What should your dog’s gums look like, and would you know if something was wrong?
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What should your dog’s gums look like, and would you know if something was wrong?

Dogs
Health & Safety

Most dog owners know that they should brush their dog’s teeth regularly to keep them clean and healthy and to prevent bad breath, albeit far fewer dog owners actually do this in practice.

Dental neglect can result in a large number of chronic issues with the teeth and gums when your dog reaches their senior years and old age, and whilst you might not be able to see all of your dog’s teeth clearly, it will usually be self-evident if there are problems with the teeth that you can see.

Blackening, yellowing, plaque and tartar, physical signs of damage like splits and breaks and large visible cavities all indicate problems with your dog’s teeth, and this is of course usually unmistakable – but there is a lot that your dog’s gums can tell you about both their oral health and general health too, if you know what to look for.

However, few dog owners would know what gum problems in dogs might look like unless the gums were bright red or bleeding, and these are just two of a large number of gum-related symptoms that dogs might display.

With this in mind, this article will tell you what your dog’s gums should look like, and share some insights into gum problems and how you could identify them based on the colour and appearance of your dog’s gums.

Read on to learn more.

What do healthy dog gums look like?

The average dog’s gums are a kind of salmon shade of pink when they’re healthy – although if your dog is of a breed that has a black tongue like the Chow Chow, their gums might be black too.

Some dogs will have black spots or patches on their gums too as part of their normal pigmentation, and getting to know what your dog’s gums look like normally when they are healthy is important so that you can spot any potential problems that may develop later on in their life.

Next, we’ll look at abnormal gum appearances in terms of colours and other signs that might indicate an issue that means something is wrong and requires attention.

Cyanotic or bluish gums

If your dog’s gums appear bluish or purplish and they’re not a breed like the Chow Chow that has unusual colouration inside of their mouth, this indicates that the dog doesn’t have enough oxygen in their circulatory system, which as you might expect, should never be ignored.

This can happen in some brachycephalic breeds suffering from BOAS, as a result of an underlying health condition in any dog, or as a result of choking or an obstruction of the airway, such as if your dog has swallowed part of a toy or something else that is stuck in their throat.

Jaundiced or yellow gums

Yellow gums, whether pale or very obvious, indicates jaundice. This in turn means that something is wrong with your dog’s liver. This will often develop quickly and become pronounced in a mater of hours, and requires urgent veterinary attention and should never be ignored.

Pale pink or whitish gums

If your dog’s gums are very pale pink or appear almost white, this may indicate chronic or acute anaemia, or a lack of red blood cells in the body. This needs to be investigated by your vet.

Pale gums can also be caused by poor circulation or due to shock, but regardless, this symptom requires a visit to the clinic to find out what is going on.

Blood-red gums

If your dog’s gums are a bright shade of red that is the colour of fresh blood, they might have an infection and/or be running a fever. Again, take your dog along to the vet and discuss your concerns.

If your dog’s gums are redder than they should be but are not what you could call bright red, and particularly if the redness follows the outline of the tops of the teeth where they meet the gums, this is probably gingivitis and indicates general poor dental health and the need for a veterinary dental treatment.

What should your dog’s gums feel like?

The texture of your dog’s gums can be quite telling as well as their colour – and if you lift your dog’s upper lip and gently touch the gum with your finger, you should find that they are moist and slick.

If the gums feel spongy or swollen this usually means gingivitis, which tends to cause redness too, and if your dog’s gums feel dry or tacky instead of moist, they are apt to be seriously dehydrated.

As you can tell, there are quite a few potential presentations of the gums that can indicate a problem, either with your dog’s teeth or gums themselves or as a systemic issue or even localised problem in another part of the body.

If you aren’t sure what is normal or if you spot any unexplained changes in the condition of your dog’s gums, particularly if this develops quickly, contact your vet immediately.

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