Understanding pale gums on dogs–what it looks like, potential causes, and your dog’s baseline–gives you powerful information about your pet’s health. But gum color is often overlooked by pet parents mostly because it’s difficult to know what to look for in the first place. Plus, unlike other gum-color indicators, pale gums aren’t related to dental health. Instead, the natural color of gums looks pink because of healthy blood flow.
While keeping track of your dog’s oral health is another vital step in his or her overall wellness, if you’re facing pale gums in your dog, remember that it doesn’t mean something is wrong with his or her teeth; instead, pale dog gums are an indicator of a potential, often very serious, underlying health problem.
Are My Dog’s Gums Pale?
How can you tell if your dog’s gums are pale? Well, first you need to know what healthy dog gums look like. Then you’ll be able to notice a change and react appropriately. The first step, of course, is to start checking your dog’s mouth, including the gums, regularly so that you know what the baseline is for your individual pet. You can include this practice as part of your monthly Pet Health 5 routine.
So, what do pale dog gums look like in comparison to healthy dog gums?
Let’s start with healthy gums: For most dogs, a healthy set of gums should be salmon or bubble-gum pink. That’s a generalization, though; dogs vary by breed and by the individual. Some breeds–Dalmatians, Mastiffs, and Irish setters, to name a few–might have black spots on their gums (tongues, too) that are perfectly healthy, while other breeds like Shar-Peis and Chow Chows might even have a totally normal bluish pigment to their gums. The most important thing here is to know what your dog’s healthy gums look like.
When a dog’s gums are pale, the natural pink hue fades. Oftentimes, there’s a tactical change, too. Healthy, pink gums should be moist, whereas pale gums can often feel tacky.
Causes for Pale Dog Gums
Before you face pale gums in your dog, you should know what your dog’s baseline looks like. When your dog is healthy and at rest, gently lift his or her lip. Take a look at the normal color of your dog’s gums. Press your index finger into the gumline and watch it turn white then back to pink–this is called the capillary refill time. It should go from white right back to pink. Unlike other health indicators, like heart rate or temperature, gum color doesn’t have a number you can track. However, if you have a general idea of your dog’s healthy gum appearance, you’ll be able to tell when you’re dealing with pale dog gums.
What causes the gums to turn pale?
This is a condition caused by your dog not producing enough hemoglobin or red blood cells, resulting in pale dog gums… This can also happen with conditions like stomach ulcers, cancer, or injury.
Trauma, like significant injuries, causes blood loss that leads to pale gums. If your dog is losing blood due to an injury, head to the vet immediately.
Blood clotting disorders
Are you seeing a trend? Pale dog gums are often related to blood health. A dog who can’t coagulate blood will have pale gums.
A severe parasitic infection (think: fleas, hookworms, ticks, lice, and so on) can result in blood loss that turns your dog’s gums pale.
Renal failure causes dehydration, lethargy, vomiting, incontinence–all of which contribute to pale gums.
Anxiety can cause pale gums. At the extreme end, if your dog experiences shock, his or her gums will likely turn pale, though more “typical” anxiety can also cause pale gums.
There are other conditions and diseases that can include pale gums in your dog. Certain cancers, heart conditions, and even poisoning can result in pale gums. Whenever you notice your dog’s gums have become pale, call your vet right away.
What to Do if Your Dog Has Pale Gums
Now that you know your individual dog’s baseline gum color, you’ll be able to spot any changes right away. This will help you and your dog stay ahead of any potential underlying health problems. Pale gums can indicate very serious problems and significant underlying diseases. It’s important to stay on top of this key health indicator.
And, remember: Pale gums aren’t the problem. They’re the symptom. The first thing to do if there is a change and your dog is exhibiting pale gums is to seek veterinary care. Because there are many possible causes for pale gums in dogs, getting a medical opinion is the first step. While you’re waiting for your appointment, look for any possible causes and gather any other health information from your Pet Health 5 that you can take with you to the vet.
We encourage you to monitor your dog’s gum color. Join us in our Pet Health 5 movement and together we can start tracking our pet’s health. It’s super easy! We’ll send you a reminder on the 5th of each month with a checklist of what to do and how to do it. All you need to do is take the time to check your dog’s health stats and log them.
Pet health and dog health is an important aspect of helping our dogs live long and happy lives. You can start today by weighing your dog and signing up for Pet Health 5.
Pale gums in dogs shouldn’t be taken lightly. Once you know what your dog’s healthy gum color is, you’ll be able to spot a change immediately and get your dog to the veterinarian. The underlying causes can be significant, and getting treatment started quickly is the best way to help your dog.
Have you ever faced pale gums in your dog? How were you able to notice the change and what steps did you take to help your dog?
About the Author: Maggie Marton writes about dogs, cats, and kids–and often the intersection of all three–for print and web publications and on her award-winning blog, OhMyDogBlog.com. Maggie co-authored Pet Blogging for Love and Money, a guide to launching and running a profitable pet blog. She lives in the Indianapolis area with a dog, two cats, a tank of fish, two preschoolers, and a patient husband.