Why Do Dogs Sleep With Their Tongues Out?

Whether you have a French Bulldog, Shih Tzu, English Bulldog, a Poodle, a puppy, or an older dog, you may notice a common habit that most dogs have, sleeping with their tongue out. This is a cute picture that’s worth capturing in a photograph, and it’s typical for many pets to have their tongue hanging out, including cats and rabbits. While most dogs do this out of habit, there are some important reasons why a pet’s tongue sticks out as they sleep.

Dogs Need to Cool Down

Dog’s tongues contain a robust system of muscles used to perform many tasks, including eating, drinking, swallowing, and cooling down in hot weather. There are many nerves and blood vessels in a dog’s tongues, which can heat up quickly, and they require cooling down to relax and recharge.

When dogs feel tired after playing or exercising outside, they may release those muscles as they sleep, which results in their tongues hanging out.

Since dogs lack the sweat glands throughout their body to thoroughly cool down, especially in hot and humid temperatures, they typically pant with their tongues to cool their body. When they sleep with their tongues out, this exposes them to the open air, which also has a cooling and relaxing effect.

Dental Issues and Missing Teeth

If a dog misses several teeth or has a dental concern, such as gum disease, it may find relief by sticking its tongue out like the rest. When dogs have many teeth missing, this may not be uncomfortable in itself, but it can prevent their tongues from staying in their mouths when they relax or sleep. Without the protection or “fence” that teeth provide for canines and other animals, it’s not uncommon for pets with missing teeth to let their tongue stick out.

While missing teeth is more common in older dogs, it’s not a significant cause for concern unless an underlying condition hasn’t been resolved, such as periodontal disease. If you notice visible discomfort or it appears that your dog is in pain, it’s essential to seek advice from a veterinarian, including dental services, to treat any oral diseases and related issues that can cause further discomfort.

Hanging Tongue Syndrome

Most dogs sticking their tongues out do so because of comfort, relief, or dental-related issues. Other common reasons can explain why a dog’s tongue protrudes, including Hanging Tongue Syndrome, which often develops because dogs don’t have enough room in their mouth for their tongue. While this isn’t a health condition or harmful for dogs, it’s essential to monitor your pup’s behavior and sleeping patterns, to ensure they remain comfortable.

Tongues Need Extra Space for Comfort

Dogs tend to have tongues that are large for their mouths, which makes it more comfortable for them to let them hang out as they sleep. It’s not uncommon for dogs to have a protruding tongue when relaxing, whether awake or slipping into a deep sleep.

Small dog breeds tend to have even less space in their mouth for their tongues, due to their short face shape, especially between the nose and mouth, leading to excessive drooling, labored breathing, and an exposed tongue. It’s not unusual to see dogs with excess saliva if they have been relaxing for a while or have dental issues.

Medical Conditions and Changes

If your dog takes medication or experiences a change in a treatment program, they may sleep more or rest differently, leading to their tongue hanging out more often. This habit isn’t concerning in most cases and allows your dog to adjust to its new medication and lifestyle.

It’s also not uncommon to notice a change in how a dog sleeps with their tongue out when they become more physically active or exhausted due to changes in the lifestyle, diet, and exercise routine.

Dogs Feel Relaxed

What is the most likely reason a dog sleeps with its tongue sticking out? They feel safe, comfortable, and secure, reassuring for pet owners. When a dog sticks their tongue out, they completely release those muscles and allow themselves to rest and recharge. An exposed tongue is often a symptom of a pet let go entirely as they sleep, especially as they reach the REM sleep stage.

Tips for Keeping Your Dog Healthy

There are a few simple ways to keep your dog comfortable while they sleep or as they are getting ready to settle into their bed and rest:

  • Ensure your dog has a comfortable space to sleep, whether a bed, blanket, or area that provides them with a sense of security and safety. This will allow them to relax completely and enjoy a good rest.
  • Always provide a source of clean, filtered water that’s cool or at room temperature so that your dog can stay hydrated and comfortable. Regular hydration will help dogs stay cool, especially during hot weather, sleep well, and are less likely to overheat. Small dogs are especially prone to experiencing body temperature changes, often leading to their tongue sticking out.
  • Be aware of any health problems or dental issues that can cause discomfort in your dog. Take steps to soothe them by gently talking to them and providing necessary treatments or medications as prescribed by a veterinarian.
  • Take note of heavy breathing, which can signify a respiratory problem or health issue requiring a veterinarian’s assessment and treatment. These types of conditions are prevalent in older dogs or pets with a history of breathing problems or as the result of an injury.

Final Thoughts

When dogs allow their tongues to hang out, it’s often an adorable picture that is enjoyable to watch. Fortunately, most of these dogs are healthy and sleep well, and their protruding tongues are simply a sign that they are entirely relaxed, feel safe, and are experiencing a quality rest. It’s a common characteristic in many pets, including dogs of all breeds and sizes.

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