Tongue problems

Let’s today look at ailments associated with the tongue.

Pretty much any inflammatory condition of the tongue, irrespective of the origin, is called Glossitis or Sore Tongue.

pet cornerThe tongue is quite a magnificent organ. It has three sets of muscles running vertically, longitudinally and transversely. This means that the tongue can take on various shapes. Dogs don’t do too much chewing. Basically, they bite and swallow. The tongue helps propel the food backwards towards the oesophagus, that tube which connects the mouth with the stomach. In addition, the tongue is coated with sensitive taste buds which allow the animal to be discerning as to which food it accepts or rejects.

Since the tongue is such an important component of the mouth, any ailment of the tongue will make eating difficult. This condition could eventually lead to starvation.

The dog/cat will firstly rely on its sense of smell to try to ascertain whether an object is worth investigating further with the objective of consuming it. However, having made the decision to carry the investigation further, the tongue will probe the object. Therein lies the origin of many a sickness of the tongue.

I had mentioned that dogs and cats, especially the young ones, are naturally curious beings. They will sniff at strange objects and, not being satisfied, they begin to probe the item with their snouts and even their tongues. In so doing, they are likely to get burned (by bleaches and acids or hot wires), or they can pick up sharp objects which embed themselves in the tongue or lip.

Over the years, I have extracted all sorts of metal shards, fish hooks and wood splinters from dogs’ tongues (cats seem to be a bit smarter in this regard, although fish bones and fish hooks tend to be stuck more often in cats’ tongues). Also, awns, spikelets, thorns and burrs from plants have been known to embed themselves in the surface of animals’ tongues.

I should mention, in passing, that foreign bodies often can get stuck in the underside of the tongue as well. These are not seen at first glance. If your dog/cat goes off food and is salivating heavily, make it a point of duty to look under the tongue for lesions or foreign bodies.

An animal with something stuck in the tongue will be salivating a lot, gagging and coughing and sometimes using its paw to extricate the cause of discomfort. The removal of these foreign bodies which are stuck in the tongue is relatively simple, if the animal will allow the manipulation. One just has to take a tweezers (the kind used to pluck eyebrows/nasal hair), grasp the irritating object and pull it out. Of course, if the object is stuck deep into the tissue (muscle) of the tongue, or if it is something like a fish hook which will not allow itself to be extracted easily, then veterinary intervention may be necessary. The animal may need to be sedated and even anaesthetized.

So far, I have been writing about objects stuck in the tongue. Over the years we have had our fair share of cutting off all sorts of objects that surround the tongue. I have had the experience of removing the tops of condom rubbers, baby’s comforters, plastic jerry-can covers, an assortment of rubber bands and twine/fishing lines which have been involved in the strangulation of the tongue by stopping the blood flow therein.

Be careful when you use the scissors or shears to remove the offending object. Bear in mind that all the gagging and swallowing might have moved the strangling object even further to the back of the tongue. Any wrong manipulation could result in you piercing the palate or worse. If you don’t possess the dexterity or the confidence or the tools (sturdy scissors, electrician’s shears, etc), then seek professional help.

Well, as the song says, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” And concomitant with Christmas, it seems that we have developed a compulsory behavioural pattern which dictates that we must discharge squibs and other explosive devices, anywhere and everywhere. Please wean yourself away from this activity, and/or ensure that your friends/neighbours/family do not play with explosive noisemakers, since the importation and possession and usage of these items are prohibited, except in some special occasion and by certain agencies, e.g. the GDF on New Year’s Eve. The sudden and continuous explosions create havoc in the brains of our pets. Elderly people and children also suffer tremendously. I will be writing more about the do’s and don’ts of pet care around the festive season in the next three articles. Then we’ll return to the ailments of the oral cavity next year.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-Heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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