Q. My 1-year-old male Pug has hung his tongue out of the side of his mouth about 1½ inches since he was about 6 months old. I noticed the other day when he tried to lick my face that he does not have control of the end of his tongue. Should I be concerned about this?
A. Dogs’ tongues have always been a source of fascination for dog owners. At times they seem to extend endlessly, appearing at times to grow longer by the second. The antibodies in dog saliva that get lapped onto wounds are well-known for their healing properties. The small papillae, or wart like growths, that cover the surface are effective for cleaning even the most stubborn stains.
Usually the color of the tongue, or its ability to lick an owner’s face effectively, are not significant medical issues.
There are times when a tongue may appear purplish, blue or gray. But it is the color of the mucous membranes on the gums above and below the teeth that is an important indicator of disease (for example, pale gums can indicate a low red blood cell count).
Occasionally a dog can have a facial paralysis that can affect the function of the tongue, and usually they will not be able to retract it into their mouth. Occasionally dogs can get large swellings at the base of the tongues that contain saliva. These are known as salivary mucocoeles and require surgery and drainage to repair. If a tongue gets lacerated or bitten, it will bleed alarming amounts, especially disconcerting to the veterinarian having to treat the wound
But generally, dog tongues function flawlessly, rarely cause medical problems and effectively do their jobs of healing, cleaning and loving. Dog owners should not worry too much about the occasionally poorly-aimed lick, or large wad of saliva that may sometimes strike unfortunate targets.