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are my dog's gums okay

Are My Dog’s Gums Okay?

Contrary to popular belief, a wet nose isn’t actually a reliable indicator of your dog’s health. Your dog’s gums, however, can serve as a window into their overall wellbeing and an indicator for certain diseases. The gums act as a protective membrane for the teeth and have their own blood supply, giving them the healthy pink color you see. 

Regularly checking the gum color and texture is an important way to monitor your dog’s health. It’s a good habit to familiarize yourself with their natural look, this way you can quickly recognize any changes.

Thankfully, they are easy to check and quick to assess. But how do you know what’s normal and what isn’t?

What Your Dog’s Gums Should Look Like

First and foremost, every dog breed is unique which means the baseline for healthy gums may look different for your dog. For example, Chow Chow’s often have black pigment on their tongue, lips, and gums. 

The first step is to contact your vet or do some research to find out what your dog’s gums should look like when healthy. Checking your dog’s teeth and gums is important, which is why PetWellClinic includes it in every physical exam. 

Make sure your dog is feeling relaxed, and then lift up his upper lip to assess his gums. Most dogs have gums that are a pink color, similar to bubble gum or salmon, which indicates that they are healthy. However, remember that what is ‘normal’ varies from dog to dog. 

Next, gently touch and press on their gums. This should reveal a slightly moist layer that briefly turns a white color. The time it takes for the gum to return to pink is called the capillary refill time. If they don’t return to their normal color within 2 seconds, this could indicate dehydration, poor circulation, or low blood pressure. 

Finally, your dog’s gums should not smell! Later on in this blog, we will discuss the difference between normal doggy breath and something concerning.

So remember these parameters when checking your dog’s gums:

  • Light pink
  • Moist
  • Not smelly

What Other Gum Colors Mean

If your dog has black gums or pink gums with black spots, don’t worry. There are some breeds who have an abundance of melanin in their mouths. This is especially common for mixed breeds. If your dog has a black coat or skin then you may also see black coloration in the gums! Make sure you keep an eye on this as they enter their senior years. Cells containing high levels of melanin are more likely to mutate into a cancer called melanoma.

However, it can be tricky to do the capillary refill test on this gum color, so instead examine their eyes by gently pulling the eyelid down and looking at the color of the tissue, which should be a light shade of pink. 

There are several gum colors that you should be aware of. It could be one of the first signs that your dog needs to be taken to see one of our vets. If you notice that your pet has any of the gum colors listed below, visit your local PetWellClinic right away so that we can assess your pup. 

Pale Pink or White Gums

Gums that are extremely pale or white can be a serious health concern. If your pet is anemic or has sustained blood loss, sometimes internally, the gums will appear pale because they aren’t getting good blood flow and blood pressure is low. 

Shock is another reason your dog’s gums might be pale white or pink. This can result from severe dehydration, trauma, or anything that causes a rapid change in their blood pressure. 

Bright Red Gums

Bright red gums can indicate gingivitis, which by definition means inflammation of the gums. It most commonly affects the gum line but, if severe, can extend to the gum tissue. However, this is a slow and progressive process, so it’s important to regularly check your dog’s gums. 

If you notice that your dog’s gums are getting progressively worse, this usually means that your pup needs a professional dental cleaning. However, have your dog examined by one of our veterinarians first for a full assessment of the problem. If the problem requires a professional dental cleaning, our vets will then refer you to a specialist in the area. 

Bright red gums can also be a sign that your dog has:

  • Been exposed to toxins
  • High blood pressure
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • An infection
  • Hyperthermia

Injected Gums

Similar to gingivitis, injected gums are gums that are a bright, brick red. However, these are uncommon to see and injected gums will appear red everywhere, not just at the gumline. Gums this color are usually a sign of a serious condition such as heat stroke or sepsis. 

Another way to tell the difference between injected gums and gingivitis is that gingivitis occurs over time, while injected gums happen more suddenly. 

a guide to your dog's gums
If you notice your dog’s gums are discolored, visit your local PetWellClinic for a physical exam as soon as possible.

Blue or Purple Gums

The term for this color is “cyanosis.” The grey-blue color is due to a lack of oxygen reaching the tissues. The conditions that can lead to this discoloration can be inherited or acquired. For example, some dogs can be born with a heart defect that could lead to cyanosis. 

More reasons for this discoloration includes:

  • Obstruction of the airway
  • Pneumonia
  • Trauma to the lungs
  • Tracheal collapse
  • Hypothermia
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Respiratory problems
  • Chest infections

While cyanosis usually accompanies acute respiratory diseases, some chronic conditions may develop overtime. Another reason to regularly check on your pup’s gums! 

Yellow Gums

The medical term for yellow gums is “jaundice.” This occurs when there’s a buildup of bilirubin in the bloodstream, which is toxic. This usually happens due to an underlying disorder of the liver, destruction of red blood cells, or blockage of the bile duct. 

Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach pain

This is considered an emergency, so please have your pup seen by one of our veterinarians immediately. 

Gum Growths

Growths can range from benign bumps to melanoma, so any type of abnormality you notice on your dog’s gums or in their mouth should be taken seriously. Dark spots that suddenly appear in your dog’s mouth can be a sign of melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or oral cancer. 

As you do your routine gum check, take notice of anything unusual in your dog’s mouth. If something concerning is present, take them to your local PetWellClinic to be checked.

How to Keep Your Dog’s Gums Healthy

Keeping your dog’s gums healthy should be a daily commitment to your pet, so take some time to figure out what works best for you and your dog. 

The best way to prevent tartar build-up is through daily teeth brushing. Use a canine soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste that is specifically formulated for dogs and is designed to be swallowed. Finger brushes and dental wipes are also great methods to keep your dog’s teeth and gums in tip top shape.

If your dog will not tolerate brushing, there is a plethora of oral care products available. Safe chew toys such as rawhide bones or rubber toys are a great way to remove plaque and build-up. Dental chews and treats are also very popular! 

how to keep your dog's gums healthy
A good hygiene routine is one of the best ways to keep your dog’s gums healthy!

Why Your Dog Has Bad Breath

Every dog has bad breath, it’s just how it is! However, extremely bad breath can be indicative of a dental condition.

If your dog’s breath seems noticeably worse than normal it could be a sign of:

  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Tooth decay
  • Something stuck in their teeth
  • Kidney disease or failure
  • Diabetes

Take your dog to the vet if their breath is extremely stinky as poor oral hygiene can lead to periodontal disease.  

If you have any oral health concerns about your dog, talk to one of our vets. We will be able to assess and diagnose your pup and come up with an appropriate treatment plan depending on your dog’s unique needs. 

PetWellClinic is dedicated to being here for pet owners. Our hours of operation extend into the evenings and weekends, and our clinic environment is built with your pet’s comfort in mind. Talk to your PetWellClinic veterinarian if you still have concerns about your pet’s oral and gum health. 


PetWellClinic provides convenient, affordable veterinary care for pet owners. PetWellClinic has locations and services built with convenience in mind. Stop by with your pet any time! No appointment necessary.

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