Dogs use their tongues for way more than giving you a smooch on the face to show affection. Their tongues allow them to drink water, eat, taste food, groom themselves, and regulate their body temperatures. But what if your dog’s tongue is dark pink?
Most dogs have tongues that are bright pink, moist, and warm. While the exact shade of pink may vary from dog to dog, most dogs’ tongues are a medium shade of pink not dissimilar to the human tongue color.
When dogs’ tongues change colors, it could indicate a medical problem. If their tongues suddenly turn dark pink or worrisome colors, it likely requires a trip to the veterinarian or animal hospital.
So, let’s try to find out why your dog’s tongue is dark pink.
Before scrolling down this article “Why Is My Dog’s Tongue Dark Pink,” check out these related topics: Why is My Puppy Dry Heaving? (2023) and Why Do Dogs Wink? (2023).
Normal Tongue Color in Dogs
A healthy dog tongue is typically a bright, moist, medium shade of pink. While there are some breeds that have dark blue or black tongues — like Chow Chows and Chinese Shar-Peis — these are exceptions.
A dog may naturally have a darker shade of pink tongue or dark pigmentation spots on the tongue. If the color suddenly changes — including changing to dark pink — it could be a medical emergency.
Dark Pink Tongue in Dogs
If the dog’s tongue is dark pink, it could indicate a heatstroke, a reaction to toxins or chemicals, heart disease, or lung disease. These are all potentially life-threatening conditions requiring emergency treatment.
- Heatstroke: When a dog’s temperature goes over 105 degrees Fahrenheit, it suffers a heatstroke.
- Toxins or chemicals: Dogs are notorious for eating things they’re not supposed to, including toxins and chemicals.
- Heart disease: Dogs with heart disease may have lethargy, difficulty breathing, and discolored gums and tongues.
- Lung disease: Lung diseases in dogs may cause discoloration of tongues and mucous membranes.
Different Tongue Colors in Dogs and What They Mean
A dog’s tongue, mucous membrane, and gums color can give pet owners a good idea of its overall health.
The tongue can change colors as the dog experiences certain health conditions or exposure to environmental situations. Changes in a dog’s tongue color are significant and can require veterinary care. In some cases, this can be an emergency.
A bright pink tongue indicates a healthy dog. Most dogs, except a few breeds, have a bright pink, moist tongue. The tongue may expand or get more slobbery if the dog is hot, but it mostly stays bright pink.
Dark Pink, Red, or Purple Tongue
Dogs use their tongues for thermoregulation. Instead of sweating as humans do, dogs pant to release heat. Air moves over the tongue and mouth, and the moisture evaporates, helping lower the dog’s body temperature.
A dog with a dark pink, red, or purple tongue may be experiencing a heat stroke. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition where dogs cannot dissipate excess heat. In addition to the change in tongue color, dogs may also have rapid breathing, excessive panting, dry mucous membranes, skin hot to the touch, and a fast heart rate.
If your dog is experiencing the early signs of heatstroke, immediately move them to a cooler environment and provide water. Dogs in the middle of a heat stroke require emergency intervention.
Blue or Gray Tongue
Dogs with blue or gray tongues may be experiencing cyanosis. In addition to blue tongues, dogs may also have blue or gray-colored mucous membranes, gums, and skin.
Cyanosis is a condition where the dog is not getting enough oxygen. Cyanosis can result from heart disease, lung disease, genetic defects, blood clots, pneumonia, parasites, smoke inhalant, and electrical shocks. It is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency veterinary intervention.
Pale, White or Faded-Pink
A pale, white, or faded-pink tongue, gums, and mucous membranes could indicate anemia, a condition where the blood does not have enough red blood cells.
One way to test for anemia at home is by doing a capillary refill test. Push on your dog’s gums and then remove your finger. The gums should be pale when you remove your finger, but the color should return in a couple of seconds. If the color does not return, it could indicate a lack of blood or oxygen.
If you suspect your dog might have anemia, it is critical to get veterinary treatment as soon as possible.
Uncommon Causes of Tongue Discoloration in Dogs
While these aren’t the most common causes of tongue discoloration in dogs, pet owners should still be aware of them.
Your dog may naturally have darker spots on the tongue that change shape and color over time. These spots are benign and not a cause for concern.
This uncommon condition occurs mostly in long-haired dogs. As dogs use their tongues to groom themselves, burrs from the burdock plant get stuck in the tongue. It may cause an intense inflammatory response with large red lesions, making the tongue seem dark red.
While uncommon, newly dark pigmentation on your dog’s tongue could be cancer. Melanoma can cause pigmentation changes that usually look like dark spots with or without bleeding. If you notice changes in your dog’s tongue, you should get it checked out at the vet.
Your dog may have licked or chewed something sharp that damaged the surface of the tongue, causing it to become red and inflamed.
Diagnostics for Dark Pink Tongue in Dogs
Your veterinarian might use several different techniques to diagnose the underlying cause of your dog’s dark pink or discolored tongue.
The vet might start by taking a detailed history. Relevant questions include:
- When did the tongue color change?
- Did your dog eat anything unusual?
- Did your dog experience new environments?
- Was your dog exposed to chemicals?
- Was your dog injured?
The vet will almost certainly conduct a physical exam, looking at your dog’s tongue, gums, and mucous membranes. The vet will also perform a capillary refill test to check for anemia and use a stethoscope to listen to your dog’s lungs and heart.
The vet will order a panel of blood work to check your dog’s blood count and electrolytes and the presence of parasites or infections.
Your vet may order an X-ray, MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound to aid in diagnosis. These tests can be helpful if the veterinarian suspects cardiac, lung, or internal pathology.
Treatment for Dark Pink Tongue in Dogs
Treatment for a dark pink or discolored tongue depends on the underlying cause. If your dog has always had a darker tongue, it is likely a genetic trait that is not troublesome and does not require treatment.
Sometimes, the cause of a dark pink tongue will be apparent to the dog owner. If it’s hot out and your dog has been exercising vigorously, it will be relatively easy to identify overheating as the cause.
The treatment for a mild case of overheating (body temperature under 105 degrees Fahrenheit) would be to move your dog to a cooler environment, blow a fan on it, and provide water.
If your dog suffers a heat stroke — for example, a dog left inside a vehicle during the summer months — it is a life-threatening situation. You should immediately bring your dog to the veterinarian or an emergency hospital.
At the hospital, the veterinarian will use a combination of intravenous fluid, oxygen, medication, and other supportive measures.
However, sometimes the cause of a dark pink tongue in dogs will not be readily apparent. In this case, your veterinarian will need to perform some diagnostic tests to find the underlying cause.
Frequently Asked Questions
So that you are fully informed about what could cause a dark tongue on your dog, we’ve gathered the most frequently asked questions and respective answers.
Some breeds like Chow Chows and Chinese Shar-Peis naturally have dark tongues. If your dog’s tongue suddenly turned dark, it is likely a medical issue that warrants immediate veterinary care.
The most likely cause of a dark pink tongue in dogs is a heat stroke. Other causes include exposure to toxins, heart disease, or lung disease.
Most dogs should have bright pink and moist tongues. This means they are healthy, hydrated, and have an adequate blood supply. Depending on what color your dog’s tongue is, it could indicate several medical conditions like a heat stroke, anemia, cyanosis, or cancer.
Conclusion for “Why Is My Dog’s Tongue Dark Pink”
Healthy dogs have bright pink, moist tongues. It can be alarming to see your dog’s tongue turn dark pink or other unusual colors. Pet owners should have a general idea of what types of conditions can cause these changes.
Most commonly, a dark pink or red tongue is from a dog that is overheating or on the verge of heatstroke. If you notice the other classic symptoms of heatstroke — excessive panting, rapid breathing, dry mucous membrane, and skin hot to the touch — this will help confirm the diagnosis.
Always consult your veterinarian or take your dog to an emergency hospital if you cannot easily identify the cause of a dark pink or discolored tongue.
If this guide “Why Is My Dog’s Tongue Dark Pink” helped you, you should check out these other guides:
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You can learn more about dog tongues by watching “🐶👅¿WHAT Does the COLOR of My Dog’s TONGUE Mean?” down below:
Garrett loves animals and is a huge advocate for all Doodle dog breeds. He owns his own Goldendoodle named Kona. In addition, he volunteers at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, where he fosters dogs and helps animals. Garrett enjoys writing about Doodles and believes that dogs can teach humans more about how to live than humans can teach a dog.
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