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Why is My Dog’s Tongue White?

Posted: 06/10/2024 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Dog , Health problems , Pet care

Why is my dog’s tongue white? It’s a good question. When our dogs are showing signs of feeling unwell, we usually check their nose to see if it’s dry and warm instead of cool and wet.

While the nose is a good indicator of our dog’s overall health the nose knows), the tongue can also tell us a lot about how your dog feels and what may be going on with his overall health. 

Let’s dive into this topic further and discover the most common reasons why our dog’s tongues are sometimes white or pale in color.

Common Reasons a Dog’s Tongue is White

We’d like to say upfront that a white or pale tongue is cause for concern. If your pup has a pale tongue and is also showing any other signs of illness or distress (trouble breathing, vomiting, trembling, etc.), get them to the vet quickly for help.

With this said, the following are the most common reasons a dog’s tongue may appear while or pale:


Anemia is one of the most common reasons a dog’s tongue appears white. This condition occurs when the number of red blood cells in the body declines, or the amount of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells is low. Hemoglobin is an important protein that carries oxygen around the body and is what gives your blood a red color. 

Anemia in dogs isn’t a single disease, but a sign of an underlying issue. It can develop slowly over weeks or months, or very quickly in just days or hours. There are three main causes: blood loss (hemorrhage), reduced red blood cell production (bone marrow disease), or destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis).

While some dogs might show no appetite changes, lethargy is a common symptom. They might also have a faster heart rate or even resort to eating dirt, which can happen due to an iron deficiency their body is trying to correct. If you notice any of these signs, a trip to the vet is crucial to diagnose the cause of anemia and get your pup the treatment they need.


A pale tongue and gums is often the result of blood loss. When your dog has incurred an external wound, it is easy to notice they are bleeding. But when our pup’s sustain internal injuries from a fall or being hit by a car, the internal bleeding is not so obvious at first. 

Internal bleeding can also be caused by cancer or ingesting something toxic. Some other signs in addition to a pale tongue to watch out for include:

  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Painful or swollen abdomen
  • Coughing, possibly producing blood
  • Blood in urine or feces, or dark brown-black feces
  • Ears and/or feet feeling cool to touch
  • Panting or increased respiratory effort

Get your dog to the vet immediately if you see any of these signs!


When we speak of shock to your dog’s system, we’re not talking about being startled, alarmed or surprised. There are different types of physical shock that can make your pup’s tongue and gums pale. These require immediate veterinary attention.

Low Blood Flow Shock (Hypovolemic): Caused by blood loss, dehydration, or clotting issues. Think: not enough blood to pump.

Weak Heart Shock (Cardiogenic): Weak heart can’t pump blood well. Imagine: weak pump, low pressure.

Leaky Vessels Shock (Distributive): Blood vessels widen too much, dropping pressure. Like: leaky pipes, low water pressure.

No Oxygen Shock (Hypoxic): Not enough oxygen reaches tissues. Think: suffocation on a cellular level.

Cellular Power Failure (Metabolic): Cells can’t make enough energy. Imagine: massive power outage in the body.

If not treated immediately, shock is always fatal.


We listed anemia earlier. One of the biggest causes of anemia is a form of cancer called leukemia. Anemia develops when the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells that spread throughout the body, into the bloodstream, lymphatic system, liver and spleen. As a result, these abnormal blood cells stop the bone marrow from producing normal red blood cells, resulting in anemia and pale tongue and gums. 

Other signs of leukemia include swollen lymph nodes, reduced appetite, lethargy, and a swollen abdomen (due to enlargement of the spleen and/or liver). Should you notice any of these additional signs along with a white tongue, take your pup in to see your vet quickly.

Fungal Stomatitis

Also referred to as thrush, fungal stomatitis is caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans. Too much of this fungus in your dog’s body can cause irritation and inflammation in the gums, tongue, pharynx, and soft tissues of your pet’s mouth. It often develops in pups who have been on a long course of antibiotics, or have a compromised immune system (e.g., hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, chemotherapy treatment).

There are other signs of oral thrush including:

  • Bad breath
  • Gingivitis
  • Open and bleeding sores
  • Drooling

While not an emergency like some of the other causes on this list, thrush can become very painful for your dog, so if you suspect this is the cause of the pale tongue, make an appointment to see the vet.


Dehydration can cause your dog’s saliva to become thick, coating their tongue and making it appear white.

Final Thoughts

Why is my dog’s tongue white? As you can see, there are a variety of reasons, with most of them being quite serious. In any case, should your pup’s tongue appear white or pale, it’s a good idea to get them into the vet immediately. If it’s after hours, take your pup to the nearest emergency clinic or animal hospital to be checked out.

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The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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