Have you ever noticed bleeding or a sore on your dog’s tongue? This may make you wonder if, like humans, dogs bite their tongues accidentally. Yes, this happens for several reasons.
Tongue-biting in dogs is common while playing or eating, leaving them with sores, bleeding, or severe pains. This can be concerning for a dog owner as it may be difficult to control and may lead to further complications.
Understanding why it happens is the best bet for solving this concern. Hence, this guide explores various facts surrounding tongue-biting in dogs and how best to keep your furry animal safe.
Exploring the Anatomy of a Dog’s Mouth
The anatomy of a dog’s mouth is an interesting concept, as it helps to understand how dogs eat, drink, and exhibit certain behaviors. Understanding this anatomy is also crucial in understanding how tongue-biting happens. Let’s briefly consider how a dog’s mouth anatomy contributes to tongue-biting behavior.
A dog’s tongue is on the floor of the mouth and is covered with taste buds, allowing the dog to differentiate between various textures and tastes. The tongue is essential in swallowing, eating, drinking, and communicating. A dog’s tongue extends outside the mouth, increasing the risk of accidental biting.
There are different kinds of teeth designed for various functions in a dog’s mouth. A dog has 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars, and 10 molars. A dog’s teeth are responsible for tearing and chewing foods, but they are also responsible for tongue-biting, especially when the tongue is mistaken for parts of food.
The salivary glands in a dog’s mouth produce saliva (moisture) that lubricates and softens food. This lubrication helps to make foods easier to swallow and also aids digestion. However, when a dog drools excessively or when the salivary glands are highly stimulated, there is an increased chance of tongue-biting. This is because the extra moisture causes food to move faster, which can cause tongue-biting.
The epiglottis in a dog’s mouth is a structure at the base of the tongue. It is like a flap that prevents food or water from entering the respiratory system during swallowing. When a dog eats too quickly, this function can be disrupted, allowing the dog to choke, and this may further lead to the tongue getting stuck between the teeth and the epiglottis—causing tongue biting.
Why do dogs bite their tongues?
Dogs are curious and energetic creatures, so keeping them confined to one space may be challenging. Hence, there are several scenarios where a dog may be at risk of tongue-biting, such as when playing, eating, or during accidents. Let us explore some of these scenarios:
Tongue-biting While Eating
Mealtimes are one of the most common times when dogs accidentally bite their tongues. Dogs typically eat fast, especially when they are starving. Hence, this fast-paced eating can cause them to bite their tongue instead of the food.
Excessive drooling that results from smelling food can also be a cause of tongue-biting. It is common to see dogs drool when they are about to eat or while eating a delicious meal. Drooling causes a dog to chew even faster, allowing food materials to pass quickly through the mouth. This fast movement of food may also lead to tongue-biting.
A seizure is a neurological condition; it is caused by a disruption in the normal brain function of a dog. During a seizure, most of the activities carried out by a dog are uncontrolled, such as jerking, twitching, shaking, foaming at the mouth, and sometimes tongue-biting.
The lack of control caused by seizures may cause a dog to lock their tongue between their teeth. For this reason, it is recommended that you do not try to move a dog or open their mouth during a seizure.
Sometimes it is difficult for dogs to control themselves when they are excited or playful. This can be when they are jumping around or chewing their toys; in such instances, they have no care. As a result, they are easily susceptible to accidents that can lead to tongue-biting.
For instance, when a dog plays out in the park with its tongue out, it may unintentionally fix its teeth against its tongue. Also, when play-biting on toys, a dog may accidentally attack its tongue instead of the toy in its mouth. Your attention may be brought to such an incident when your dog leaps in pain or whines.
Another factor that could lead to tongue-biting in dogs is falling or hitting an object. Falls are also commonly experienced in humans, for example, when you fall and your tongue gets stuck between your clenched jaw, you bite your tongue. If a dog slips and crashes against something, its tongue could get caught between its teeth, causing a tongue bite.
There are questions about a dog’s breed being a contributing factor to accidental tongue biting. While there are no scientific researches to correlate a dog’s breed to susceptibility to tongue-biting, specific breed characteristics can influence the risk of such incidence. For instance, smaller dogs (with small mouths) are more likely to bite their tongues due to limited space—dogs like chihuahuas and Yorkshire terriers.
Is tongue-biting harmful?
Tongue-biting can be quite a painful experience for dogs, and you may wonder how harmful it is. The severity or level of harm caused by tongue biting varies from mild to highly severe cases. In mild cases, the pain wears off after and short time. Extreme cases can lead to bleeding and a to visit a veterinarian. Some of the consequences caused by tongue-biting include the following:
When a dog accidentally bites its tongue, it can experience varying pain levels, depending on the extent of the injury. The spot where the teeth attacked the tongue can be sore or swollen for hours or days. The injury and pain caused by a tongue bite can affect a dog’s daily activities. For instance, the discomfort can make eating, drinking, or playing difficult. Such a dog might be more laid back or inactive due to the pain.
Bleeding is also a common complication of tongue biting. You may notice specks of blood in your dog’s mouth after a tongue-biting incident. Usually, the bleeding will not be serious. It should stop after a short time.
However, if a dog bites its tongue strongly, bleeding may be excessive, and if not well controlled, it can lead to blood loss. While blood loss from a tongue bite cannot lead to death, a veterinarian’s attention is required to prevent further complications like infections.
A serious complication that can result from tongue biting in dogs is infection. Infections usually happen when a wound is exposed to bacteria, which grow and infect the surrounding area.
A dog’s mouth contains several types of bacteria; hence, when tongue biting causes an injury, there is a high chance that the wound can get infected if not well treated. Infections can cause severe pain and discomfort, swelling, discharge, and sometimes, mouth odor.
How to Prevent Tongue Biting in Dogs
While it may be difficult to control all of your dog’s activities and eliminate all risks of tongue-biting, there are specific steps you can take to ensure your dog’s safety. These tips will help to keep your dog safe from the risks of tongue-biting and also aid in providing prompt care for your dog.
While it is almost impossible to be with your dog every minute, playtime is a time when you should supervise your dog adequately. Like kids, dogs can hardly control how much they play or the level of their playfulness. They may be unaware when they are running into danger. Keep an eye on them to prevent them from slipping or having other accidents that may lead to tongue-biting.
Choose appropriate play toys
Another way to reduce the risk of tongue-biting in your dog is to choose suitable play/chew toys. This is particularly important for dogs who are keen on biting and chewing. It would be best to choose a toy appropriate for your dog’s breed and size. Avoid easily breakable or soft toys, as they increase the risk of accidental biting.
Training and Behavioral Modification
For some dogs, behavioral modification and the help of a trainer may be required, mainly if the dog frequently bites its tongue while eating or playing. A professional dog behaviorist will use appropriate techniques to properly train your dog on bite/play behaviors to minimize tongue-biting risks.
As dog owners, providing care for our furry animals is not as easy as it looks, especially since they cannot communicate their pains in a language we can understand. This is usually the case in a tongue bite, and you may only realize your dog has been hurt when they are bleeding or in pain.
Tongue bites in dogs are not uncommon, and they can be caused by excessive drooling or playfulness. However, they can quickly wear off unless your dog is bleeding profusely or there are signs of infection; in that case, see a veterinarian. Dogs can accidentally bite their tongues, but you can help prevent such cases by proper monitoring and behavior training.