A dog’s tongue may be small but it plays a big role in your pet’s life. It is not there so he can just taste the food, it also helps transport food to the mouth and laps water, so it is a very important organ for proper nutrition. More than that, the tongue can also regulate the dog’s body temperature. Dogs also use their tongues to clean themselves.
Because dogs always stick their tongues out, it’s so easy to tell when something’s wrong with it. What if you actually saw something strange, like a black spot on your dog’s tongue? Should you call your vet right away? Find out if the discoloration on your buddy’s tongue is a sign of a serious problem or a normal feature you should not be bothered about.
Black Spot on a Canine’s Tongue: What Does It Mean?
The right term for this is pigmentation which is just a fancy word for coloring. That black spot usually starts small and it can grow larger over time. You should not freak out, especially if that has been there since your pet was a pup.
More often than not, the dark spots or the pigmentation only have a cosmetic effect. They don’t harm a dog and will not affect the pet’s eating and drinking habits. If your pet is acting completely normal, there is no reason for you to panic.
These spots, which can vary in size, are just deposits of the excess pigment in your pet’s tongue and they have to have the same texture as the rest of the tongue. If they don’t, you will need to visit the vet to have them checked. In humans, it can be compared to freckles which are a result of overproduction of melanin.
Melanin refers to natural pigments found in almost all organisms, including canines. These are produced by the melanocytes cells. Pigmentation is responsible for the color of pets, although their genes play a bigger role in this. It’s the reason why some dogs are darker or lighter than others and also dictates what the color of a pup’s eyes or hair will be.
Can All Dogs Have Black Spots on the Tongue?
Yes, although it is more common among Chow Chows. This is actually a standard for their breed. All of them have a solid dark tongue. They are born with a pink tongue but after a few weeks, it begins to turn bluish-black. It usually starts changing color by the time a Chow Chow turns eight weeks old.
This is the part that makes many pet owners confused. When the pet has black and blue spots on his tongue, the owners end up wondering if their buddy is actually a Chow mix. He’s probably not! A Chow’s tongue is completely black-blue and doesn’t just have black spots.
The truth is a Chow Chows is not the only breed with a dark tongue so it’s possible that your pet is a mix but not of Chow Chow but of another dog breed. All dogs, regardless of age and breed, can have pigmentation on the tongue. There are roughly 40 breeds of dogs that can have spotted tongues.
Here are a few examples of dog breeds with spotted tongues:
- Belgian Malinois
- Chinese Shar-Pei
- Flat-Coated Retriever
- Tibetan Mastiff
As you can see, the Shar-Pei is on the list of breeds with a blue-black tongue. There are suspicions that the color of the tongue is gene-related. Like the Chow Chow, they are also natives of China. However, unlike the Chow Chow, not all Shar-Peis share the same tongue color. Some of them have lavender pigmentations on their tongue.
Do note that there are a few more dog breeds with spots on their tongues. Scientists have not discovered the reason behind the dark spots but one thing is for sure: this is nothing too serious. If your pet is acting normal and does not have a problem eating or drinking then it must be a case of pigmentation.
A white spot on your dog’s tongue is actually more alarming, because it can mean an infection with the Oral Papilloma Virus. This is also referred to as oral warts. These tumors are benign and do not develop only on the tongue but also in other areas of the mouth such as the lips and the gums.
Those white spots have the tendency to get infected, so if you ever see them on your dog’s tongue, consider visiting the vet right away. Oral papillomas can attract bacteria and once bacteria get in, that’s when the problem starts.
When to See the Vet
A visit to the vet may be necessary if the spot on the tongue is raised or if it does not have the same texture as the rest of the tongue. If you have a senior dog and he developed dark spots on other areas of the mouth like the gums, you definitely need to have him checked. This could indicate melanoma or a type of skin cancer that can affect all the pigmented cells in the body.
For some dogs, this is a sign of oral cancer. A dog with mouth cancer will also drool a love, have halitosis or foul-smelling breath, and find it hard to chew. Keep an eye for blood that might come from your pet’s mouth or if he loses any teeth. In case all these symptoms are present, you have to bring your dog to the vet to have him checked.
Based on statistics, around 5% to 7% of all skin tumors in dogs are melanocytes tumors. Any part of the body that has pigment can develop melanoma. While all dogs can have them, dark colored senior dogs are more prone to having them than the others.
Unfortunately, the exact cause of oral tumors in canines is not yet known. There are several types of tests done to identify oral melanoma in dogs which include X-rays, cytology, and tumor tissue microscopic exam.
A black spot on a dog’s tongue is simply an excess of pigment and it appears in several breeds. This is more prominent in Chow Chows, who normally have a solid black and bluish tongue. If your Chow’s tongue is pink then he is not even a Chow at all! Red or pink spots on a Chow’s tongue is considered a disqualifying factor, as per breed standards.
A black spot on a dog’s tongue is normal, just like how humans get freckles due to an excess in the melanin production. It’s something you should not worry about unless it has a foul odor and it has a strange texture. If it appeared all of a sudden, consult your vet to be sure. It’s better to be safe than sorry, as the old adage goes.