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Why Is My Dog’s Tongue Blue? (Safety Advice)

If your dog’s tongue is blue you’ll be wondering why, and if it’s something to worry about.

It’s not a common sight to see your furry friend sporting a blue tongue, and naturally, you’re eager to understand what could be behind it and if there’s any immediate action to take.

If your dog’s tongue is a solid blue color, and the breed is not a Chow Chow, Shar Pei, Eurasier, or a Thai ridgeback, then it’s advised to take your dog to your vet immediately.

Why Is My Dog’s Tongue Blue?

A dog’s tongue might turn blue for several reasons, each indicative of underlying health issues that might require immediate attention.

➡️ At the core of these causes is cyanosis.

Cyanosis is a medical condition characterized by bluish discoloration due to inadequate oxygen levels in the blood.

Respiratory Issues

One primary reason for a blue tongue could be respiratory issues. These could range from problems with the dog’s nose, trachea, or lungs, such as pneumonia or other lung diseases, that prevent the efficient exchange of oxygen.

Cardiovascular Issues

Another significant cause could be cardiovascular problems. Heart diseases or issues with blood vessels can impair the heart’s capacity to pump oxygen-rich blood effectively to the rest of the body, including the tongue, causing it to turn blue.

Toxins or Poisons

Certain toxins and poisons, such as rat poison or certain types of venom, can also lead to a blue tongue by interfering with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen.

Allergic Reactions

Lastly, a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, constrict airways, and lead to cyanosis.

While these reasons are quite serious, bear in mind that not all instances of a blue tongue signify a life-threatening situation.

Still, as we explained in the beginning intro, if your dog is not a chow chow or shar pei, it’s advised to take your dog to the vets ASAP.

What To Do If Your Dog’s Tongue Is Blue

No doubt, you should bring your dog to the vet clinic straight away.

In most situations this is a health problem and your dog will need help sooner rather than later.

Unless you have a breed with a naturally blue tongue, which are limited to Chow Chows, Shar Peis, Thai Ridgebacks and Eurasier, then getting to a vet should be the priority.

What Different Tongue Colors Mean In Dogs

Generally, a healthy dog’s tongue will present a rich pink shade.

➡️ Important: To assess the tongue’s color accurately, it’s ideal to observe when your canine friend is in a relaxed state. Just after a bout of play, the tongue might appear red due to heat released from the blood vessels.

A dog’s tongue color can shift subtly over its lifetime, with a vibrant pink during its younger years gradually deepening as it grows older.

Do not be alarmed if your dog’s tongue exhibits a different color. It could simply be pigmentation, which is common in certain breeds like the Chow Chow. However, other color variations can carry meanings:

➡️ Pale Pink:
In older dogs, a pale pink tongue can be normal but may also reflect a mild decrease in the animal’s vitality. A lighter, almost white tongue could suggest reduced red blood cells, possibly pointing to anemia. Regular blood tests, especially for aging dogs, can confirm this.

➡️ Red:
A red tongue in dogs actively panting is perfectly normal as the body cools down through the respiratory system. But if spotted during rest, it might suggest an increased body heat due to inflammation or pain.

➡️ Yellow:
Just like in humans, a yellow tongue in dogs often signals liver or gallbladder issues, typically known as jaundice. The yellow tint comes from a high bilirubin content circulating in the dog’s body, also affecting the skin, eyes, and gums.

➡️ Purple or Lavender:
A tongue that’s purple or lavender might hint at problems with your dog’s internal organs such as the pancreas, liver, or intestines. This color change can also be noticed in dogs undergoing chemotherapy or those with chronic conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.

➡️ Black:
It’s rare to find dogs with completely black tongues. More commonly, they may have black spots, which is usually no cause for worry.

➡️ Blue:
A blue tongue can be a sign of a medical condition called Cyanosis, unless your pet happens to be a Chow Chow or a Chinese Shar-Pei, breeds known for their naturally blue tongues. This blue hue, possibly appearing on the skin as well, signals reduced oxygen levels in the blood vessels near the surface of these tissues. The details of this will be explored in the following sections.

Understanding Cyanosis in Dogs

Cyanosis is a medical condition characterized by a blueish tint on the skin and mucous membranes (like the gums) due to red blood cells’ inability to transport sufficient oxygen to the body.

This condition can stem from a range of disorders impacting the respiratory, cardiovascular, or both systems. The specific cause of these low oxygen levels ultimately guides the treatment approach.

Causes of Cyanosis

Often, Cyanosis in dogs can be traced back to issues within the respiratory system, generally categorized as either central or peripheral.

Some typical respiratory-related causes include:

  • Asthma
  • Paralysis of the larynx
  • Poisoning
  • Muscle damage
  • Lung parasites
  • Other factors such as smoke inhalation, bruised lungs, pneumonia, and sections of the trachea collapsing can also lead to Cyanosis.

Spotting the Warning Signs of Cyanosis

One of the most immediate and noticeable warning signs of Cyanosis is a distinct change in your dog’s tongue and skin color, shifting towards blue and purple shades.

This often suggests that your dog isn’t receiving enough oxygen and while it might not be critical at the moment, it certainly calls for a veterinary check.

During this preliminary examination, the vet may measure your dog’s oxygen levels using a small device called a pulse oximeter, placed on the tongue or tip of the ear.

Treatment Possibilities for Cyanosis in Dogs

Treatment for Cyanosis largely depends on its root cause, but typically involves immediate oxygen therapy and certain medications to facilitate breathing. This medication regimen might include diuretics, antibiotics, or even steroids. The prognosis can vary based on the underlying issue, but as a general rule, the sooner you get your dog to a vet for treatment, the more favorable the outcome. In some cases, your vet might recommend a specific diet.

What to Expect with a Dog Suffering from Cyanosis

When a dog is hospitalized for Cyanosis, the veterinary health care team closely monitors their condition, ready to respond quickly to any changes – similar to the attentive care provided to a patient in intensive care.

Once your dog is back home, it becomes essential to watch out for signs like changes in gum color, breathing rate, and activity level. The underlying medical condition that triggered the Cyanosis will greatly influence your dog’s long-term prognosis.

If Cyanosis was caused by heart or lung disease, veterinarians usually adopt a cautious stance. It’s likely your dog would need ongoing veterinary check-ups to manage the situation optimally.

Dog Breeds With Unique Tongue Colors

While most dogs boast the standard pink tongue, there are several breeds that break this mold.

These canine companions can flaunt spotted tongues, adding to their unique charm.

Among those breeds are the bold and courageous Akitas, the energetic Airedales, and the agile Australian Shepherds. You’ll also find Dalmatians, known for their distinctive spots, bearing spotted tongues as well.

Dobermans, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers – breeds known for their loyalty and intelligence – might also exhibit tongues with spots. Irish Setters, Labradors, and the imposing Mastiffs join this list.

Gentle giants like Newfoundlands and Pitbulls, beloved for their friendly nature despite common misconceptions, can also have tongues with a spotted appearance. Let’s not forget Pomeranians, those small dogs with big personalities, and the powerful, steadfast Rottweilers.

Blue tongued breeds: Certain crossbred dogs might sport a blueish-black tongue akin to that of a Chow Chow, such as the Eurasier breed. Regardless of the color, these unique tongues add an extra dash of distinctiveness to these amazing breeds.

Last thoughts

Ultimately, if you spot your dog to have a dark blue color to their tongue, it warrants a vet trip right away.

Of course, there is some subjectivity to just “how blue” it needs to be to warrant an emergency. In general, a solid dark blue color is when things become concerning.

As we explained earlier, you should look at your dog’s tongue when they’re calm and relaxed to get an accurate understanding.

If your try analyzing your dog’s tongue when they’re excited, hot or panting then it could give a temporarily wrong indication due to extra blood flow.

We hope this guide helped!


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.