My Dog’s Tongue is Pale and White. Is This Normal?

Most pet parents do not think to check the color of their dog’s tongue when their pup gets sick or if they are acting a little off. One of the most common warnings that a dog is sick is that their gums and tongue become pale or white. So, is it normal for a dog’s tongue to be pale and white?

If your dog’s tongue is pale or white, it could indicate a severe health issue. It could be a symptom of trauma to the body from an accident, injury, or ingesting a toxic substance. It could also be a less invasive issue, such as poor dental health or oral papilloma

Knowing what symptoms to watch out for is essential so your pup can receive treatment for the underlying illness. If you want to know why your dog’s tongue is pale and white, peruse this article.

my dogs tongue is white and pale south bend in

What Should My Dog’s Tongue Look Like?

Just like the tongue controls how a human speaks, a canine’s tongue plays an essential role in affecting the sound of his bark. Most dogs have a pink tongue that salivates and drools at the sight of their favorite food or treats. Your dog’s tongue has arteries and veins that give it its trademark pink color. If your pup’s tongue becomes pale or white, it is typically due to a circulatory or health issue.

What Are the Reasons a Dog Has a Pale or White Tongue?

If your dog’s tongue is pale or white, you should consult your vet, as many health problems can precipitate an abnormally colored tongue. There are also symptoms you should be looking for to be able to tell that your dog may be experiencing a health issue. The following include some of the possible reasons why your pup’s tongue is pale or white:


The main internal purpose of red blood cells is to bring oxygen to your dog’s tissues and pick up carbon dioxide. Anemia occurs when there is a decline in red blood cells in the body. Some of the triggers of anemia include:

  • Kidney disease
  • lymphoma
  • Immune-mediated diseases
  • Extreme blood loss due to trauma

There is typically an underlying health issue that causes anemia. Some signs that your pooch may have anemia include pale gums, elevated heart rate, and lack of appetite. Dogs who are experiencing anemia may also eat dirt to compensate for a loss of iron.

Shock to the Body

Low blood volume or pressure can lead to less oxygen delivered to the pup’s body. Sometimes, the brain and heart might not gain the oxygen required to perform properly. Circulation to the tissues is halted as the body attempts to get oxygen to these vital organs. Some of the symptoms of shock are:

  • Pale gums
  • Sunken eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Disorientation

Hypovolemic shock, for example, is the most common type of shock in dogs. It occurs when the circulating blood volume is dangerously low. Hypovolemic shock can happen with an internal or external hemorrhage or impaired blood clotting ability.

Internal Bleeding

If your canine is experiencing internal bleeding, their gums and tongue may be a pale pink or white color due to decreased blood circulation. Dogs may have internal bleeding due to trauma. They may have been hit by a car or ingested a toxic substance. Cancer is a common cause of internal bleeding in dogs as well. Some of the external symptoms of internal bleeding include:

  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Coolness on the legs, ears, or tail

Internal bleeding in dogs is extremely dangerous because it is difficult to tell that it is occurring, which delays the proper diagnosis from the veterinarian and treatment. Surgery may be required if there are broken bones or tumors.

Poor Dental Health why is my dogs tongue pale and white

Pups can sometimes develop plaque or tartar on their teeth, which is why it is so important to help your dog maintain optimum dental health. If you do not nurture your dog’s oral health, it can lead to a host of other health problems, like diabetes or heart disease. Some of the issues in the mouth it may trigger are:

  • Mouth ulcers
  • Tooth loss
  • Bad breath
  • Infections

Mouth ulcers can cause white spots on a dog’s tongue, and oral papillomas, or warts, can develop on the dog’s tongue, gums, and lips. Ulcers can also appear due to certain health conditions, like hypothyroidism, cancers, and autoimmune disorders.

Heart or Lung Disease

The heart and lungs work together to produce oxygenated blood throughout the body. If there is a crisis with these organs, circulation is diminished. If the body cannot circulate blood properly, and heart or lung disease is present, the gums and tongue are often pale. Some of the indications of heart or lung disease include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Fainting spells

There is no definitive reason for heart disease in dogs. Aging, obesity, breed, and nutrition can all affect a dog’s health outcome. Recognizing the signs to get your dog the right treatment sooner is essential.

Fungal Stomatitis

Stomatitis is the irritation of the gums and soft tissues inside the dog’s mouth. A hyper-immune response and overgrowth of fungus cause it. It attacks the tissues that surround the dog’s teeth. It affects the tongue, gums, oral mucosa, and pharynx. Some of the symptoms of stomatitis are:

  • Severely bad breath
  • Pus-like oral discharge
  • Ulceration on parts of the tongue
  • Gingivitis, ranging from mild to severe

There may also be an accumulation of fluid in the gums and visible inflammation. Fungal stomatitis can develop into a painful and debilitating condition for the dog. It can quickly become unbearable for them as they may have trouble eating, drinking, and swallowing.

Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure can come from a heart condition, liver or kidney disease, thyroid issues, or poor nutrition. Blood pressure can also decrease due to stress. Underlying medical conditions can make it worse. Some of the indications of low blood pressure are:

  • Heightened thirst
  • Intensified urination
  • Pale or white gums
  • Weakness

Low blood pressure can also cause confusion, disorientation, and fainting spells. One of the significant problems with low blood pressure is that the major organs are not getting sufficient oxygen, which causes poor circulation and white gums or tongue.


Leukemia is a form of cancer in which white blood cells are produced rapidly in the bloodstream and bone marrow. It is the most widespread form of cancer in dogs. Symptoms of chronic leukemia may not be evident, as it can take some time to develop. Some of the symptoms of chronic leukemia include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Poor appetite
  • Enlargement of the spleen
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes

Acute leukemia is when the symptoms have progressed over time and become more apparent. Pale or white gums and tongue, fever, vomiting, irregular breathing, and heart rate may be some of the symptoms of leukemia. Acute leukemia requires aggressive and immediate care.


mishawaka in dog tongue

A dog should typically have a pink-colored, healthy-looking tongue free from infection and injury. If your dog’s tongue is white, it could be caused by an underlying health condition, and you should take your canine to the vet as soon as possible.

For dog parents in the South Bend, IN region, Lincolnway Veterinary Clinic in Mishawaka is here to help. Give us a call today at (574) 256-1871 or visit us online.

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About Lincolnway Veterinary Clinic

Lincolnway Veterinary Clinic is a full service, AAHA accredited veterinary practice located in Mishwaka, Indiana. In addition to general wellness care like vaccinations and wellness exams, we also provide holistic veterinary care such as acupuncture and a variety of alternative medicine options.