Reasons Your Dog Has a White Tongue

It is not uncommon for pet parents to discover their dog has a health issue by being mindful of seemingly insignificant changes. Issues that may seem mild or unimportant can point to a larger issue. Whether your dog is licking a spot too much or has a white tongue, there is always a reason that might not be apparent at first.

Your pet’s tongue features a complex network of blood vessels. As a result, the tongue is normally a deep pink or red hue. If your dog’s tongue is white, it can indicate issues with respiration and circulation. Keep reading to learn more about the reasons for a white tongue.

Severe Allergic Reactions

Severe allergic reactions often present themselves as respiratory problems. Food, chemicals, pollutants, et al. are all potential causes. The severity of the allergic reaction may vary by allergen, but some dogs could be severely allergic to a specific thing. Another term for a severe allergic reaction is anaphylactic shock. Dogs show a host of symptoms in this condition, but difficulty breathing is quite prominent. The tongue and gums have a bluish-white hue to them.


Leukemia is a type of cancer where the body increases the production of white blood cells in the bloodstream and bone marrow. It may be acute or chronic, and the acute form is generally more dangerous. Leukemia has two types: lymphocytic leukemia, where cancerous cells are present in the lymph nodes, and myelogenous leukemia, located in the bone marrow. Both conditions present similar symptoms, including pale gums and a white tongue.

Disturbed Lung Function

Many things can cause disturbances in lung function. Pneumonia, chest infections, and lung cancer are just a few. When respiratory issues occur, they first appear as pale gums and a white tongue. Because the tongue has such a rich supply of blood vessels, respiratory problems can cause the tongue to become pale.


Anemia can occur as a symptom of an underlying disease or as Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA), a condition where the body mistakes its red blood cells as foreign and destroys them. Insufficient production of red blood cells or excessive blood loss can also cause anemia. Many symptoms can arise from anemias, and pale gums and a white tongue are chief among them.

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Loss of Blood

Dogs who suffer from conditions that cause internal bleeding or a major injury can lose a significant amount of blood. Parasites, cancer, ulcers, bleeding disorders, and surgeries can cause significant blood loss. If your dog suffers from a condition with no apparent symptoms, it could still experience internal bleeding. Many gastric diseases involve internal bleeding with no obvious symptoms except pale gums and white tongue.

Pulmonary Edema

Pulmonary Edema refers to fluid build-up in the lungs, which is usually a symptom of pneumonia. In this condition, fluid can build up within the air sacks in your pet’s lungs. While it is usually a symptom of pneumonia, many other conditions can also cause edema. Underlying health conditions such as anemia, heartworm, toxins, and injuries can cause Pulmonary Edema. The symptoms include difficulty breathing, coughing, and bluish tongue and lips.

Low Blood Pressure

Dogs suffering from heart conditions may experience fluctuations in blood pressure. Low blood pressure can also result from injuries, liver or kidney disease, thyroid issues, anemia, malnutrition, and severe blood loss. The blood pressure may also fall due to stress, but underlying medical conditions can worsen the issue. The organs do not receive enough blood or nutrients due to low blood pressure, so the tongue and gums appear white.


Diabetes is a serious illness that can affect your pet’s immune system. It leaves your dog vulnerable to heart disease and high blood pressure, among other conditions. Dogs with diabetes can suffer from a yeast infection called oral thrush or yeast stomatitis. Unlike the above conditions where the tongue turns white, there is only a white coating.

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Candida yeast, which thrives on the high sugar in your dog’s saliva, causes this condition. White patches cover the tongue and gums. This infection is rare in dogs and could indicate a severely weakened immune system. Dogs taking broad-spectrum antibiotics can also develop this infection.

Oral Papillomatosis

Oral Papillomatosis, or cauliflower tongue, is a viral disease that can cause dogs to develop warts inside their mouth or on the tongue. This contagious disease can spread through direct contact with the infected dog’s warts or indirect contact with licked objects. They appear as whitish or gray bumps inside your dog’s mouth. Fortunately, this condition resolves in a few weeks when your dog develops immunity against the virus.

Other Conditions

Many illnesses can cause your dog to have a white tongue. Since the tongue is full of blood vessels, it is usually the first organ to indicate respiratory or cardiac issues. Illnesses that cause internal bleeding, anaphylactic shock, and septic shock can disturb normal respiratory and cardiac function. Any condition affecting the lungs or heart can cause pale gums and a white tongue.


It is common for pets to develop health problems with no clear signs. You must be mindful of any unusual changes in your pet’s body. A white tongue may seem like nothing to worry about, but it can indicate serious conditions. Lung and heart issues are usually apparent by the color of the gums and tongue. If you notice that your pet has a white tongue, do not dismiss it. It is best if you consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. As with most illnesses, prompt treatment is the best course of action.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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