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Why Your Chihuahua’s Tongue Is Sticking Out

Do you have a chihuahua whose tongue always seems to be hanging out of its mouth?

Do you notice this phenomenon even when your beloved little dog is fast asleep?

If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, you’ll be happy to learn that your pooch is not some kind of freak; this behavior is actually very common in the chihuahua breed.

To help you understand exactly why your chihuahua is so unbashful about frequently showing its tongue, below we have outlined and explained several potential reasons for this unusual conduct.

And for each of these reasons, we have highlighted some tips on how you should address them.

Your Chihuahua Is Hot or Overheated

One of the most common reasons for your chihuahua’s tongue to be sticking out is the fact that he is panting due to the heat or from overexertion.

When dogs pant, the behavior is usually 100 percent normal.  In fact, it is absolutely necessary to both their comfort and survival.

So why might a chihuahua get overheated and pant?

Becoming overheated or too hot can, of course, be blamed on warm temperatures—temperatures that can be even hotter when your dog is in the car.

The chihuahua is also a very active dog, and that extra exertion just may lead to a hanging tongue.

While humans tend to sweat as a way to cool their bodies from the heat, dogs, including chihuahuas, pant.

While technically a dog does have sweat glands in their paws and in their ears, these alone do not allow for rapid cooling in the body.

Therefore, dogs supplement these glands by panting with their tongues out.

When dogs pant while they are overheated, it is their way of ridding their bodies of that excess heat.

The practice of panting enables water molecules to evaporate in the moist parts of a dog’s system:  the lungs, mouth, and, yes, the tongue.

This, in turn, allows the heat in the body to dissipate.

Although panting is completely normal and should even be expected on warmer days and after exercise, some panting behavior is abnormal and should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian.

Instances of abnormal panting include episodes when the frequency and intensity of your dog’s panting is above and beyond its normal pattern or when the panting occurs at abnormal times, such as in cool environments and in the absence of exercise.

You should also take notice if the panting is very loud or raspy, or when it seems to be causing your dog to exert itself more than normal, both of which could point to some type of heart or lung issue.

Your Chihuahua Is Dehydrated

Going hand-in-hand with being overheated, your chihuahua’s tongue may hang out when the dog becomes dehydrated.

Dehydration in dogs can lead to serious complications.

It can result from being overheated, having a fever, not drinking enough water, diarrhea, vomiting or from any number of health conditions, including cancer, diabetes, heatstroke, and kidney disease. If your chihuahua is indeed dehydrated, he will probably present with other symptoms in addition to a hanging tongue.

These symptoms include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Exhaustion
  • Dryness and chafing around nose and mouth
  • Lethargy

Remember, just like humans, dogs need water on a regular basis.

Be sure to check and refill their water supply several times a day, even more when the weather turns warm in the summer months.

Your Chihuahua Is Content, Excited or Stimulated

While being hot and/or overexerted, leading to panting, are the primary reasons for tongue-wagging in chihuahuas, sometimes the breed expresses, content, excitement or overstimulation in the same manner.

In cases like these, you can equate a hanging tongue with a wagging tail.

When a dog feels content, relaxed and secure, his tongue can be an adorable sign that you have provided a welcoming and safe home in which to live.

Chihuahuas may also wag their tongues when they are very excited or geared-up about something.

As we mentioned above, the chihuahua is a very active breed.

It has a very fast metabolism that guarantees he is always up for fun and exhilaration.  For instance, your dog may stick its tongue out when you are actively playing with him.

He may repeat the behavior at even the prospect of doing something he loves, such as taking a walk or going on a car ride.

For example, many owners will see the tongue appear the minute they grab the leash—to the chihuahua, this serves as a sign that fun and enjoyment are right around the corner.

If your chihuahua demonstrates his excitement or contentment with a wagging tongue, this is nothing to worry about; it is part of his DNA.

Your Chihuahua May Have Hanging Tongue Syndrome

Most instances of a wagging tongue in dogs are temporary and harmless in nature, such as when he is panting, happy or excited.

In very rare cases, however, the hanging tongue may never retreat back into the mouth.

This can indicate a very serious condition known as Hanging Tongue Syndrome.

Hanging Tongue Syndrome can occur in chihuahuas (and in any dog breed) as the result of a congenital defect, an injury, or some type of neurological problem.

This syndrome is usually diagnosed only when other symptoms are also present—symptoms that can include:

  • Bad breath
  • A dry cracked tongue
  • Swelling and thickening of the tongue
  • Bleeding of the mouth and tongue

When dogs cannot pull their tongues back into their mouth cavity, it can cause any number of potentially serious problems, including difficulty when eating and pain while eating—pain that can lead to malnutrition when your dog foregoes eating because of the discomfort.

Hanging Tongue Syndrome can also lead to a number of painful complications, such as sunburn of the tongue, frostbite, dehydration and infection caused by the cracking and open sores.

If Hanging Tongue Syndrome is the culprit behind your chihuahua’s tongue-wagging behavior, treatment will depend on the specific cause triggering the syndrome.

Often, when this cause is identified and treated by your vet, your chihuahua will regain control over its tongue’s movement.

In the meantime, your vet will advise you to keep your dog as safe and comfortable as possible.

Olive oil on the tongue can help ease the cracking and dryness, and a switch to softer foods can make it more comfortable for your dog to eat and thus get the nutrition he needs.

In severe cases, your vet may even prescribe pain medication to ease your dog’s suffering.

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National Canine Research Association of America