
Bloat is when a dog’s stomach is filled with air or food and then becomes twisted, making it impossible for anything to move through the intestines and exit as usual. This trapped air sac or food can become distended, cut off circulation, and ultimately be life-threatening. It can happen quickly, and usually, your dog will appear very restless, uncomfortable, and stressed.
A dog’s tongue may appear pale if circulation is cut off or if the dog goes into shock. It’s important to get your dog to a vet immediately if you suspect bloat.
Blood Clots and Platelet Disorders
Some dogs may have medical conditions like thrombocytopenia, which can prevent a dog from bleeding normally and could cause spontaneous bleeds.
If a dog suddenly loses a lot of blood, they may need a blood transfusion. Additionally, many things could cause blood loss. Diagnostic tests and platelet level detection helps to identify conditions like thrombocytopenia.
Problems that affect proper heart functioning can affect the amount of blood supplied around the body, leading to pale gums. Signs associated with heart disease include being abnormally tired, having a smaller appetite than usual, and having a bloated stomach.
Heart scans and diagnostic tests can identify cardiac problems, and there are many treatment options available.
Many different types of cancers affect dogs, some of which can cause anemia and pale gums.
Injuries and Infections
Various injuries and infections can cause pale tongues in dogs. A common problem is parasites, which is why many people choose to deworm their pets regularly.
Parasites like intestinal worms can rob dogs of vital nutrients, which can lead to anemia and cause other symptoms like vomiting or loss of appetite.
Other parasites like fleas can cause blood loss (apart from being very uncomfortable) and pale gums.
My Dog’s Tongue Is Pale – What Should I Do Now?
It’s not normal for a dog’s tongue to be pale, and it needs to be taken seriously. It’s best to take your pet for a checkup at the veterinarian, and if you suspect bloat or shock, you need to seek emergency treatment immediately.
When you take your dog to the vet, try to tell them when you first noticed pale gums, how your dog has felt, other symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting, and if your dog may have eaten anything unusual or dangerous.
The vet may need to do some x-rays and draw blood to help analyze the cause of the problem. This may include doing a blood cell count, testing for infectious diseases or bacterial infections, checking body temperature and blood pressure, and asking about abnormal behavior.
Depending on the diagnosis, your veterinarian will come up with a treatment plan. This could include a blood transfusion, gastrointestinal medication, parasite medication, anti-fungal medication, or antibiotics.
Final Thoughts on What To Do if Your Dog’s Tongue Changes Color
Color changes to a dog’s tongue can indicate serious medical conditions, diseases, trauma, or injuries. This includes anemia, kidney disease, shock, parasites, cancer, or oral thrush.
When your dog’s tongue unexpectedly changes color, it can be scary. It’s a good idea to know what color your dog’s tongue is naturally and to keep an eye on any changes. Pay attention to your dog’s appetite, mobility, and energy levels.
If your dog is behaving unusually and you also spot a change in tongue color, it’s best to take your dog to see a veterinarian to assess the cause of your hound’s tongue discoloration.