What is Hanging Tongue Syndrome?

July 17, 2010

By Linda Cole

Seeing a dog with their tongue sticking out is cute, especially when puppies do it. Most of the dogs we see competing in the World’s Ugliest Dog competitions always seem to have their tongue hanging out between their teeth. However, a dog’s tongue sticking out all the time could be a condition called hanging tongue syndrome, and it can cause the dog pain. Hanging tongue syndrome isn’t life threatening in itself, but it could indicate something is wrong.

A dog’s tongue is quite remarkable when you think about it. They use it to drink water, help keep themselves cool and to clean their coat and feet. Plus, most dogs aren’t shy when it comes to giving us a warm, sloppy kiss when they feel we need one.

How the tongue helps cool the dog is simple, yet effective. When dogs get hot while playing or exercising, they pant to cool down. The blood vessels in the tongue swell because of increased blood flow to the tongue. As the dog pants, moisture is created by their breath which evaporates and cools the tongue. As the tongue cools down, the blood flow is cooled and this goes throughout the dog’s respiratory system, cooling his entire body.

A dog’s tongue sticking out constantly can end up dry and cracked which can be painful for them. Just like when we get dry, cracked lips from spending too much time in the sun or from dry air during the winter. If the dog’s tongue sticks out regularly, the end can become dry if they don’t or can’t pull it inside their mouth to moisten it. Hanging tongue syndrome is usually seen more often in smaller breeds like the Chihuahua, King Charles Spaniels and the Mexican Hairless, but larger breeds can be affected as well.

Hanging tongue syndrome can occur if the dog has suffered an injury or some kind of trauma to their muzzle or jaw. Some neurological diseases or deformities of the mouth or teeth can leave their tongue sticking out because their condition won’t allow them to pull the tongue all the way into the mouth. You can tell your dog has hanging tongue syndrome when they don’t or can’t pull their tongue all the way in to moisten it. The tongue can even become discolored. If hanging tongue syndrome develops suddenly, it could be a sign of neurological problems, so make sure to have your dog checked out, just in case.

Sometimes, medications or temporary injuries can cause the dog’s tongue to hang outside his mouth. If the dog lets his tongue stick out during the healing process or while on medication, once the injury heals or the medication has ended, the dog should return to normal. This isn’t hanging tongue syndrome. However, it’s always a good idea to have your vet take a look at your dog if he does allow his tongue to hang out.

Dogs who have their tongue sticking out all the time should be monitored to make sure a bacterial infection doesn’t develop. Any sign of change in skin texture, bleeding, swelling or even a slight change in color should be checked out by a vet. These dogs are also at greater risk for frostbite during the winter months. A dog with true hanging tongue syndrome may need surgery to remove the part of the tongue that sticks out of his mouth. One common characteristic of dogs with hanging tongue syndrome is excessive drooling after drinking or eating. Dogs with this syndrome can usually remain the happy and normal pet you’ve always known, however.

Some dogs have an overbite or under-bite that makes it difficult for them to keep their tongue in their mouth because their teeth don’t line up properly. This is also not true hanging tongue syndrome. For some dogs, leaving the tongue sticking out of their mouth is just a sign of complete relaxation. It’s only true hanging tongue syndrome when they can’t pull it back in.

Hanging tongue syndrome is not something dogs can control. For whatever reason, they just can’t pull their tongue all the way into their mouth. It’s not uncommon to see puppies and even older dogs become so laid back and relaxed with their tongue sticking out the side of their mouth. As with any health concern, a visit to your vet may be in order to make sure everything is alright.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Pet Foods.

Share this:

Share Your Thoughts

  • WordPress
  • Facebook
  • Google Plus

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Christine Pena says:

    My s nine yr. Old chiwuaha has hangig out tongue syndrome what should i do.??????

  2. Elois King says:

    I have a apple head she had her tongue out once 8wks and she’s 5 now

  3. Read the post My dog is Pekingese just the tip of his tongue comes out of his mouth I just noticed that the last couple of months what’s going on and he can pull it back in

  4. Sharon Mcdonald says:

    My 11yr old Boston terrier her tongue sticks just a little bit but she seems to be ok all except she has really bad teeth

    1. My dog, has the same issue to.

  5. Stephanie says:

    My 14 yr Shih-Tzu started hanging his tongue out when he is very relaxed or sleeping.

  6. Roschelle McGowan says:

    We have a little Maltese who we rescued from the streets in Phoenix, also during the hottest part of summer, last year. He was in bad shape and I didn’t think he would survive. But he did and ultimately we had his teeth removed because they were so rotten and making his health even worse. We also had him neutered. But since having his teeth removed, his tongue sticks out all the time, usually when he’s sleeping and not always when he’s up and about. I was just thinking I could have a little syringe of water handy in all the places where we lay down together and just dribble some water drops on him. I worry about his tongue getting too dry and painful. But we’re about 99.9% sure it’s because of his teeth being removed as that’s when it started.

    Any other ideas? Is the syringe idea a good one?

  7. Kay says:

    My Five month old golden doodle pants hard after a little exercise and also hangs her tongue out her left side of the mouth. Reasons why?

  8. Marcie says:

    I have a toy poodle that lost all her teeth and now her tongue hangs out. There is a product for humans (Biotene) that moisturizes dry mouth, could that be used on her tongue? I worry that her tongue will dry out too much even though she can pull it in once in a while.

  9. M says:

    I have a little chihuahua whose tongue is always sticking out always on the left side of her mouth. She seems to have an overly large tongue that doesn’t quite sit well in her mouth, is that a possibility?

    1. I hv French bulldog 6 months male he is keeping hanging tangue out of mouth to last monts pls suggest me his treatment

  10. sandra says:

    hi i have a 12mnth american bull dog i thought it had a sroke he is so loveble wiv it somtimes looks as hehaving problems wen i say get ur tiung in and push it she keep it in seconds thaen ut it comes she looks as a stroke but funny as long as there no prob she very cute and clever loyal i looveher uncnfitionaly toungni tugn she me partner for life if u no wot i mean bestie

  11. Hayley Johnstone says:

    Ok so my dog had to go to the vet to get a tooth removed but they screwed up so now her tounge hangs out which causes her pain like wtf aren’t vets supposed to help our pets not fucking put them in pain for the rest of their lives and they’re professional they shouldn’t screw up and because they did my amazing dog who did nothing wrong is in pain every day for the rest of her life

  12. Carmela Stearns says:

    The removal of all their teeth can also cause an animal to have their tongue hanging out. Olive oil.

    1. r day says:

      your so right

  13. Martha Parker says:

    I had a dog 16 years old and all of a sudden his eyes bulging out and his tongue hanging out Then he tryed to bit

  14. Jeremy Gundel says:

    Our PWD had surgery to repair a ranula under his tongue on the right side. He tongue stuck limp out of his mouth for 24 hours after surgery. After that he moved his tongue mostly in but to the left side of his mouth. . away from the surgery site. But he rested his teeth on it and bit through it. He couldn’t feel the pain because he proceed to chew his own tongue off over the next 4 days as he tried to eat his meals. No one could help us. I assume the surgery on the ranula cut a nerve to the tongue. correct? He could still move it at least a bit. But seemed clear he could no longer feel it. We had to put him down. I can’t find any info on this online and none of the vets I visited had every seen anything like it. Horrific.

  15. cetta guarcello says:

    Its not hanging tongue he is Chihuahua all of a sudden he is like licking or clicking it in and out mostly at night

  16. Betty Brooks says:

    i have a 15 year old dachshund and suddenly today she started just falling down and getting up and pacing the floors non stop, also her tongue keeps hanging out , not like panting hanging out because her mouth is closed, just curious if any one might know what this could be? it is late and cant get her to the veterinarian tonight but am extremely worried as this was a very sudden onset?

  17. cynthia says:

    My 10 year old beagle/labrador has recently started sleeping with a small portion of her tongue hanging out.

    I've found other websites talking about dogs of various ages sleeping with the tip of their tongue out.

    But why has this just started?

    She is in deep REM when she does this…it is cute…she didn't do it when she was a puppy…and she looks like a puppy when she sleeps like this.

    Please respond.

  18. I found this male pit/boxer mix and his tounge always sticks out till he get water then it goes back in for a few. He is very skinny cause I just found him on the side of the road and he seems dehidrated and half way blind. I gave him food and water but his tounge is still out what do u think it is

  19. jessica says:

    I have a 4 month old male pug. Today I noticed his tongue has been hanging out all day today.that’s not normal for him. Should I be worried? He feels a lil warm. Someone help.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Hello Jessica, just wondering if you were able to get help for your male pug’s tongue? I hope you got him to the vet, especially since he felt warm and is very young to have a hanging tongue. Please give us an update, if you would be so kind. It may help others. Thanks:)

  20. Ryan says:

    You mentioned neurological disorders as possible cause. I have a rescued Chihuahua who’s long had periodic seizures. He’s on Potassium Bromide (K Brovet), Keppra (don’t remember chem name) and Phenobarbital. As he ages, his tongue seems to stick out more and more; today about 1.5cm. He’s about 13 yrs now. It’s normal for it to hang out but he can “recoil” it in. No vet has ever mentioned anything except “He’s really cute.” He gets periodic dental work – cleanings and occasional removals. Is this neurological, pharmacological or dental? Need I worry about it?

    1. Anonymous says:

      Ryan, I would do some research on the BEST possible vet DVM, and take my precious little dog to ANOTHER vet for a second opinion!

  21. Anonymous says:

    My dog had bloated stomache, lost appetite and became skinny. Went to Vet and she was given

    Furosemide 40 mg, Liverolin 3 cc and VibraVet 2x a day. Her stomache has been filled with

    water and she kept on urinating on the 3rd day and on the 4th day, she was paralyzed (could

    not stand and walk).She was still eating, fighting and alert. But today 6th day, she was

    able to stand a bit and today after my sis fed her cake, her tongue just sticked out but

    she is still alert.What happened and how can she recover?

    1. Anonymous says:

      I’m a pet parent to a rescued 7yr. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She’s a retired breeding dog from a puppy mill. Poor thing, because she didn’t receive any dental care from her previous life, she is missing almost all of her teeth. (Only 3 remain.) Because of this, her tongue hangs to the right side of her mouth much of the time and becomes dry, especially around the edges. I had multiple vets look at her tongue and didn’t seem concerned, so I took matters into my own hands and did extensive online research. What I found is that organic coconut oil is a natural, healthy moisturizer of sorts. I rub a small amount (about a teaspoon) on her tongue at night. Her tongue will always hang out, since there aren’t any teeth on top to hold it in, but the coconut oil keeps her tongue soft and moisturized. She loves the taste. Coconut oil also has natural antibacterial and antiparasite qualities to it. I also soak her dry dogfood for 10-15 minutes in just enough water to cover the food before giving it to her. She is able to eat and drink water just like any other dog.

  22. Linda says:

    Hi Anonymous,

    If he pulls his tongue back in and it doesn’t appear he’s having trouble keeping it in, that’s not a problem or something you need to be concerned with as far as hanging tongue syndrome goes, however, you might want to check his teeth to make sure there’s not a dental problem that’s starting to show up.

    He could be letting his tongue hang out because he’s relaxed, but anytime a dog lets his tongue droop out of his mouth, you should monitor him. To be on the safe side, it’s never a bad idea to have your vet give him an exam to make sure there isn’t an underlying medical condition that hasn’t shown up yet. Hanging tongue syndrome is something seen most often in chihuahuas and it could be the first signs of an illness.


  23. Anonymous says:

    I have just found this thread as my chihuahua has recently started to stick his tongue out. He is 6 years old and the tongue protrudes at the front (not side) up to 1cm – not constantly – he does put it back in but this has been going on for about 3/4 months and whilst he looks so cute – I am wondering if it is a sign of illness?

  24. Linda says:

    If it’s true hanging tongue syndrome, surgery is the only way to manage it. Has she been checked out to make sure it’s not a bad alignment of her teeth that’s allowing her tongue to hang out or some other medical reason and you know it’s true hanging tongue syndrome?

    There shouldn’t be extensive vet bills to contend with as long as you keep an eye on her tongue. Talk with your vet on advice on how to help keep her tongue moistened and warning signs to watch out for. If you’re in a cold part of the country where her tongue could get frost bite, you would need to monitor her during the winter months.

    I wouldn’t let hanging tongue syndrome stop me from adopting a dog, especially one you already are caring for and know. But it will require monitoring. I have a male black lab mix we rescued. They’re great dogs.


  25. Anonymous says:

    Is there any remedy besides surgery on the tongue? We are fostering a female lab (rescue), but don’t want to adopt if her hanging tongue syndrome is going to be a problem that is hard to manage w/lots of vet bills. Advice?