Dogs aren’t known as man’s best friend for nothing. For centuries, they’ve Blue tongues or gums in a dog are usually a red flag that shouldn't be ignored. It often signals that something's amiss with your fur baby's health, and prompt action is needed. But how serious are blue gums and tongues in puppies or dogs, and what could be causing them?

Looking at the best veterinary sources, we are here to give you everything you need to know. Keep reading to find out what could be behind this unsettling symptom and what steps you should take.

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  1. What Does a Blue Tongue Mean on a Dog
  2. Causes of Blue Coloration in Dogs Gums and Tongue
  3. What Dog Has a Blue Tongue
  4. Are Blue Gums and Tongues in Dogs Treatable
  5. Petcube Emergency Fund to the Rescue for Blue Gums in Your Pet
  6. FAQs
  7. Final Thoughts

What Does a Blue Tongue Mean on a Dog

Cyanosis is the medical term for when a dog's tongue turns blue or purple. Except the Chow Chow and Shar Pei, a blue tongue means that the dog doesn't have enough oxygen in their blood (hypoxemia).This is typically an emergency, as it could mean heart disease, congestive heart failure, severe respiratory issues, or shock.

In other dogs, cyanosis, or a blue hue in the tongue, stems from oxygen-depleted (deoxygenated) blood circulating through the skin.

If you notice blue gums or tongues in your puppy or dog, it’s usually an emergency, and you need to see a vet ASAP. You also need to monitor your dog 24/7, so it’s good to invest in a Pet Camera to keep a constant eye on your pup.

Causes of Blue Coloration in Dogs Gums and Tongue

Cyanosis can arise from a range of serious issues, including:

Society of University Surgeons study shows that if your dog chronically has blue-tinted gums, heart problems are often to blame.

  • Congestive Heart Failure: This is a condition where the heart fails to pump blood efficiently, leading to fluid accumulation in the lungs and other tissues. Reduced blood flow means less oxygen, causing the blue tint.
  • Cardiomyopathy: This disease weakens the heart muscle, making it harder for your pup's heart to pump blood and deliver oxygen to tissues.
  • Valvular Heart Disease: A faulty valve can result in inefficient blood flow, leading to a reduction in oxygen levels that manifests as a bluish color on the tongue and gums.
  • Arrhythmia: An irregular heartbeat can lead to improper blood circulation and decreased oxygen supply to the body.
  • Congenital Heart Defects: These are malformations in the heart that your dog is born with, which can also lead to cyanosis if they affect blood oxygenation. Research shows plenty of heart problems can give a dog’s gums a bluish tinge. These include patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) and ventricular septal defect (VSD), which are conditions puppies may be born with.
  • Heartworm Disease: Caused by parasitic worms residing in the heart and lungs, this disease can lead to heart failure and low oxygen levels.

Respiratory Causes For Blue Gums Or Tongues in Causes

  • Pneumonia: An infection in the lungs can impede oxygen exchange, leading to cyanosis.
  • Chronic Bronchitis: Inflammation of the bronchi restricts airflow, making it hard for the lungs to absorb enough oxygen.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): This condition causes airflow blockage, reducing the oxygen levels in the blood.

Other Causes of Blue Tongues in Dogs

  • Anaphylactic Shock: A severe allergic reaction can restrict airways and impede breathing, causing a rapid drop in oxygen levels and a blue tongue.
  • Hypothermia: Rarely, extremely low body temperatures can reduce oxygen circulation. You’ll mostly see this in very young puppies who can’t regulate their body temperature or occasionally in dogs who are outside in freezing temperatures.
  • Asthma Attacks: Sudden constriction of the airways can drastically reduce oxygen supply.
  • Emphysema: Damage to lung tissues affects the lung's ability to absorb oxygen.
  • Choking or Partial Airway Obstruction: Physical blockage (when something is stuck in your dog’s throat) in the airway can lead to immediate cyanosis.
  • Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS): Breeds with short noses like pugs can face difficulty breathing, which can reduce oxygen levels. This may need surgery to correct.
  • Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA): The body's immune system destroys red blood cells, reducing oxygen transport.

The presence of a shunt—abnormal blood flow that bypasses the lungs—can also lead to oxygen-depleted blood circulating through your dog's body. In these situations, the skin and other tissues may display a bluish tint due to the lack of oxygen.

Knowing the underlying causes of cyanosis can help you act quickly, ensuring your dog gets the medical attention they desperately need. Always consult a vet if you notice any changes in your dog's tongue or gum color, as it's often a sign of a serious condition requiring immediate attention.

Read more: Why Are My Dog's Gums, Lips, & Tongue Red?

What Dog Has a Blue Tongue

The Chow Chow and Shar Pei are the two dog breeds that naturally have blue or purple eyes. In these dogs, a blue or purple tongue is not a sign of a medical issue; it's a unique and normal characteristic of the breed.

The pigmentation that gives these tongues their distinctive hue is similar to what causes freckles or birthmarks in humans. The color comes from extra pigmentation in the cells of the tongue, which is a completely natural occurrence for these breeds. If you see a Chow Chow or Shar Pei with a blue or purple tongue, there's usually no need for alarm—it's just part of what makes them special!

Read more: Why Are My Dog's Gums Black?

Are Blue Gums and Tongues in Dogs Treatable

The treatability of blue gums and tongues in dogs largely depends on the underlying cause. For heart-related issues like congestive heart failure or cardiomyopathy, medications and lifestyle changes are often part of a long-term treatment plan. In some severe cases, surgery might be an option. Respiratory conditions such as pneumonia and chronic bronchitis usually require antibiotics and sometimes hospitalization for oxygen therapy.

In cases of anaphylactic shock, immediate administration of an antihistamine and steroids can be life-saving, while cases involving choking or partial airway obstruction often require prompt physical removal of the obstruction.

Regardless of the cause, the first step in treatment is an accurate diagnosis, which usually involves blood tests, X-rays, or ultrasounds. Consultation with a veterinarian is essential for determining the best course of action tailored to your dog's specific condition.

Petcube Emergency Fund to the Rescue for Blue Gums in Your Pet

In emergencies where quick action is crucial, such as cases of shock, asthma attacks, or choking, financial concerns can add an extra layer of stress. That's where the Petcube Emergency Fund comes in handy. This fund can pay out up to $3,000 for emergency treatment for your dog, providing a much-needed financial cushion in urgent situations.

Even better, the fund offers 24/7 online vet care, allowing you to consult professionals to figure out why your dog's gums or tongue are blue if you're not sure what's causing it. It's an invaluable resource for pet owners, helping to ensure that your dog gets the immediate medical attention it needs.


Does a dog's blue tongue mean a lack of oxygen?

Yes, a blue or purple tongue in a dog usually indicates a lack of oxygen in the blood, known as hypoxemia. It's a sign that immediate medical attention is required.

Does a blue tongue in a dog mean heart disease?

A blue tongue can be a symptom of heart disease, as heart issues often lead to poor circulation and low oxygen levels. However, it's not definitive proof; other conditions like respiratory problems can also cause a blue tongue.

Why is my dog's tongue blue after exercise?

A blue tongue after exercise is a concerning sign that suggests your dog isn't getting enough oxygen during physical activity. This could indicate an underlying respiratory or heart issue and warrant immediate veterinary evaluation.

Final Thoughts

While a blue tongue in specific breeds like the Chow Chow and Shar Pei is normal, in most other dogs, it's a warning sign of a potential health crisis. The underlying issues can range from heart disease to respiratory problems, and immediate veterinary attention is essential for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Financial resources like the Petcube Emergency Fund can offer critical support in emergencies. If you ever notice your dog's tongue or gums turning blue, don't hesitate—get to the vet right away.

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