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Acute or chronic inflammation of the tongue usually secondary to an infectious, physical, chemical or metabolic cause. Infectious causes include calicivirus, feline herpesvirus, panleukopanenia, fungal, necrotising stomatitis and leptospirosis. Physical causes may be irritation from periodontal disease, foreign bodies and trauma. Metabolic causes such as uraemia, vitamin deficiencies and hypoparathyoidism can also be responsible. Additionally heavy metal poisoning and other chemicals can cause glossitis.


Any animal can become affected however dogs are more frequently at risk due to their non discriminatory eating habits.



There may be a history of ingestion of a foreign body or access to chemicals.

Clinical Signs

Include drooling, bleeding, dysphagia, a reddened, swollen and ulcerated tongue edge in the case of periodontal disease. A foreign body may be visualised under the tongue (they may become embedded so that they cannot be palpated) or an acute swelling in the case of insect stings.

In chronic ulcerative glossitis there may be a thick, malodourous brown discharge present.

Definitive Diagnosis

Careful examination of the entire mouth which the animal may resist.


Involves treating the primary cause. Removal of any foreign objects or diseased teeth. Systemic antibiotics for bacterial causes. Debridement, 0.12% chlorhexidine mouthwashes, lingual curettage (in the case of a deep foreign body) may also be used to treat glossitis. Nutritional support should be offered if required.

Also see Glossitis, Ulcerative

Glossitis Learning Resources
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Glossitis publications


Merck & Co (2008) The Merck Veterinary Manual

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