What does it mean if your dog gets a white coating or white spots on their tongue?

What does it mean if your dog gets a white coating or white spots on their tongue?

Health & Safety

When it comes to the inside of our dogs’ mouths, we don’t tend to pay much attention to what’s going on in there, other than if you brush your dog’s teeth regularly or spot a problem. But because dogs spend a reasonable amount of time with their tongues hanging out, if something changes in terms of the way their tongue looks, this is something that you will probably spot early on.

Noticing that your dog’s tongue has white spots on it or seems to be coated in a white or dingy-looking covering can be rather alarming, and will often indicate that something is amiss with your dog – but there are a range of different things that can cause this to happen.

The tongue is the largest muscle in the body, and your dog uses it to help to cool the body down by panting, to eat and drink, to lick, and as part of their olfactory system as well, and so issues that affect the tongue should always be taken seriously, and you should always investigate further if something seems to be different or wrong.

In this article, we will look at some of the different things that can cause your dog’s tongue to develop white spots or a white coating, and some of the other health conditions that can produce similar-looking symptoms. Read on to learn more.

Fungal infections

Fungal infections such as candida can grow as a white coating across the surface of the tongue, which will often have a creamy or dingy-looking colour. Such an infection will also usually make your dog’s breath smell foul, but may not produce any other obvious symptoms.

Dogs most commonly develop fungal infections in their ears, but they can spread to the mouth when your dog grooms and licks themselves, spreading the infection further.

Your vet will be able to confirm this diagnosis, and prescribe treatment to cure it.


If your dog bites their tongue, cuts it on a sharp toy or otherwise does it an injury – perhaps even burning it trying to wolf down a hot scrap you dropped by accident – this can lead to the development of white patches or spots on your dog’s tongue where the injury occurred.

Cuts and scratches inside of the mouth tend to heal quickly, but they can also cause ulcers to develop which can appear white or unusual-looking, as well as increasing the risk of an infection developing.

Oral papillomavirus

Oral papillomavirus or oral warts is another condition that lead to white patches and growths developing on your dog’s tongue and on the inside of their mouth. This is a viral condition that is also sometimes known as “cauliflower tongue,” because the growths tend to resemble tiny cauliflowers in appearance.

These growths may be limited to one or two patches, but can develop to cover much of the inside of your dog’s mouth if left unchecked.

Take your dog along to the vet and get a formal diagnosis, and then your vet will decide if any treatment is required. Often, oral papillomavirus infection will be left to run its course, as it usually resolves itself over time as your dog’s body eliminates the infection.

However, if your dog’s mouth and tongue are covered in lots of growths, your vet may wish to remove some of them to enable your dog to eat and drink normally, and they may also wish to remove the growths if any of them become infected or run the risk of infection due to damage from the teeth.

Systemic health conditions

There are a range of other health conditions that can make your dog’s tongue look paler than normal or appear white, which is not caused by a coating or growth on the tongue itself but due to reduced blood oxygenation and circulation, which causes a pale appearance to develop in the mucous membranes.

Many conditions that affect the blood and bone marrow (such as leukaemia) can cause pale mucous membranes and a pale tongue in your dog, as can internal bleeding and clotting disorders and autoimmune conditions too.

If your dog’s tongue appears to be white or pale and you don’t know why, book an appointment with your vet ASAP.


Anaemia is a low red blood cell count that causes pale skin and mucous membranes, which in turn, can make the tongue appear pale too. Anaemia can develop in dogs as the result of an illness or injury, or as a secondary complication of another health issue.

You can check if your dog’s mucous membranes are pale by looking at your dog’s gums too – if they also appear to be whitish pink rather than a health red, your dog may be anaemic, and you should again see your vet as soon as possible to get to the bottom of the cause and correct the problem.



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