Dog with blue tongue: In which breeds is it normal and when should you be worried?

Just like humans, every dog has its own unique look and personality. Breeds come with some typical characteristics, and three dog breeds in particular have a very distinctive one: a blue tongue. But the thing that sets these pooches apart can be a sign of some serious problems in others. Learn more about which breed of dog have a blue tongue and why.

The Chow-Chow is famous for its blue tongue.
The Chow-Chow is famous for its blue tongue.  © 123RF/hecke

Historically, dogs were bred to select for different characteristics, depending on what they were most needed for. Some were used to hunt, others to pull loads or shepherd livestock.

This obviously had a huge impact on the temperament and appearance of each breed – tongue included. There's a surprising amount of variety when it comes the color that they can take: red, pink, and in three famous cases, blue.

A blue tongue is normal in three dog breeds: Chow-Chow, Shar-Pei and Eurasiers.

The shade can range from light to dark, purple, or even black. But if your pooch doesn't belong to any of these breeds, yet still sticks out a blue tongue, it's probably time for a visit to the veterinarian.

1. dog with blue tongue: Chow-Chow

A blue tongue is very typical among all Chow-Chows.
A blue tongue is very typical among all Chow-Chows.  © 123RF/Alex Postovski

Chow-Chows are well-known for their distinctive blue tongue.

An old Chinese legend speaks of war dogs that looked like black-tongued lions – and you can easily see the resemblance, though modern specimens tend to be considerably more cuddly.

Chow-Chows are one of the oldest dog breeds in the world and are instantly recognizable even when their mouths aren't open due to their fluffy manes. They tend to be very stubborn and independent, which can make training a real pain.

Speaking of pains, the story behind that unique tongue color is still a mystery. The best guess is something connected with blood flow, temperature regulation, or melanin production. Whatever the reason, it's definitely not a threatening condition, just a genetic trait that gets passed down.

Chow-Chows aren't really family dogs, so think long and hard before going in for what is usually a considerable expense. Their character and the strong hunting instinct are a real challenge for even the most experienced dog owners.

2. dog with blue tongue: The Shar-Pei

A white coat tends to be rare in Shar-Peis, but the blue tongue is very much typical.
A white coat tends to be rare in Shar-Peis, but the blue tongue is very much typical.  © 123RF/Sergey Tikhomirov

Another dog breed with a blue tongue originating in China is the Shar-Pei, which has a pretty self-explanatory name: "Chinese wrinkle dog."

Shar-Peis also have blue gums and a bluish palate. Their short, firm coat varies greatly in color.

There's a good chance that the Shar-Pei's blue tongue is an indicator of some cross-breeding with the Chow-Chow at some point.

Due to their physique, they're not recommended for owners who want a sporty canine companion. Shar-Peis are, however, well-suited for families, as they tend to be calm, fond of children, and just generally chill.

3. dog with blue tongue: Eurasier

Eurasians only have some blue spots on their tongues.
Eurasians only have some blue spots on their tongues.  © 123rf/Bonzami Emmanuelle

The Eurasier is a crossbreed between the Chow Chow, the Keeshond, and the Samoyed. The aim was to create a very resilient dog.

Eurasiers have blueish spots on otherwise punk tongues, a characteristic which comes from their genetic relationship with the Chow-Chows. Not all specimens have this pigmentation.

Despite their long coat, Eurasiers are pretty easy to care for. A friendly and balanced personality, coupled with an appreciation of human companionship, makes them suitable for families.

The flip side of the coin is that Eurasiers don't tolerate alone time very well and need constant attention.

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Myths about dogs with blue tongues

Since even today, there's still some mystique surrounding these breeds and their unique blue tongues, it's easy to understand why Chow-Chows were the subject of mythical tales and legends in the time of China's ancient Han Dynasty, over 2200 years ago. Here are a couple.

Excuse me while I lick the sky

The Chow Chow is also called the Dragon Dog in Chinese mythology. A Chow Chow was said to have lived in the sky. It loved the day, but hated the night and wished that it would never come, so it decided to just lap up all that darkness with its humongous tongue. This ingenious solution angered the gods, who punished it with a dark tongue for all eternity.

A piece of heaven

A similar, but slightly different story tells of how a piece of the sky fell to earth while the world was being created and the stars were being fixed. The Chow-Chow licked up this piece of the sky, causing its tongue to turn blue.

When blue tongues in dogs are red flags

So what's going on with your dog if it has a blue tongue but doesn't belong to one of these three breeds?

A blue tongue in dogs is often a sign of insufficient oxygen supply to the mucous membranes. In this case, it's not just the tongue that turns blue – you might see the same tinge on the palate, eyes, and even genitals.

The underlying cause for an oxygen deficiency can be:

  • severe exhaustion
  • a shock to the circulatory system
  • heart and lung diseases

If your dog suffers from oxygen deficiency, it will underfeed and seem listless, often refusing to move. In some cases, however, a pooch not getting enough oxygen can become extremely restless.

Whatever the symptoms, if you notice anything out of whack with your dog's behavior or appearance, a trip to vet should be your first step.

Cover photo: 123RF/hecke

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