Nothing quite warms the heart like a healthy pup’s bright smile. Many of us dog-lovers, however, will rightly start to worry when we see our dog’s gums change color or suddenly grow spots. Just like people, your dog’s gums have to be taken care of, and color changes could be indicative of an infection or some other dental problem.
Not on our watch!
Let’s break down what color your dog’s gums should be under normal circumstances so you can tell when it’s time to get the vet on the phone to schedule a quick visit.
What is “Normal” Dog Gum Color?
It’s easier to tell whether your dog’s gums need attention if you understand the baseline, i.e. what they should look like under normal circumstances.
The answer? Pink.
Just like you and me, dogs’ gums should be bubblegum pink by default. But color on the surface can be a little deceptive, which is why you should occasionally press on your dog’s gums with your fingers. Upon doing so, the gums should lighten to become pale pink or off-white, then quickly return to the regular pink color when pressure alleviates.
Yes, this does mean that gum texture and surface feel matter as well (more on that later).
When you press down on your dog’s gums, it’ll take a few seconds for the gums to return to the bubblegum pink shade. The amount of time between the gums going from off-white to pink is called the capillary refill time – it’s how long it takes for the capillaries in the gums to refill with blood after the pressure pushes the blood to surrounding blood vessels.
What Do Other Gum Colors Mean?
Your dog might occasionally have gums with different colors. This doesn’t always mean that there’s a medical issue, but it’s still important to understand what each color means and whether they need medical attention.
If your dog has blue gums, it probably means that the capillaries and blood vessels aren’t getting enough oxygen. This is a blood circulation problem, and it’s the same shade you can see if a person doesn’t get enough oxygen. There’s a medical term for this condition: cyanosis.
As with people, cyanosis in your dog's gums can be caused by several issues, including congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and even certain respiratory problems. All in all, regular blue gums are certainly a medical issue and should be investigated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. If your dog's gums go for too long without adequate oxygen, the blood vessels could die and their gums could become susceptible to infection.
Pale Pink/Off-White Gums
If your dog’s gums stay the shade they become when you press your finger to them, this might be indicative of a lack of hemoglobin, or blood. This can occur due to anemia or acute blood loss, so if you see off-color gums, it may be worthwhile to look over your dog entirely and thoroughly to make sure they don’t have a serious injury you didn’t notice.
Remember, the regular pink color is an all-clear signal and shows that your dog's gums are getting both the right amount of blood and the right amount of oxygen needed for healthy activity.
If your dog’s gums turned bright red (bright pink may also qualify), this could be indicative that your dog is overheating, or that it’s suffering from other issues like stomatitis or gingivitis: two types of infections.
Bright red gums are usually a sign of infection and inflammation, and it can cause the gums to bleed more easily. Additionally, your dog may act more uncomfortable about their gums or about eating certain foods, like hard dog food.
You should definitely visit a veterinarian if your dog’s gums become bright red or if they start to bleed. It’s not only uncomfortable but can also lead to further dental issues.
Alongside gum color, you should also periodically check the gums’ surfaces.
For example, if you detect any raised bumps or spots on your dog’s gums, this could be a sign of an oral tumor. Oral tumors are, in fact, most often found on the gums of your dog as opposed to the tongue or in the back of the throat.
A weird texture or bump however doesn’t necessarily mean a medical emergency. In many cases, the growths are benign and will eventually go away on their own. However, they can be cancerous or contagious, so you should always visit a veterinarian if you detect any of these on your dog’s gums so an actual examination can be performed.
Papillomatosis is a condition that can easily spread from dog to dog, so consider checking your dog’s gums if they spent time at a dog park recently. It usually crops up as pink and fleshy warts on the gums and on other parts of the body.
What About Permanent Discoloration?
Some people have dogs with black, gray, or spotted gums, and the gums have been that way since they were puppies. In this case, it's probably not an issue – the gums there are simply discolored due to the dog's genetics.
It's not a bad idea to have a veterinarian take a look at the gums to clarify this and reassure you, but discoloration is usually only bad if your dog's gums are regularly bubblegum pink and they have recently changed color.
The capillary refill time mentioned earlier is another test you can do to check your dog’s gum health.
Press your finger into your dog’s gums to not only check color, but to time how long it takes for them to go back to the normal color.
If it takes longer than two seconds, you should schedule an appointment with a veterinarian, as this may be indicative of wider issues. They can give you tips about how to improve your pet’s dental health.
How Can You Address Gum Problems?
Like people, dogs’ teeth and gums require care and attention to prevent bacterial infection and to make sure your dog is comfortable while they chow down on their favorite food.
Take the Teeth and Gum Cleaning Pen, for instance. This phenomenal product is a much gentler alternative to a regular toothbrush, and it only uses all-natural ingredients like bioflavonoids, cellulose gum, non-acidic vitamin C, and grape seed extract to remove plaque build-up, support your dog's teeth and gum health, and keep your pup happy and healthy over the long-term!
It’s also a great choice since it’s easy to use. All you have to do is remove the cap, twist the base to release a little bit of gel onto the brushing tip, then brush the gel onto your dog’s teeth and gums. No scrubbing required!
You can alternatively use Dr. Brite’s Pet Oral Spray, which is a gentler solution, and it’s perfect for bolstering your dog’s gum and teeth health and freshening their breath with the parsley included in the formula. It may be a good choice if your dog’s gums are sensitive due to gingivitis or other issues.
Here’s a quick recap: your dog’s gums should be bubblegum pink in color by default, but your dog might also have spots or darker colored gums due to their genetics.
Check with a veterinarian if you ever have a question about your dog’s dental health, and be sure to maintain your dog’s oral health care routine to prevent gingivitis and other gum infections from affecting them negatively.
Good luck, and let us know if you have any other questions!