- Some dogs have blue tongues
- Dog tongues are no cleaner than human tongues
- Dogs also groom themselves
- Dogs use their tongues to cool down
- Some dogs are born with oversized tongues
- A dog’s tongue can affect the way its bark sounds
- Dog tongues have fewer taste buds than humans
- Dogs use their tongues to express emotions
- Dogs drink water differently than cats
You probably don’t think twice about your dog’s tongue, but it licks much more than just your face.
“The tongue is an essential part of a dog’s mouth,” says Dr. Alexander Reiter, Professor of Dentistry and Oral Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Dogs use their tongues to eat, lick water, swallow and also to cool down.
“The tongue is a muscle,” says Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, a physician at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. “Like all muscles, it is controlled by nerves. And in the case of the tongue, the nerves come directly from the brain to control the tongue. “
Here are nine facts about dog tongues that may surprise you.
Some dogs have blue tongues
Chow Chows and Shar-Peis both have blue or dark tongues, and nobody knows exactly why, says Hohenhaus. The connection they share is that they are both Chinese races and are closely genetically related, she says.
It can be more difficult for a veterinarian to identify certain problems when a dog’s tongue is blue. “These animals have a slight disadvantage in a veterinarian’s ability to assess health,” says Hohenhaus. “In a dog whose tongue is usually pink, a blue tongue tells us that they are not well oxygenated.”
In some cases, a blue tongue can be a sign of lung or heart disease or a rare haemoglobin disease, Hohenhaus adds.
Dog tongues are no cleaner than human tongues
The expression “licking wounds” is incredibly common, but it is actually not a good way to heal a cut when a dog licks its wounds. It is also not true that dog saliva has healing properties for human wounds. While tongue licking can help a dog clean an area, the healing properties of dog saliva have never been proven, Reiter says. Another widespread myth is that dogs have cleaner mouths than humans, but both contain more than 600 types of bacteria.
“It’s just this constant myth that people have,” says Hohenhaus. “Nobody would put bacteria on a wound Why would you put a tongue that contains all these bacteria on a wound? It doesn’t make sense. “
Dogs also groom themselves
Cats regularly lick their fur to groom themselves. Dogs also take part in this ritual, but their tongues are simply not as effective at doing the job.
Much of this has to do with basic biology. Cats have rough tongues that feel like sandpaper. This is because cats’ tongues are covered with papillae or tiny barbs that help cats to untie knots and entanglements during grooming, said Hohenhaus. “A dog is at a disadvantage because it has a smooth tongue,” she says.
Although your dog’s tongue can remove dirt or fur, you still need to brush it out to avoid or remove mats and tangles.
Dogs use their tongues to cool down
When dogs are panting, this serves to cool them down. The process is known as thermoregulation. Hohenhaus explains that dogs do not have sweat glands all over their bodies like humans, but only on their paws and noses. This means that dogs cannot sweat through the skin to cool down. Instead, they rely on wheezing. When dogs wheeze, the air moves quickly over their tongue, mouth, and the lining of their upper airways, allowing moisture to evaporate and cool them down.
Some dogs are born with oversized tongues
“There are some rare situations where puppies are born with tongues that are too large to perform normal functions such as sucking on the teat,” Reiter says. This rare condition is called macroglossia. In his 20 years of experience, Reiter has only seen two cases.
Some breeds – like boxers – tend to have larger tongues hanging out of their mouth. This usually causes no problems for the dog, and doctors can surgically reduce the size of the tongue or recommend other treatments if necessary.
A dog’s tongue can affect the way its bark sounds
Just as your tongue influences the way you speak, a dog’s tongue influences the way he barks. “Every structure in the mouth will help to produce voice and sound to a certain extent,” says Reiter.
Think about what happens if you take a glass of wine and run your finger over the edge, says Reiter. The sound changes depending on how much liquid is in the glass. Similarly, the size of a dog’s tongue affects the sound of its bark. “In any case, the tongue plays a role in how a bark sounds,” says Reiter, “but the actual bark is made by something else.”
In terms of shape, dog tongues are longer and narrower than human tongues. “A dog’s tongue can sometimes move differently because dogs don’t speak,” says Hohenhaus. “They do not have to move their tongue to pronounce the letter S or T.”
Dog tongues have fewer taste buds than humans
Dogs have more taste buds on their tongue than cats, but not nearly as many as humans. (They have about one-sixth the number of taste buds of humans). Dogs can taste bitter, salty, sweet and sour things. Cats, on the other hand, cannot taste sweetness, says Hohenhaus. “But we also think that dogs choose their food more by smell than by taste,” she says, “Smell is more important and dogs have an incredible sense of smell.” All this suggests that a dog’s sense of taste is less sensitive than a human’s, explains Hohenhaus.
Dogs use their tongues to express emotions
Many dog owners know how nice it can be to get “kisses” from their dogs. However, according to experts, it can be difficult to interpret exactly what a dog lick means. Hohenhaus says it’s probably a dog’s way of exploring its surroundings, just like babies do with their mouth. “Dogs lick the faces of other dogs with their tongues in times of happiness and excitement,” Reiter adds.
Be careful, however, if you let your dog lick across your face all the time. “There are some studies that show that bacteria that cause periodontitis can be transmitted from dogs to humans,” Reiter says.
Dogs drink water differently than cats
Dogs and cats both use their tongue to drink water, but the process is very different. A cat uses the tip of its tongue to draw water upwards and then quickly closes its jaw to catch the liquid in its mouth. A dog uses “a simple lapping process in which the tongue is curled slightly backwards to form a” spoon “that collects as much water as possible and quickly puts it back in its mouth,” Reiter says. Watch this video to see the difference.