It’s pretty rare to see a person sleeping with their tongue out. But when it comes to a dog or a cat, it’s quite common. When you see your pup sleeping with its tongue out, your first inclination might be to snap a funny picture. After that, though, you might start to wonder: Exactly why does it do that?
First: Sleeping with a tongue out is very common, and it’s usually nothing you need to worry about. But there are exceptions and there may be things that you might need to know.
Why does my dog sleep with its tongue out?
As a person, you can’t even sleep with your tongue out. Or at least, you probably can’t. Human tongues just aren’t long enough.
But a dog’s tongue is much longer than its mouth; you can tell that when it licks you. Dogs’ tongues need to be longer, so they can lap up water and manipulate their food. Dogs actually experience the world through their mouths; their mouths are much like their hands. Dogs don’t have lips, so they can’t “sip” on things. They need their tongue.
But why doesn’t it occasionally lol out?
Your Dog is Very Relaxed
A dog sleeping with its tongue out can be the human equivalent of someone sleeping so deep that they snore. In fact, occasionally you may notice your dog snoring, too! Dogs tend to have their tongue fall out when they’re very relaxed. Everything loosens, including their jaw muscles, their mouth opens, and their tongue falls right out. Since their tongues are big and larger than their mouths, they need to keep their mouth closed to keep it in.
Sometimes, your dog’s tongue might fall completely out; sometimes you might just see a little “blep.” Either way, it’s usually just a sign that your dog is having a nice time, as long as it isn’t accompanied by any other signs of distress.
Your Dog is Hot
Dogs pant when hot because they don’t sweat like people.
When a dog is hot, they try to evaporate moisture from their paw pads and from their tongue. They don’t sweat from their skin like humans.
So, your dog could be hot. In its sleep, it’ll start to pant. You can tell because you will also see your dog panting a little (breathing deeply and rapidly) and your dog may be hotter than normal to the touch.
To a certain extent this can be normal. Dogs get hot very easily, so a dog might just be enjoying a hot summer day. But you should be careful about heat stroke and make sure that your dog has more than enough water once it awakes from its nap.
Your Dog is Dreaming
Dogs tend to stick their tongue out when they are dreaming. If they are dreaming of lapping up water or suckling as a puppy, they are far more likely to do this. Sometimes you can even see suckling behavior in sleeping dogs; they will stick their tongue out and curl it a little while swallowing. Nothing wrong, they’re just dreaming about their mother!
Dogs might also stick their tongue out or let it fall out when they’re in a deep sleep and dreaming about something else. Other behaviors could include barking, tipping, or even howling in their sleep.
Your Dog is Missing Teeth
If you rescued your dog, you might not even realize that your dog is missing teeth.
A dog’s tongue is mostly held in by its teeth. And your dog doesn’t know it should pull its tongue in, especially not when it’s unconscious. If your dog frequently has its tongue coming out, then it probably doesn’t have some front teeth.
For the most part, this is normal. Especially in older dogs. Chihuahuas and other toy breeds frequently have teeth pulled because their mouths are too small for the teeth that grow in them. But it can become a problem if your dog’s tongue becomes too dry.
When a dog’s tongue becomes too dry, it can start to crack. It can get infections and it can feel uncomfortable for your dog. You can get special ointmints for your dog’s tongue to keep it moist even when it’s hanging out.
Your Dog Has a Long Tongue
Specifically, your dog has a short nose.
Every dog has pretty much the same length of tongue proportionate to its body. But you may have noticed some dogs, like pugs, have very short noses.
This can lead to a dog whose tongue is simply too large for its mouth.
Smush-nosed dogs are more likely to have tongues sticking out for exactly this reason. Because their tongues are too long, they just don’t have a place to go. Plus, because they often have trouble breathing, they are more likely to breathe with their mouth open, which also causes their tongue to fall out.
There’s really nothing to do about this, but you may have similar concerns about the tongue becoming too dry.
Your Dog is Breathing
Have you ever had allergies so bad you started breathing through your mouth?
This can happen to dogs, too. It can be allergies, or they may just want more oxygen, and consequently start breathing through their open mouths. Again, when a dog’s mouth opens, it’s very likely to have its tongue fall out; it’s just too long!
If your dog is suddenly breathing through its mouth rather than its nose, you may want to explore the situation with your vet. It’s possible that it has some sort of allergy or some kind of respiratory problem. Every dog will do this occasionally, but it becoming a habit all of a sudden could indicate a medical problem.
What to do about my dog sleeping with its tongue out?
So, what do you do about it?
For most dogs, the answer is nothing. You don’t need to do anything about them sleeping with their tongue out because it’s perfectly normal. But there can be occasions to do something, depending on why your dog is sleeping with its tongue out:
- If your dog is hot, cool off the room. Your dog could be panting in its sleep because it’s too warm. Since dogs do use their tongue to self-regulate their temperature, this is pretty common. Often, dogs feel hot faster than we do, because we have so much skin to use to evaporate sweat.
- If your dog’s tongue is becoming dry, moisten it. An issue that can arise for dogs that frequently have their tongue out is that the tongue can become dry and cracked. You should be able to see whether your dog’s tongue is moist by looking at it. If it’s getting dry, you can use something like olive oil or even water to re-wet it, and you may want to talk to your vet about how to solve the problem. This can frequently happen with dogs that cannot pull their tongue in, such as dogs without teeth.
You can inquire with your vet if you’re concerned. If it’s a new habit or something you didn’t notice before, it could indicate a problem (such as allergies causing your dog to mouth breathe). On the other hand, it could just be that your dog is getting the sleep of its life!