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Some pet parents love the sight of dogs sleeping while sticking their tongues out. It may be an endearing moment to see, but some may also find this behavior a bit odd.
You may have asked yourself ‘why does my dog stick the tip of his tongue out while sleeping?’ Passive tongue hanging in dogs is not harmful but it is a good idea to know why your dog does this.
Several reasons may prompt your furry friend to sleep with a floppy tongue, ranging from mild reasons like relaxation to more severe cases such as underlying health problems.
We’ve researched some of the most common reasons associated with this behavior and recommended a practical approach you can use to address this behavior.
Why Does My Dog Stick the Tip of His Tongue Out While Sleeping
The following are some of the common reasons why your dog may sleep with their tongue hanging out:
1. They’re relaxed and comfortable
In most cases, dogs sleep with the tip of their tongue out because they’re comfortable and relaxed. It is a way of resting after having an eventful day.
The possible explanation here is that the dog relaxes their masticatory muscles when sleeping and this causes the tongue to loosen up and stick out.
Some of the other signs that tell the dog is relaxed include having soft eyes with loosened shoulders, and having a mellow appearance.
Furthermore, if your dog spent much of their time in games and exercises, they’re likely to sleep with contentment by sticking the tongue out as a way of recovering.
2. It’s a cooling mechanism
Dogs are furry animals, meaning they don’t sweat through the normal skin to bring down body temperature.
Dogs have merocrine sweat glands on their paw pads and the nose, both of which produce very tiny amounts of sweat.
This is why dogs supplement their cooling mechanism by extending their tongue during hot conditions to deal with body heat.
When your dog dangles their tongue out during a hot afternoon, the saliva is exposed to open air and it evaporates by releasing heat.
This action is known as thermoregulation and it helps dogs to adjust their body temperature for an easy sleep.
At times there’s nothing much to worry about when your dog sticks their tongue out during sleep. It may be an action in the dog’s dream.
Dogs will typically enter into the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep phase at about 20 minutes into their nap, and this is where most of the vivid dreams occur.
During REM sleep, your dog may dream about events that occurred during the day and this includes licking, eating, and drinking.
They may end up sticking their tongue out while making a few eye movements during the dream which typically lasts for about 2 minutes.
If your dog is undergoing any form of medication, it would help to consider the side effects of the drugs and watch out for excesses.
Your vet will probably list all the side effects of prescribed drugs before starting your dog on treatment.
Some canine drugs such as antihistamines and anxiety-relieve medicines can cause xerostomia, (dry mouth in dogs)
This will prompt the affected dog to dangle the tongue in search of moist air and stimulate saliva production.
5. Breed and genetic factors
Certain dog breeds are more prone to show hanging tongue syndrome than others. This is mainly because those breeds have a ‘smooshed’ face with a much larger tongue for their oral cavity.
Some dogs also have missing teeth which makes it possible for the tongue to slip out from the mouth and dangle during sleep.
An example of these dogs is the brachycephalic group which includes breeds such as Boxer, Bulldog, Bullmastiff, and Pugs, who are genetically predisposed to stick their tongue out due to lack of sufficient room in the oral cavity.
6. Underlying health issues
Sometimes a dog may sleep with a floppy tongue as an indicator of underlying medical conditions.
The common health problems that may cause this side effect include mouth injuries, congenital defects, periodontal diseases, and neurological issues.
If your dog is showing this behavior all of a sudden, you should inspect their oral cavity for any missing teeth.
The gap created by missing teeth opens a space for the tongue to slip from the mouth and dangle in the air when the dog sleeps.
Watch out for all the other symptoms that may show your dog has underlying health issues. Such symptoms include:
- Bad breath
- Bleeding gums
- Dry tongue
- Excessive drooling
- Loss of appetite
- Nasal congestion
- Panting while sleeping
- Snoring during sleep
When This Behavior Becomes a Concern
You shouldn’t be worried when your furry friend sticks their tongue out passively due to temperature regulation or comfort.
But if you notice your dog panting excessively while hanging the tongue, then this should raise a concern for you.
When dogs pant without stopping, especially at night, this could be a telltale sign of serious respirational problems.
If your dog protrudes their tongue for a long period even during normal daytime, then it could be a sign of dental diseases or mouth injuries.
A dog with a wounded mouth is also likely to have difficulties in eating and drinking. Apart from dental issues, extended tongue protrusion may also be a sign of neurological disorder in dogs.
Tips For Managing Hanging Tongues in Dogs
If your dog’s behavior of sleeping with its tongue out is becoming a concern to you, there’s something you can do to manage the situation.
It is important to appreciate that some breeds are genetically inclined to hang their tongue out during sleep.
The following are some of the measures you can take to address this behavior:
1. Visit the vet
If you feel like your dog is showing signs of hanging tongue syndrome, make sure to take a clear photo as they sleep and show it to your vet.
A video is preferable if the behavior is accompanied by panting, snoring, wheezing, or difficulty in breathing.
Your vet should be able to examine the situation and work out whether your dog is pulling their tongue out for pleasure or other reasons.
If any underlying medical condition is suspected, the vet will carry out a physical examination of the oral cavity and do some blood work to ascertain the health of your pup.
For dogs with severe symptoms of hanging tongue syndrome, your vet may suggest giving them soft foods as a way of preventing tongue damage during mealtime.
If your dog has an overly large tongue, then this genetic makeup may interfere with their feeding pattern and sleeping.
Once your vet concludes that the size of your dog’s tongue is severely affecting their quality of life, they may recommend a surgical procedure known as glossectomy, to resize the patient’s tongue.
2. Create a comfortable sleeping environment for your dog
Your dog deserves to rest in a comfy place with adequate ventilation. Invest in a cozy dog bed and furnish it with sufficient bedding to create a lovely space for your dog to sleep.
Doing so will provide your furry friend with a designated place to sleep without disturbances. It also helps to keep your dog’s sleeping area hygienic since they won’t be exposed to germs when they lick on surfaces.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Can sticking the tongue out while sleeping indicate a health problem?
Yes! Your dog might be having underlying health problems when they excessively protrude their tongue out while sleeping, especially when accompanied by other symptoms such as snoring.
Some of the common health problems indicated by tongue protrusion include dental diseases, neurological issues, and injuries.
2. Is it normal for all dogs to stick their tongues out while sleeping?
Even though this is not a universal behavior in all dogs, most of them may hang their tongue out while sleeping for pure bliss and relaxation.
Remember that every dog is an individual, and they all have their preferred ways of showing excitement and contentment.
3. Are there any specific dog breeds more prone to sticking their tongues out while sleeping?
Brachycephalic dogs such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Bull Mastiffs, etc. are examples of dog breeds with a genetic predisposition to hang the tongue out while sleeping.
These dogs have a smaller oral cavity and an overly long tongue, which may slip out of the mouth during sleep. Some of them also have missing teeth, which allows the tongue to slip out when seeping.
Why does my dog stick the tip of his tongue out while sleeping? Dogs may sleep with their tongue hanging out for various reasons including relaxation, regulating temperature, or dreaming.
This behavior is typically harmless when done passively for comfort and relaxation. It should, however, raise a concern when it tells of underlying health problems such as dental diseases or mouth injuries.
If your dog is panting excessively, snoring loudly, wheezing, or having difficulty breathing when sticking their tongue out, this could be a sign of anxiety or respiratory illnesses.
Take your dog to the vet for a checkup if you suspect health issues to rule out any severe condition.
Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.