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It is a water lapper, radiator, food conveyor, wound healer, register of taste and texture, and the wet equivalent of a handshake. The tongue of a dog has more roles than any other part of its anatomy, apart from the brain. Strangely though, for all its actions and duties, it is almost completely maintenance free.
In spite of the fact that the dog’s tongue is a vascular and fleshy flag, injuries to it are rare. Since it is a major heat source for an exercising dog, the blood vessels dilate and cause the tongue to swell up and extend. Even a small puncture can cause substantial bleeding. However, if the activity is brought to a halt, the blood vessels end up constricting, causing the tongue to shrink and the blood vessel to clot.
Looking at the tongue more closely
The tongue is a long, muscular organ and the top of its surface is covered with a special epithelium. It is responsible for responding to touch, taste and pain apart from helping in heat dissipation.
- Taste – Apart from directing your dog to eat garbage and get repulsed at the mere taste of a woodcock, the tongue of your dog can discern the sensations of sweet, sour and salt. The sensation of saltiness is dispersed along the rear and lateral edges, sourness over the tongue top and sweetness along the front and edges of the tongue.
- Papillae – The odd projections from the tongue’s surface are of many different types. The shredded look to the side and front of your dog’s tongue are referred to as the marginal papillae and the bumpy things on the back are called vallate.
- What makes his tongue wet? – All dogs have eight salivary glands with drainage tubes that transport saliva into their mouths. One gland is located beneath the cheekbone, lateral to their eyes. Another is situated at the base of the cartilage in the ear canal. One more is located behind the jaw’s angle and the smallest of them all is present in front of the jaw angle. These pair of four glands are responsible for most of the moisture in the dog’s mouth, secreting mucoid (thick) as well as serous (thin) saliva. Moreover, the surface of a dog’s tongue has a number of salivary glands that secrete both mucoid and serous fluid. They help dogs cool by evaporation among other things.
- Tongue colors – The black pigments (result of melanin granules) in a dog’s tongue, inner lips and gums do not have any significance. You just have to pay attention to make sure that they patches are not raised higher than the normal tissue that surrounds it. If they are, take your dog to the vet. It could be an indication of melanoma. Other forms of cancer that can cause a bump in the tongue include squamous cell carcinoma, mast cell tumor and a granular cell tumor. They are all completely curable if detected early.