Why Does My Dog Sleep With His Tongue Out?

dog sleep with tongue out

The pictures are all over the internet. Cute dogs sleeping with their tongue out are adorable.

However, it does beg the question… why does my dog sleep with his tongue out? Is there something wrong? Could it cause any problems?

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Let’s get right into it.

Why Does My Dog Sleep With His Tongue Out?

There are a few reasons a dog might stick his tongue out while sleeping. It could be your dog is too hot or a medical condition could be the culprit. Below we’ll discuss all the possible reasons your dog is sleeping with his tongue out.

Here Are 7 reasons Dogs Stick Out Their Tongues:

  1. Smooshed face
  2. Missing teeth
  3. Dog body temperature
  4. Neurological difficulties
  5. Medication
  6. Hanging tongue syndrom
  7. Dog’s dream

1. Smoosh Faced Dogs

Dogs like Boxers and others with a rather smooshed face tend to sleep with their tongue out. This is in part because their mouth just doesn’t have enough room for their tongue. They also tend to have some respiratory difficulties.

2. Dogs with Missing Teeth

The area between gum and lip in a dog is not as large as it is for humans. If the dog has several missing teeth, the tongue will hang out. Unfortunately for the dog, it’s likely to hang out all of the time.

3. Your Dog is Hot

There are a few “what if” scenarios as well. If it is very hot, the dog may pant in his or her sleep. The tongue is, indeed, hanging out but for a good reason.

Dogs don’t lose heat the way we humans do. Most of their heat alleviation is done by panting. Even sleeping dogs need relief from the heat.

So panting is a natural process that keeps dogs cool during hot weather. There’s nothing wrong with your dog. You need to make that he has plenty of water to help him cool his body temperature.

This dog panting guide covers all the reasons why your dog could develop restlessness and panting.

4. Neurological Difficulties

Some nervous system problems can cause the dog to let his or her tongue hang out. This may just be during sleep or it could be all of the time. This is something the vet will have to diagnose, and there may or may not be a treatment for it.

One neurological problem that could cause this to start is a stroke. There will probably be other noticeable symptoms, although not always. If you suspect a stroke, it is an emergency. Even if it’s the middle of the night on a holiday weekend, find a vet fast.

5. Medication

It’s hard to tell which medications might have this side effect, although muscle relaxing medications are likely to be a culprit. Keep an eye on any medications the vet may have prescribed your dog.

6. Hanging Tongue Syndrome

Most of the above-mentioned reasons are grouped under this heading, but any that don’t have a definable reason is listed under this category. Some dogs simply let their tongues hang out while they sleep.

7. Your Dog Is Dreaming

Another reason is your dog is dreaming. Dogs pant when they are excited. They may kick their rear legs (called rabbit kicking) and stick their tongue out in response to whatever they are dreaming.

I’ve watched many dogs (and cats) do this and it can be cute. I wonder what they are dreaming about?

Do You Need to See The Vet If Your Dog Sleeps With His Tongue Out?

Is this a problem? The answer is maybe. If it only happens once in a while, then it’s probably fine.

If it happens regularly or suddenly starts to happen, then it is time to do some investigation. Let’s review what questions to ask and what to do when you have the answer.

Has The Dog Started a New Medication Lately?

This is something everyone should do for themselves, their family members, and their fur babies.

Always read the accompanying material. Look for side effects, drug interactions, and special instructions. Under side effects, it may tell you that the medication can cause this problem. If not, ask the vet.

What’s The Temperature Where Your Dog Is Sleeping?

Three out of four of the humans in our family have spent all or most of their formative years in this very hot state. So has the dog. To them, water starts to freeze if it’s under seventy degrees.

That isn’t so for me. I get hot at around sixty-three degrees. How hot it is depends in large part on where you are. If you live in a temperate zone with high humidity, your dog could get hot at a much lower temperature.

Dog Dental Issues

While missing teeth are the usual culprit for a dog’s tongue hanging out when it sleeps, dental pain could also be involved.

There are a few ways to tell if there is a pain issue. Does the dog have problems chewing things? Is his or her breath foul? Does he or she paw at the mouth sometimes? These point to dental issues.

Neurological Problems in Dogs

In humans, we can ask the patient questions to give us some idea of what’s going on. Unfortunately, we can’t ask a dog. However, there are often other symptoms that go with a neurological problem.

Is your dog unsteady when he stands? Does he or she have problems using one side of the body? Are they dragging a leg? Has his or her personality changed? All of those point to serious problems.

What to Do If Your Dog Is Sticking Out His Tongue

So, now that we have an idea of the problem, what should we do about it? Again, it depends on the issue. If the dog has no medical issues that need to be addressed, it is time to pay some attention to tongue health.

Hanging Tongue Syndrome Treatment

Hanging tongue syndrome can cause some painful issues. Think of it this way. Imagine yourself in the deep desert. You’re out of water and it’s a hundred twenty degrees outside.

You also have no chapstick. You can imagine that your lips (and tongue) would be incredibly sore. That’s how your dog’s mouth is going to feel.

Like your lips, the tongue can crack and bleed. It could easily get infected. If you live where it gets cold enough, your dog could get frostbite on his or her tongue. Therefore, it’s important to address the issue.

A small amount of olive oil applied to the dog’s tongue on a regular basis can avoid the cracking issue. Even if your dog’s tongue doesn’t stick out, it is unwise to leave it outside when it’s that cold. 

Change or Stop Medication

If you suspect that it is a medication issue, consult the vet. Sometimes it is a harmless side effect that can be dealt with as above. Sometimes it might be ideal to change the medication to something that doesn’t cause the issue. An informed vet can help you with the problem.

Clean Your Dog Teeth

Like humans, you need to clean your dog’s teeth on a regular basis. Many dog owners even brush their dog’s teeth daily. There are special dog kinds of toothpaste for this process. Dogs cannot use human toothpaste because of the xylitol content.

If you suspect he or she has dental issues, you need to make an appointment for a tooth cleaning. As the dog will likely be sedated during the procedure, the vet and assistants may also remove any teeth that are too far gone. This will improve the breath, but it could make the dog’s tongue hang out if too many are removed.

Protect Your Dog from Cold Weather

If it’s too warm for your dog, you may want to turn on a fan or an air conditioner. Dogs are wearing a fur coat, and overweight dogs have a parka on under it. They will feel the heat faster than a human will. Like us, they can become very ill if they get too hot or stay too hot too long.

Don’t Touch Your Dog While Sleeping

There are some things not to do if your dog’s tongue hangs out while he or she is asleep. Despite the temptation, booping the cute tongue could get you bit.

Even if you’re following instructions and applying olive oil to it, wake the dog up before doing so. Dogs can have a startle response to something like that.

It is also unwise to pet a dreaming dog. This is, even more, the case if the dog is growling while he or she is dreaming. Again, this is to avoid the dog suddenly waking up and biting you. Humans can take several seconds to reorient themselves from a particularly vivid dream and so can dogs.

Keep The Children Out

Watch the children around your dog if he or she has a habit (or need) to sleep this way. You know the rules but young children might not understand them. No matter how much the dog loves your child, the dog could still have a startle response that would be harmful.

Take Your Dog to The Vet

As has been mentioned more than once, if you suspect a neurological problem, consider it an emergency. Some problems need to be treated as fast as possible in order to preserve the quality of life of your dog. A stroke may even cause the death of your pet if it is not treated swiftly. 

Conclusion

A dog whose tongue hangs out while he or she is sleeping isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most dogs will do it once in a while. Some dogs don’t have much of a choice. If you suspect there is a health issue with your pet, do take him or her to the vet as soon as possible.

Also, keep in mind that it is probably a bad idea to diagnose and treat your dog yourself… unless you are a vet or vet tech. Some supplements that we take could be harmful to your pet. Others may interact with any medications the dog might be on. Always ask the vet first.