Chihuahua Health: What is hanging tongue syndrome?

Your chihuahua’s tongue: Health & common problems

Is your chihuahua’s tongue hanging out cute or the more serious hanging tongue syndrome?  

A chihuahua’s tongue is an amazing organ, that isn’t just to cover you in slobbery licks every time you walk through the door. Your chihuahua’s tongue does so much and is a vital indicator of your chihuahua’s health.

Minnie has a really long tongue that can get right up your nose!

What does your chihuahua’s tongue do?

While slobbery licks don’t feel particularly ingenious, the tongue is extremely muscular, incredibly versatile and a feat of engineering. There are many functions of a tongue including:

    • Eating and Drinking – a tongue helps to bring water and food to the mouth as well as help eating and drinking through assisting with chewing, breaking down food and swallowing.
    • Cooling – your chis tongue contributes to regulating the temperature of their whole body. As dogs can’t sweat through their skin, they cool themselves through sweating through paw pads and by panting.
    • Cleaning – chis use their tongues to clean themselves and their puppies, this is an important grooming process.
    • Healing – chihuahua dogs use their tongue to lick wounds and sores to speed up healing. Not your wounds!


 An important health indicator

As well as having the functions listed above, a  chihuahuas tongue can be an indicator of problems and concerns with the tongue and your chihuahua’s overall health.

As the tongue is so important, it is a key marker of how the rest of the body is functioning. Changes in the appearance, colour, texture and shape can be a sign of a problem with the body.

It is important for chi guardians to keep a close eye on their chihuahua’s tongue, by checking for lumps, bumps, growths, raised areas, colour and tongue coating. If you notice any changes, it may be wise to seek advice from your vet.

As well as indicating problems in the rest of the body, there are many common tongue disorders that your dog may have.

Inflammation (glossitis), ulceration, warts and tumours are common ailments and can be serious. For example, ulceration may occur as a result of cancer or kidney failure.

Common signs of a tongue problem include; excessive drooling or chewing, blood or an unusually bad smell and a reluctance to eat. If you notice any of these, arrange a visit to the vet.

When to worry about your chihuahua’s tongue hanging out

All dogs let their tongue hang out; it can be a sign of them relaxing or being happy. It is common for chis to stick their tongue out while they are sleep and to pant when they are hot or excitable.

This chihuahua's tongue is helping to keep him cool
Panting to cool down.

In some cases, chis might have their tongue hanging out when they are missing teeth, are on certain medication, suffering an injury to the jaw or have a neurological problem of a deformity. Often this will be a temporary affliction, but when your chi can’t retract their tongue, it is called hanging tongue syndrome.

Hanging tongue syndrome can be caused by injury, trauma, neurological problems or malformation, sadly, in toy breeds such as chihuahuas, it is a common problem. Hanging tongue syndrome may be temporary, or it may be part of a larger illness.

The problem leads to a dry, cracked and painful tongue, as it fails to get moisture and protection from the mouth. It can also lead to excessive drooling and in colder climes, it may even result in frostbite on the tongue.

While your chi is utterly adorable with their tongue sticking out mischievously, make sure they can retract their tongue, and if not, it is best to take your pet to the vet for a check-up.

Does your chi have hanging tongue syndrome, what advice can you give? How do you manage it?


Books by Chihuahua Power

Keeping your chihuahua’s teeth clean is vital to prevent tooth loss which can lead to hanging tongue, heart disease and cancer.

If you don’t know where to start or what products to avoid or buy. This little book is for you.



1 thought on “Chihuahua Health: What is hanging tongue syndrome?

  1. Michael Dekker

    I have a 4y/o Chihuahua which I brought to the vet for hanging tongue. The vet explained that hydrocephalus is common in this breed (often shortly following birth) and while it stunted the overall growth of my dog’s head, the tongue continued to grow normally and no longer fits. This dog also snores and breaths strangely, barks less frequently and seems more difficult to train. I suspect it is due to mild brain damage during the illness.

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