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What Does the Color of Your Dog’s Gums Mean?

Just like humans, each dog has a mouth full of teeth and gums that can be amazing indicators of our dog’s health if you know what to look for when you open their mouths. Gums are primarily used as a protective barrier for the teeth and nerves of the mouth that are often seen as pink in color. This distinct color is due to the oxygen-rich blood flow that keeps gums happy and healthy. However, if this pink hue begins to change or your dog’s gums take on a different texture it can indicate that there is something wrong and you should not hesitate to take them to a veterinarian.

Young people and animal healthcare, female veterinary checking teeth, mouth and gums of dog for dental hygiene during home visit. Vet inspecting pet on house call

What Do Normal Dog Gums Look Like?

Healthy dog gums should be smooth and wet to the touch and should have a pink bubble gum color. If the gum is depressed by your finger or any other instrument then the color should change to a white or pale pink coloring before returning to their regular bubble gum pink color within 2 seconds after you remove your finger. The CRT or capillary refill time is defined as the amount of time it takes after pressure is applied to the gum and then released for the normal pink color to return.

Gum Problems in Dogs

Blue or Purple Gums:

Blue or purple gums are medically referred to as cyanosis, which can be encountered if your dog’s gums are not receiving enough oxygen through their blood supply. Blue or purple gums can result from a number of different possibilities including pulmonary thromboembolism, pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and a number of other respiratory issues that are all very serious in nature.

Pale Pink or White Gums:

High blood loss and anemia are familiar causes of pale pink or white gums in a dog. These gums look the way normal gums appear when a finger is applying pressure to an area but do not regain the normal pink color when the pressure is removed. This pale pink or white coloring is due to a shortage of blood or hemoglobin in the dog. Unfortunately, there are many diseases that can cause anemia so it can be difficult to detect early on and it is often very serious.

Bright Red Gums:

Bright red gums are one of the more familiar signs that dog owners will see as this symptom can be caused by simple gingivitis. Inflammation or infection of the gums can cause ongoing dental issues that are painful for your dog and will cause the gums to bleed easily. However, bright red or bright pink gums can also be a sign of your dog overheating. In many cases, dogs that have heat stroke will also have bright pink or red gums as the blood flow to the area increases during their attempts to cool themselves through panting.

Dental check of teeth yellow labrador retriever.

Growths on Gums:

Growths found on the gums can range in severity from mild, benign growths that will go away on their own to malignant, cancerous tumors that can lead to serious health issues, and possibly death. In addition, some growths are infectious in nature, such as papillomatosis, which is a virus that can easily spread amongst a dog population. Papillomatosis causes pink, fleshy warts to grow on the gums and other areas of the body and results in the dog having problems eating and experiencing pain

Bleeding Gums:

While it should be noted that any time your dog is bleeding for an unexplained reason you should have them assessed by your veterinarian to determine the cause, bleeding gums may be due to gingivitis, growths, or stomatitis, which can become a serious issue if your dog’s mouth becomes infected.

Preventing Gum Problems in Dogs

While many issues indicated by gum color can be treated, there can be underlying factors that impact whether these problems are preventable.

Blue or Purple Gums:

Conditions that cause low oxygen flow to the mouth and other areas of the body are always serious in nature and should be assessed immediately by your veterinarian. While it may be impossible to prevent some respiratory diseases, you can take steps to avoid increasing your dog’s likelihood of contracting these diseases by avoiding smoking while they are around, ensuring that they are on a healthy exercise regiment, and that they stick to a health meal plan.

Pale pink or White Gums:

To prevent pale pink or white gums any diseases that are known to cause anemia and any trauma that has led to severe blood loss should be treated as soon as possible by your veterinarian.

Bright Red Gums:

Ensure that your dog is hydrated and kept in safe temperatures. Dogs left in cars or out in the hot sun for too long will quickly overheat and may die. For bright red gums that are caused by stomatitis or gingivitis ensure that your dog’s diet gives them ample opportunity to clean their teeth and take the time to book regular dental visits to prevent the condition from continuing.

Growths on Gums:

Avoiding contagious animals is the best way to prevent contracting a virus. Be sure that your dog’s playmates are healthy before allowing them to play together. Cancerous or benign growths should be addressed by a veterinarian, as there is no current way to determine the nature of the growth without medical testing.

Bleeding Gums:

In general, ongoing dental care will solve any issues of bleeding gums. At home you can provide your dog with toys or treats designed to clean their teeth or adopt a practice of brushing them regularly.

Treating Gum Problems in Dogs

Treatments for the various gum issues that dogs can encounter will naturally be as diverse as the underlying causes.

Blue or Purple Gums:

Seek immediately veterinary treatment. It is likely that the veterinarian will need to address the underlying condition, but will be able to begin oxygen therapy in the meantime.

Pale pink or White Gums:

Severe blood loss and anemia are both conditions that should be treated by a veterinarian and may be addressed immediately with blood transfusions.

Bright Red Gums:

Dental visits will take care of gingivitis issues, but overheating should be treated by cooling down your dog in a timely fashion and helping them rehydrate.

Growths on Gums:

Growths may go away on their own or they may require surgery to remove. This can be determined by your veterinarian along with the type of growth that is showing in your dog’s mouth.

Bleeding Gums:

Regular dental care will solve most issues involving bleeding gums. This can include teeth cleaning, extraction, cold therapy laser treatments, or simple medications.

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