Undoubtedly you're wondering if you should be concerned about that black coloring on your Labrador retriever's tongue. Black markings on the tongue don't mean your dog isn't purebred, and it doesn't mean he's ailing. You need not fret. Many healthy purebred Labradors have black spots on their tongues.
What Causes Black Spots?
Some Labradors have black spots on their tongues for the same reason some people have freckles on their cheeks. These are areas with extra pigmentation, determined by genetics. This extra pigmentation is not limited to appearing on cheeks for humans or tongues for dogs. Black spots can be on a dog’s nose, lips and pretty much anywhere on the skin. The Columbus Dog Connection points out that these spots can be hidden under fur.
Purebred or Not?
Many dog owners believe a black spot on the tongue must mean some chow chow blood is in the dog's lineage. Chow chows are associated with the unusual canine trait of a blue-black tongue, propagating the false belief. The American Kennel Club says extra pigmentation has nothing to do with whether a dog is purebred. Dogs can be born with spots, and spots can develop with age.
Black-Spotted Tongues in Other Breeds
In addition to Labradors, numerous dog breeds have been identified as having individuals with black spots on their tongues. The Columbus Dog Connection identifies more than 30 breeds, from Airedale terriers to Thai ridgebacks. Commonality among breeds that have individuals with black on their tongues range in size, shape and coloring.
If your dog has black spots on the tongue or elsewhere, be alert to changes in color, shape and size, as these are potential indicators of cancer. Another sign that something might be amiss is unusual breath odor and discoloration of the whole tongue. These symptoms could indicate an infection. Err on the side of caution; if you have even a slight concern that a black spot could be something other than extra pigmentation, consult your veterinarian.
Laura Payne has been freelance writing for several online publications in her free time since 2006. She holds a Master of Arts in linguistics from Wayne State University and a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Oakland University. Payne teaches linguistics classes at both universities on an adjunct basis.