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Dog Gum Color Chart: Healthy Pink vs. Unhealthy Gums Explained

The color of your dog’s gums doesn’t fluctuate much, so you’re right to be concerned if you’re noticing a significant change. The color of your dog’s gums can provide much information on your dog’s overall health. In this article, you’ll find a normal dog gum color chart, discover how to identify unhealthy gums, and learn about potential reasons for change.

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Healthy dog gums: a sign of well-being

Healthy dog gums are usually salmon pink or light bubblegum pink. However, darker gums or gums with black pigmented spots are normal in some dog breeds. Chow chows, for example, are primarily known to have dark gums and tongues.

Healthy dog gums color
Image by Irina Nedikova and Marina Daniluka via shutterstock

A healthy puppy gum color is usually similar to an adult's, though puppy gums may be slightly paler. Significant paleness in puppies could indicate the presence of parasites or other health conditions.

Healthy dog gums should be moist and smooth if you run your finger along the underside of the dog's lip. They should not be dry or tacky to the touch and shouldn’t have any growths or masses.

Recognizing healthy gums through the "capillary refill test"

Another way the gums can inform you of your dog’s overall health is through the capillary refill test (CRT). The CRT allows you to assess how well blood flows through your dog’s tissues.

When you gently press on your dog’s gums, the area you press should blanch into a white or pale pink color. After releasing the gum, the normal color should return in less than two seconds. If it takes longer than two seconds, this could indicate significant dehydration, shock, anemia, heart disease, or serious blood loss.

When dog gums indicate trouble

Dog gum color chart

A sick dog's gums will usually be the same color as a healthy dog's. However, various conditions can cause changes to your dog’s gum color. Learn what different dog gum colors mean and the potential causes of gum color changes below:

Pale gums in dogs

Pale dog gums are very light pink, or you may see that your dog’s gums are white. In a dog, pale gums usually indicate blood loss or anemia. For instance, a dog with internal bleeding due to a bleeding mass on their spleen may have pale gums. A dog who had heavy bleeding in surgery or a puppy who is anemic from a significant hookworm infestation could also have pale gums.

Red gums in dogs

When it comes to the redness of your dog’s gums, you may be noticing either that the entirety of the gums appears red or that there is a red line along the edge of your dog’s teeth. While a red line along the teeth is usually a sign of gingivitis or periodontal disease in dogs, overall red gums can indicate systemic health issues. Conditions that could cause red gums include overheating or heat stroke, carbon monoxide poisoning, or high blood pressure.

Black gums in dogs

Black gums and black spots on gums can be normal for some dogs, especially if they're simply pigments in the gums and not raised masses. New black spots on dog gums may not be normal. For instance, melanoma commonly appears as a dark growth in the dog’s mouth, though some forms of melanoma are not darkly pigmented.

Blue or purple gums in dogs

If the entirety of your dog’s gums is blue or purple, we call this cyanosis. Cyanosis is caused by low oxygen levels in the blood, usually due to heart and/or lung disease. Examples of causes of cyanosis in dogs include congestive heart failure, blood clots in the lungs, and pneumonia. These are called petechiae if you notice blue or purple pinpoint spots or bruising on the gums. Petechiae can be evidence of a blood clotting issue.

Yellow gums in dogs

Yellow gums in dogs (jaundice) can be caused by issues with the liver or gallbladder or by the destruction of an animal’s red blood cells due to autoimmune disease, toxins, and more. You may also notice yellowing of the whites of the eyes, the insides of the ears, or the tissues around the genitals.

It’s essential that you’re able to identify what’s normal for your dog’s gum color. If you’re noticing a change to your dog’s gum color, consult a veterinarian promptly. Remember that your dog's gums should be moist, so dry and tacky gums could indicate dehydration. If the gum change is accompanied by other signs of illness in dogs, such as vomiting, lethargy, or collapse, seek emergency attention.

Additional signs of unhealthy gums in dogs

Gums are also important for the health and structural integrity of your dog’s teeth. Other signs of unhealthy dog gums include:

  • Bad breath in dogs (halitosis)
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Swelling on a side of the face

Keeping your dog's gums healthy

Luckily, there is a lot you can do as a pet owner to promote good dental hygiene for dogs. The following are veterinarian recommendations for keeping your dog’s gums healthy:

  1. Get regular veterinary care. Your veterinarian will assess your dog’s dental health and look for abnormalities in the mouth. They may recommend professional dog teeth cleanings as needed.
  2. Say “yes” to regular laboratory work. Your veterinarian can screen for systemic health conditions like kidney or liver disease before they’re severe enough to affect your dog’s gum color.
  3. Brush your dog’s teeth. Ideally, you should brush teeth at least once daily to prevent periodontal disease in dogs. Aim for three times a week at minimum. Make sure only to use pet-friendly toothpaste.
  4. Use dental chews and dental water additives approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.
  5. Avoid bones and other hard chews that could fracture your dog’s teeth. Any chews should have some flexibility, or you should be able to indent the surface of the chew with your fingernail.
  6. Choose a healthy diet for your dog that has been approved from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

While salmon or bubblegum pink gums in dogs are most common, it's normal for some dogs to have darker gums or pigmented spots. However, your dog's gums should not be pale, white, red, blue, purple, or yellow. There shouldn't be new black growths in your dog's mouth. Seek veterinary attention if you notice any changes to your dog's gum color or growth in your dog's mouth. Prioritizing your dog's oral health is essential for a happy and healthy life.

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