Why Do Dogs Have Spotted Tongues?


“Help! I found a black spot on my Lab’s tongue — does that mean he’s part Chow?”

Contrary to popular myth, black spots on your dog’s tongue does not mean he’s part Chow. While it is true that one of the most well known physical traits of a Chow is his blueish black tongue, it’s not a trait that’s unique to the breed.

Labs, Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers are also known to have spots on their tongues. In fact, over 30 breeds are prone to spotted tongues.

Over 35 Breeds Are Prone To Spots On Their Tongues

In addition to the Chow and Shar Pei there are over 35 other breeds that are known to develop dark spots on their tongues. And regardless of breed some dogs develop extra pigmentation on various parts of the body throughout their life, including the tongue.

Why Do Dogs Have Spotted Tongues?

So why do dogs have spotted tongues? Dogs have dark spots on their tongue due to extra pigmentation, just like freckles or birthmarks on humans. Dogs can also have dark pigmentation on their skin that look like freckles. My dog Laika has spots on her tongue and numerous dime sized “freckles” on her chest, but her DNA test didn’t show any Chow.

Dark spots on your dog’s tongue or skin does not mean they’re part Chow. Having some Chow in any mixed breed dog is a possibility since they’re one of the oldest breeds known to man, but there’s also 38 other breeds known for having spotted tongues.

Dark spots on the tongue are common among a wide variety of dog breeds. If you were hoping to narrow down your dogs genetic make up based on their tongue alone you’re not going to get very far. You can narrow down the field slightly, but you’re still looking at many combinations when you consider 38 breeds are prone to developing spots on their tongue.

If you’re truly curious about looking into your mixed breeds ancestry you could consider getting a dog DNA test done. (I had one done on Laika and they seem to be spot on)

Why Do Dogs Have Spotted Tongues?

Tongue spots on your dog are unique – just like birthmarks on people. If you look close enough you might also find some dark spots on their skin under all that fur. Photos via Chatterstone /Flashnerd /Madjag

Breeds That Are Prone to Spotted Tongues

The spots on your dogs tongue come down to genetics. Many of these breeds are part of the Spitz family, and quite a few of them have Spaniel or Pointer ancestors. A lot of these dogs are known to have come from Germany and the United Kingdom.

So while there are some definite similarities in some of these breeds no one’s been able to determine exactly why these breeds have tongue spots while others do not.

The next time you hear someone say that dogs with spotted tongues are part Chow you can tell them that those spots aren’t exclusive to Chows. There’s more than 35 breeds prone to developing dark spots on their tongue. Here’s a list of the 38 dog breeds known to have spotted tongues:

  • Aeirdale
  • Akita
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Belgian Sheepdog
  • Belgian Tervuren
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Bichon Frise
  • Bouvier de Flandres
  • Bull Mastiff
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Chinese Shar Pei
  • Collie
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Dalmatian
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • English Setter
  • Flat Coated Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Gordon Setter
  • Great Pyrenese
  • Irish Setter
  • Keeshond
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Korean Jindo
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Mastiff
  • Mountain Cur
  • Newfoundland
  • Pomeranian
  • Pug
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Rottweiler
  • Shiba Inu
  • Siberian Husky
  • Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier
  • Tibetan Mastiff

When Spots on Your Dogs Tongue Aren’t Just Color

Flat spots of pigmentation are just like a birthmark on you; a unique physical trait. However, if your dog develops any suspicious new spots on their tongue or skin be sure to get them checked out by your veterinarian.

Canine melanoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma can appear as spots on your dogs skin, and oral cancers can present themselves as pigmented fleshy masses inside your dogs mouth. Have your dog checked by a veterinarian if you see any unusual changes in his or her mouth.

Routine dental care such as brushing your dogs teeth and oral examinations are both great measures to help aid in the early diagnosis or oral cancers.

Why Do Dogs Have Spotted Tongues?

Here’s Laika’s spotted tongue, and as expected her DNA showed a lot of Dingo German Shepherd, not any Chow.

Check out the Rest of Our “Why Do Dogs” Series:


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