Why Do Dogs Sleep With Their Tongues Out? Should You Be Worried?

I love watching my dog sleep: She’s so adorable!

Plus the funny fidgeting and twitching when she’s dreaming just add to the cuteness factor.

The thing is, I noticed before that she tends to stick her tongue out when she’s sleeping, and that got me wondering, why do dogs sleep with their tongues out? Is that even normal?

It’s quite normal to see dogs with their tongues sticking out, both when they are awake and asleep. If you catch your dog sleeping with their tongue out, it likely means they are super relaxed. As sleep deepens and muscles relax, their mouths open a bit and as their tongues are longer, they tend to droop out.

This happens to humans too when we sleep but our tongues aren’t that long!

If you notice your dog sleeping with its tongue hanging out, there’s nothing to worry about.

This normal occurrence has no adverse side effects besides waking up with a dry mouth.

Only in rare cases might this be an issue that needs further attention.

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Why do dogs keep their tongue out most of the time

Besides the time when they are asleep, dogs do tend to hang their tongues out of their mouths while they’re awake as well.

Most of the reasons for this are perfectly normal and not a cause for concern, although sometimes a dog that constantly has its tongue hanging out could be indicative of a problem. 

Panting

The main reason dogs will have their tongues hanging out is when they are panting. Dogs will usually be panting on a hot day or after vigorous exercise. 

Dogs panting is comparable to humans sweating; It’s the body’s response to try to cool off. When your dog is panting, they have their mouths open, tongues out, and are taking short, shallow breaths. This allows water to evaporate from the tongue and the upper respiratory tract which is what helps them cool down. 

If your dog is panting too much, make sure they are properly hydrated and offer them water. Also bring them to a cool, shaded area and reduce physical activity for a bit.

If the panting won’t slow down, or if they are panting for reasons unrelated to heat or exercise, this may be indicative of a problem and you should contact your vet. Otherwise, panting with tongues hanging out is a totally normal occurrence. 

Dental issues

Another main reason your dog might often have their tongue hanging out of their mouths is because of dental issues.

If you notice your dog’s eating behaviors have changed coupled with a constant hanging tongue, there might be issues in their mouths with their gums or teeth.

Your dog could have gum disease, tooth decay, or other sensitivities that make it painful for them to keep their tongues in their mouths.

Older dogs, small dog breeds, and dogs with existing dental issues may already be missing some teeth.

When too many teeth have been removed, there are not always enough teeth left to hold the tongue in your dog’s mouth.

The tip of the tongue might droop out on the side where the teeth are missing. 

Can Sleeping With Tongue Out Cause Issues?

dog sticking tongue out during sleep

Usually, when dogs are sleeping with their tongues out, they will end up shifting positions and their tongue will go back into their mouths. They wouldn’t usually go through an entire sleep with their tongue hanging out. Even if they do, dogs should not suffer any adverse effects from it. 

However, if the tongue is exposed for long periods of time and this happens too regularly, it can lead to a dry and cracked tongue and lips. Most of us can relate to having very dry lips that end up cracking and bleeding a bit. It’s an uncomfortable feeling and leaves an open wound that can be vulnerable to infection. 

If you do notice dry, cracked tongues and lips, contact your vet. There are a variety of balms and oils you can try using on your dog that helps keep the areas soft and moisturized. 

Doggy says, read this too: How long is a day for a dog? Or a month or a year?

Common Breeds That Sleep With Their Tongues Out

Though any kind of dog can be found snoozing with their tongues out, brachycephalic dog breeds [1] are more prone to having their tongues hanging out, both while awake and asleep. 

Brachycephalic is a term that describes dog breeds with short muzzles and flat faces, also known as a “smooshed face.”

These distinct facial features are the result of genetic mutations that became characteristic features of certain breeds.

Some of these distinctly “smooshed face” dogs include Boxers, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Chow Chows, Pugs, and Shih Tzus.

Because these brachycephalic breeds have short and wide skulls with abnormal jaw structures, this often leads to a condition called “hanging tongue syndrome.” 

Doggy says, read this too: Do Havanese dogs like water? Plus 3 swimming tips to use now

What is hanging tongue syndrome?

Hanging tongue syndrome is a condition that can affect all dogs but is most commonly seen in small dogs and “smooshed face” breeds. However, the condition is not solely due to genetics. 

The condition itself is pretty self-explanatory and is when a dog tends to constantly have their tongues hanging out; awake and asleep.

This is common in dogs with short, flat faces because they have a muzzle that is too short and their tongues are too large for their mouths.

Sometimes breeding may have also led to a jaw bone that doesn’t properly support the tongue.

Those breeds with short, flat faces often have some difficulties breathing properly which cause them to pant more and put their tongues out.

They may find it difficult to sleep normally, often snoring while sleeping and sometimes waking up due to a brief moment where their breathing stops.

Symptoms of Hanging Tongue Syndrome in Dogs

The main symptom related to hanging tongue syndrome is your dog having a very dry tongue and possibly dry lips as well.

The tongue can become cracked and bleed, and in worse cases become thick and swollen.

Because of the broken skin on the tongue, tongue infections can occur. All of this may also cause your dog may also have bad breath. 

If you notice a sudden change in your dog’s behavior and these hanging tongue symptoms just appeared, it could be a sign of a more serious issue.

If you have recently given your dog new medication, contact your veterinarian as they may be having some kind of allergic reaction to the meds. 

It could also be a sign of neurological problems or cancer, as some oral cancers or masses can cause the tongue to hang out.

Doggy says, read this too: How to stop my dog from eating worms? 2 methods that will work

How to treat hanging tongue syndrome?

There is no real fix to hanging tongue syndrome unless the underlying cause of it has a solution, like a dental issue that can be remedied.

Short-nosed pups or dogs missing teeth can not be “cured” of hanging tongue syndrome. Your dog will have to live with the condition but you can help make it less burdensome for them. 

The best way you can help your dog is by making sure there is always water available to them at all times so they can drink and hydrate their dry mouths. You can also talk to your vet about oils or balms to help with the cracked tongue.

As a quick fix, if you notice your dog’s tongue or lips are dry you can rub a tiny bit of olive oil on the affected area to provide some moisturization and relief.

Also, pay attention to the color of your dog’s tongue and gums and make sure the color doesn’t change, which could be a sign of infection. In cold, winter months, make sure your dog’s tongue is not exposed to the cold for too long or they might get frostbite on their tongue!

Doggy says, read this too: How to stop your dog from peeing on the deck? Prevention and clean up tips

What about if my dog’s tongue is hanging out and it is shaking?

The reasons you dog might be behaving like this could be similar to our explanation above. On top of that, there might be a few other factors that should be accounted for.

Old age

Older dogs tend to have irregular behavior more so than a younger dog. This can be due to their bodies generally weakening, or they could be on medication that causes them to behave this way.

Having dreams

Dogs, just like us humans, dream too. And when they do, it is not uncommon to see them twitching and shaking and moving their bodies.

However, if you notice that the shaking is excessive, resembling more like convulsions, then you likely have an emergency on hand. The vet is the place you should visit right away.

Pain

If your dog has suffered an injury, it can cause it to display signs of shaking too. You should bring it to the vet to get a prescription for pain killers to help it manage the recovery process.

Consider placing your dog in a crate where it can feel secure, safe, and not move around too much. This is why crate training is important when during its puppy days.

Fun Fact

If you paid any attention at all to the World’s Ugliest Dog competition (we don’t like how it’s named by hey, just take it as a joke!), you will find that most of the participants are dogs with tongues hanging out of their mouths!

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In conclusion: Why do dogs sleep with their tongues sticking out?

Well, it does look cute, doesn’t it? In all seriousness, dogs sleeping with their tongues out are generally harmless. It is usually due to them being in a super relaxed state.

There are other unique behaviors such as your dog sleeping with their bum towards you too!

They do not cause them any harm, but if you do notice any changes in behavior or cracked lips and tongues, a visit to the vet would be the wise thing to do.

Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hi, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a certified vet tech for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn or check out my about page!.

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