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What does it mean when a dog keeps sticking out his tongue? (Panting, Licking Air)

What does it mean when a dog keeps sticking out his tongue? (Panting, Licking Air)

Few things are cuter than a dog with their tongue stuck out. At times, it can seem as if they are mocking you. At others, they have a huge smile along with their outstretched tongue, seeming to be the happiest dog in the world. 

If you’ve seen your dog sticking their tongue out, you are probably wondering why they do it. It turns out, there are several reasons for this adorable trait. 

What does it mean when a dog keeps sticking out his tongue?

There are a few reasons why your dog may stick his tongue out. Many times, it’s simply charming. However, it can be a sign of an underlying health problem. 


One of the most common reasons for a dog to stick their tongue out is panting. This is their way of keeping cool. They open their mouth, stick their tongue out, and breathe quickly. There can also be other causes of panting, which we’ll look at in the next section. 


This is one of the concerning reasons for your dog to stick out their tongue. This will be accompanied by other symptoms. Your dog may drool excessively. They may lick their lips. Vomitting or dry heaves are another sign of nausea. 

Your dog may also have appetite changes. They may eat and drink more or less than normal. 

Naseau can be a sign of bloat. Bloat occurs when gas gets trapped in your dog’s stomach. As food digests, the pressure increases. Eventually, your dog’s stomach can twist, completely blocking the entrance and exit from the stomach. 

Bloat appears very quickly, and can be fatal within hours if not treated. Other signs of bloat include pain, swollen stomach, and retching without throwing anything up. 


Dogs will often stick out their tongue when they are relaxed.  Again, their body language is the clue you need to decode why their tongue is out.  When you feel relaxed, you may close your eyes or stretch your body out on the couch.

Your pooch is similar. If they are laying down with their belly exposed, they are relaxed. Other signs are a relaxed posture, and neutral ears and tail. You may also pick up the vibe that they are very relaxed and content. 

Hanging Tongue Syndrome

The strange name says it all. Dogs with hanging tongue syndrome do not have proper control of their tongue. They may have partial control or no control at all. This can be caused by a birth defect, injury, or brain damage. 

These dogs will have their tongue out often, potentially all the time. This puts them at a higher risk for dehydration and even frostbite. 

Mouth Problems

Mouth problems can also cause your dog to stick out their tongue. This includes foreign bodies stuck in their mouth. Sticks, rocks, and bones can become lodged in your dog’s mouth, causing them to stick out their tongue. 

Tumors and mouth cancer can also cause them to keep their tongue out. The tongue is a common site for oral tumors, and the majority of them are malignant. If your dog has a tumor on their tongue, they will keep it out. 

They can also develop small lesions on their tongue from the papilloma virus. These are generally not malignant, but can be painful. 

Inflammation of the mouth can also cause your pooch to stick out their tongue. This includes inflammation of the gums, tongue, lips, or the soft tissues of the mouth. This can be caused by diseases, ulcers, or eating a foreign body. 

Toxic Exposure

The most concerning reason for your dog to keep sticking their tongue out is that they’ve ingested something toxic. There are over 300 toxic houseplants, with at least 30 being commonly found in homes. 

Your medicine cabinet and cleaning closet are full of chemicals that could harm your dog. Even some human foods, like grapes, can be very harmful to them. 

If your dog is sticking out their tongue is accompanied by nausea, excessive drooling or foaming, and pain or lethargy, this may be the cause. 

Why does my dog keep have his tongue out panting?

It’s normal for your dog to stick their tongue out when they are panting, but you may wonder why they are panting in the first place. There are several reasons dogs pant. 


Dogs do not sweat like people do. When they pant, they actually release heat from their body, and bring in cooler air.

Increased Oxygen

The rapid breathing and open mouth also help them bring in more oxygen. Dogs will  often pant after exercise, even if the weather is cool. It’s similar to a human breathing hard after a run. 

Excitement or Stress

Panting can also be a sign your dog is excited or stressed. It may be a self comfort mechanism for them. It’s also possible that the increased oxygen gained from panting can prepare them for fight or flight. 

Your dog may be excited about going for a walk, or anxious about a vet visit. Paying attention to your dog’s body language can also let you know why they are panting. 

If they are nervous, expect their tail to be pointing down or between their legs. They may also cower or crouch down. Shivering and frequent licking are also clues your pooch is stressed. 

If they are excited, they will have an upright body posture. Their tail will be pointing up, and likely wagging as well. Their ears will be pointing up or forward, showing that they are alert but not stressed. 


Some dogs pant when they are happy. You’ll notice relaxed body language and an upright tail if this is the case. Your dog may seem to smile, giving the pant a slightly comical appearance. 


Pain is another reason dogs pant. If you suspect pain is the cause, look for other signs. These include limping, stiff or slow movements, whining, and lethargy. 

Why does my dog lick the air?

You are taking your dog for a walk. Suddenly, they stick their tongue out and lick the air. It’s a strange sight, but one that’s actually completely normal. 

Smelling the Air

Yes, I said smelling, not tasting, the air. How can your dog smell with their tongue? They actually have a Jacobson’s organ, similar to snakes. When they lick the air, it brings it into this special organ. 

This allows your dog to learn about their environment, by decoding the chemical messages present in the air. 


Dogs have a well defined hierarchal structure. In a pack, there’s an alpha male and female. The rest of the dogs will submit to them. In your home, you are the pack leader. Your dog is naturally inclined to submit to your leadership. 

Licking is a submissive behavior. When your dog licks the air, it can be their way of saying, “Yes Sir”. Other signs your dog is displaying submission include looking down, laying down on the ground, or bowing. 

Compulsive Disorder

Just like humans, dogs can develop compulsive disorder. If your dog is constantly licking, this may be why. In addition to licking themselves, they may also lick the air. 

What to do if my dog keeps sticking his tongue out?

If your dog keeps sticking their tongue out, there’s a chance there’s something wrong. They may be simply happy, or they may need medical attention, depending on the cause. 

Check for Heat Stroke

If your dog is panting and sticking out their tongue, this is a normal behavior. However, if they are too hot, this is a concern. Heat stroke occurs when your dog gets too hot. Excessive panting, lethargy, and loss of consciousness are signs of a heat stroke.

If you suspect your dog has heat stroke, bring them into a cooler environment immediately. Be sure to give them plenty of cool water to drink. Bring them to the vet for evaluation. 

Inspect Their Mouth

Because sticking the tongue out can be caused by a wide range of mouth problems, you’ll need to take a look. Look for swelling, redness, and masses in the mouth. You should also look for broken teeth and foreign bodies. 

If you see anything concerning, make an appointment with the vet. If you don’t, it’s likely not the cause of your dog’s tongue sticking out. 

Pain or Illness

If your dog is showing signs of pain or illness, this warrants a vet visit as well. If they are experiencing pain, you’ll need to get them to the vet within the next day or two. If they are having severe pain in their stomach, you’ll need to get them checked out immediately. 

If your dog is experiencing nausea, you’ll need to look for signs of bloat. In addition to dry heaving, a dog with bloat cannot poop. Often, they will not be able to pee either. Bloat requires immediate medical attention. 

Stress or Anxiety

If your pooch seems stressed or anxious, try to pinpoint the cause. Has there been a recent change to the household, like a new family member or a change to your schedule? 

Have they recently had a negative experience, like being startled by fireworks? Is there another animal in the home that causes them stress? 

Giving your dog their own area where they can relax can be helpful. Eliminate or reduce the cause of stress when possible. Stick to their normal routine to the best of your ability. 

If you are concerned about your dog’s stress level, discuss it with your vet or an animal behaviorist.  

Why does my dog stick his tongue out when sleeping?

You find your dog napping with their tongue out. It can look absolutely adorable, but you also wonder why their tongue is out. 


The most common reason your dog sleeps with their tongue out is that they are very relaxed. In this state, their mouth hangs open and their tongue basically falls out. It’s wonderful to know that your dog is relaxed and comfortable enough to let it all hang out. 

Typically, this will last for a few minutes. Then your dog will shift positions and pull their tongue back in. 


Your dog will also sleep with their tongue out if they are overheated or dehydrated. In addition to an outstretched tongue, you’ll notice dry, sticky, or tacky gums. They may also be very pale in color. 

Severe dehydration is dangerous and requires medical care. Mild dehydration can be treated at home by giving your pooch some water. 

Dehydration can occur because of illness, particularly vomiting or diarrhea. This takes a significant amount of water from their body. If it’s not replaced, they become dehydrated. 

Lack of access to water can also cause dehydration. Your dog should have access to fresh clean water at all times, particularly if they are hot or active.