It’s the source of lots of sloppy doggie kisses – your dog’s tongue. Aside from those wet licks, you probably don’t give it much thought. But it has a much bigger role than you might think!
The tongue is a muscle, controlled by the dog’s nervous system, and a dog relies on his tongue to lap water, eat, swallow, and even cool himself down when he’s too hot.
Fun Facts about Your Dog’s Tongue
- It’s a myth that a dog’s tongue is cleaner than a human tongue. A dog’s saliva is not antibacterial and it has no healing properties at all. Like humans, a dog’s mouth is home to more than six hundred types of bacteria.
- While in most dogs a blue tongue can indicate diseases of the blood, heart or lungs, the Chinese breeds Chow Chow and Shar Pei naturally have dark, blue or bluish tongues. The reason for this is unknown; however, it can make diagnosing them difficult for a vet in some cases.
- Dogs to lick to groom themselves, however, they’re not as effective as cats at this task. This is because unlike a cat’s rough, sandpapery tongue, a dog’s tongue is smooth. This is why regular dog grooming is so important.
- Some dogs have oversized tongues. They are born this way – the tongue hangs out of the mouth, and some breeds are more prone to this, such as Boxers. One very famous dog with an oversized tongue is Gary Fisher, the French Bulldog who was formerly owned by actress Carrie Fisher. He has his own Instagram page and is utterly adorable!)
- Dogs use their tongues to cool down. Panting is a form of thermoregulation. Dogs don’t have sweat glands all over as humans do, but only in their noses and paw pads. Panting allows them to move air over the tongue quickly; moisture from their mouth and upper airways evaporates and this cools them down.
- Dogs drink water by lapping, creating a spoon-like shape with the tongue. Cats, on the other hand, use only the tip of the tongue to trap water and quickly catch it in their mouth.
- Vets believe dogs select their food based on smell as opposed to taste. Dogs have only 15% of the number of taste buds than humans do. This is more than cats have. While dogs can taste bitter, sour, salty and sweet flavours, cats are unable to taste sweet flavours.
- A dog’s bark is influenced by his tongue. Longer and narrower than a human tongue (which is essential for us to speak), a dog’s tongue has different functions than a human’s in a lot of ways and as such, the way it is structured and used by the individual dog will impact on how his bark sounds.
- Dogs explore their environment using their tongue, and when they are happy or excited, they’ll like the faces of those around them – dogs, cats, and humans.
Be wary of doggie kisses – some bacteria can cross between dog and human, though most diseases are not able to cross between species. If you’re unsure, or of your dog’s tongue seems sore or odd, see your vet.