Most of us have seen the bluish to the black tongue of Chow Chow and Shar-pei, but have you seen dogs with black spots on their tongues? And the issue is whether or not this is a health issue? This article discusses the reasons behind dog tongue black spots.
Dog’s tongue can be a bit intriguing. Unlike a human tongue, a dog’s tongue has more functions such as for eating, drinking, grooming, controlling its body temperature, wound healing, and for communicating. The fleshy, watery, and smooth body organ is very critical in a dog’s daily activities. But as dog owners, most of us do not pay attention to our dog’s tongues. But if you will carefully examine dogs’ tongues, you’d see that some of them have pink tongues, blue to black tongues, and even spotted tongues.
Reason for Black Spots on Dog’s Tongue:
The black spots are merely extra pigmentations on the skin of the dog. There’s really nothing to worry about this condition. It can be compared to human freckles and birthmarks. If you examine your dog’s skin carefully, you can also find black spots in other parts of its skin, such as its stomach and nose. The black spots on the tongue are more noticeable than those in the other parts of the skin, and that’s why it’s the tongue that you notice more.
If you’re concerned about the correlation of the black spots on dog tongue with some severe health conditions, then you have to stop worrying about it. It’s not a disease syndrome, but just a type of extra pigmentation. It’s nothing more than your dog’s distinct markings, provided these black spots are already present at a young age.
Is it common? The answer to that query is still debatable up to this day. Though it is not a rare occurrence for pink-tongued dog breeds to exhibit black spots on tongue, there is some genetic connection. A dog which is seen to have black spots on the tongue is more likely to have a parent or even a grandparent who has a similar characteristic.
Though science has proven that there is a correlation between melanin and genes, science has not yet discovered as to how inheritance works when it comes to black spots on dog tongue.
Popular Dog Breeds Prone to Develop Black Spots on Tongue:
There are roughly 30 to 41 breeds that could have black spots on the tongue but the most common dog breeds to have this kind of excess pigmentations are the following:
- Bichon Frise
- Airedale Terrier
- Cocker Spaniel
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shepherd
- Great Pyrenees
- Labrador Retriever
- Shiba Inu
You can see that black spots on dog tongue can occur from lapdogs to police dogs based on the dog breeds listed above. The question is, what do these dog breeds have in common that can explain as to why they develop black spots on their tongues. Is it feasible that the genes of Chow Chow or Shar-Pei are in their lineage?
Some claim that there may be some Chow Chow or Shar-pei genes in those dogs with black spots on the tongue. So dogs with this distinct feature are not regarded to be purebred dogs. But this argument is not valid. This is because the lineage of a dog can not be traced or determined through its tongue. There are also black spots on the tongue on purebred dogs.
How to Determine if Black Spots on Dog Tongue is Something to Worry About?
As explained previously, melanin overproduction is the reason behind these black spots. There’s nothing to be afraid of. But is there any way to determine whether the black spots should make a parent as worried as you are? Here are some of the indications that might be cause for concern:
- Spots on the tongue which are not blue or black in color raised spots and have a foul odor
- The texture of the spots are not the same as the entire tongue
- Dark spots that appear suddenly in aging dogs could be melanoma or skin cancer
- Existing spots on the tongue that have changed in size and texture
How Do Normal Black Spots on Dog Tongue Look Like?
In order for a fur parent to make a distinction between normal and serious black spots on dog tongue, here is what to look for:
- The normal black spots are present at birth or can develop at a young age. But if the black spots appear at adulthood, then there could be an underlying medical condition.
- For normal black spots, the texture of these spots is the same as the rest of the dog’s tongue. On the other hand, if the black spots have raised texture in them, then this should be a cause of concern.
- Some dogs could have numerous spots or tiny spots on the tongue that could even cover the entire tongue, and this is nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if your dog suddenly develops a bluish tongue color, then this could be due to lung or heart disease.
- Normal black spots on dogs have no foul-smelling odor, but the ones that require medical attention have a foul odor.
What to Do About Black Spots on Dog Tongue?
If the black spots are due to pigmentation, then you do not have to do anything about it. These spots won’t cause damage to the overall health of your dog. It’s just too much pigmentation. Let me talk briefly about melanin and pigmentation in normal black spots in dog tongue.
Since there are some dog specialists who argue that there may be some Chow Chow or Sher-Pei genes in the dogs with black spots, this is not entirely accurate. These black spots are also seen in purebred dogs, so it is not feasible to have a mixed family history in your pedigreed dog. The only reason for dogs with black spots is a cell called melanocytes. These are the cells that generate melanin, and melanin is over-produced by these cells.
Thus, dark spots on the dog tongue are just excesses. Humans who have freckles are not considered sickly individuals, and such is also the case for the dogs with black spots on tongue.
However, if the black spots are due to an illness such as cancer, then Vet intervention is required.
Black Spots on Dog Tongue Linked To a Serious Medical Condition:
- Black Tongue Disease: This is characterized by the sudden change of color in a dog’s tongue from pink to black. Along with the black color of the tongue, it is accompanied by foul breath, ulceration in the mouth, and blood in the saliva. The usual cause is a deficiency in niacin. If left untreated, it could lead to death.
- Canine Melanoma: This is a form of skin cancer in dogs which affects the melanocytes. Malignant melanoma is usually seen in the dog’s mouth and other mucous membranes. This form of cancer spreads fast and can spread to other vital organs like lungs and liver. One of the symptoms is the sudden appearance of black spots on the dog’s tongue.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This skin cancer is usually caused by sun exposure. Though this form of skin cancer does not spread to the other organs it can be very aggressive and can cause a breakdown of the tissues around the malignant tumor.
- Oral Cancer: This form of cancer is relatively common. New growths such as black spots on the tongue can be one of the symptoms.
What are the Treatments for Dogs with Oral Cancer?
- Oral Surgery: There are cases when surgery is required in order to remove the tumor. Depending on the size and the location of the tumor, some parts such as teeth and the surrounding bones may also have to be surgically removed.
- Advanced Radiation Therapy: If the dog is not a candidate to go under the knife, then radiation is another option. This form of treatment can deliver radiation in high doses which can prolong the life of the dog.
Can Canine Oral Cancer Be Prevented?
Although oral cancer cannot be prevented if it is seen at an early stage, the prognosis would be much better. Most types of mouth cancer are very difficult to treat, and surgery may not be helpful at all in most instances. This is because, by the time the tumors are seen by a Vet, the cancer is already at its advanced stage.
Therefore, if you suddenly see a change in your dog’s mouth like black spots on the tongue, let the vet see it. If the cancer has not yet reached its advanced phase, then surgery is helpful.
There is a melanoma vaccine for dogs but its function is not to prevent cancer but rather to prolong the survival time of the dog with oral cancer.
A regular visit to the Vet for a dental check-up is recommended.
Black spots on dog tongue are nothing to be concerned about for as long as these are already present at a young age. These black spots can be likened to freckles or birthmarks in humans and do not at all pose any health danger.
However, if these black spots on dog tongue suddenly appear along with other symptoms such as bad breath, seek immediate assistance from the veterinarian. And the only way to monitor any changes in your dog’s mouth is by periodic brushing for a fur parent like you. Nothing beats dental hygiene in early detection of oral tumors.
It is a good practice to have a dental hygiene kit for your pooch, and I recommend that it includes: