You are brushing your dog’s teeth one day and suddenly realize he has pale gums. You remember your vet mentioning this issue at one time, and you start to panic. You must know what pale gums in dogs signifies, so you can act quickly to protect your dog’s health.
Dog owners should check their dog’s teeth and gums regularly—while brushing their teeth is a good time to do this. Normally, a dog’s gums should be pink and moist, just like a human’s. If your dog’s gums are suddenly pale and dry, there could be a serious underlying health issue in place.
It’s important to learn about pale gums in dogs and what may cause them. With this information, pet owners will be empowered to take action and seek their vet right away.
Dog Gums 101
Just like in humans, your dog’s gum tissue is very important for his oral health. The gum tissue provides the teeth with nourishment and holds them in place.
A healthy and normal dog gums should be pink in color from the blood vessels that supply his teeth with nutrients. If your dog is well hydrated, his gums should be shiny and moist.
It is important to note that there can be coloration differences among dogs’ gum tissue. Some dogs have spotted gum tissue. This is completely normal for some dogs and is nothing to worry over.
Checking Your Dog’s Gums Is Important
You do everything possible to take care of your furry friend and keep him healthy. An important part of caring for your dog’s health is regular gum checks. Closely monitoring your dog’s gums will give you important clues about his health.
Thankfully, gum checks are very easy to do, and they do not cause any discomfort to your dog. All you have to do is carefully lift your dog’s upper lip and then gently pull down the bottom lip. You should see a nice salmon-like color and glossy, moist gum tissue.
Next, you should softly touch your dog’s gums and see if they are moist. If your dog’s gums feel sticky or gooey, this may mean he is not drinking enough water. When your dog is not properly hydrated and is not consuming the best dog food for his nutrition, Fido can become ill.
Perform the Capillary Refill Test
Although it sounds daunting, this test is super simple to perform and only takes a couple of seconds. Using your finger, gently press on your dog’s gum tissue. When you move your finger away, you will notice the area you pressed has turned white.
If your dog is healthy and hydrated fully, the pink color should return in one to two seconds. While observing the color change, if it takes longer than 1-2 seconds for the pink color to return, your dog is likely dehydrated and could have a health issue that needs to be investigated.
Note: If your dog has spotted gums , it can be difficult to perform the capillary refill test.
How Often Should You Check Your Dog’s Gums?
You should brush your dog’s teeth a few times a week, and this is a perfect time to also conduct a gum check. At the very minimum, you should check your dog’s gums once a month.
What Causes Pale Gums in Dogs?
When dog owners see pale gums in dogs, they often immediately begin to panic. While this is a serious issue, pale gums can simply mean your dog needs more water. However, multiple issues can cause a dog’s gum tissue to go pale. If you notice your dog has pale gums, make sure to take him to the vet right away. Some of the health conditions that cause pale gums include the following.
Internal bleeding causes pale gum tissue because the blood is not circulating as efficiently. Bleeding issues can be caused by ulcers and traumatic injuries. If a dog has stomach ulcers, it will likely vomit frequently. To rule out internal bleeding, please take your dog to the vet!
Shock can also cause pale gum tissue. Shock occurs after a traumatic event, such as being injured. Your dog will have rapid breathing and a fast heart rate. A dog’s temperature will also drop. Shock is a medical emergency that cannot wait for veterinarian treatment!
Parasites may also be the cause of a dog’s pale gum tissue. Fleas, for instance, can cause blood loss, especially if there is a severe parasite infestation. Roundworms can also cause your dog’s gums to go pale. If a dog has roundworms, it may have frequent vomiting and diarrhea, along with weight loss.
Dogs that have anemia often have pale gums. Anemia causes a dog to become lethargic. They sleep a lot and have breathing trouble. Anemic dogs also often have a rapid heartbeat, and they may have bloody noses frequently  .
When the kidneys are healthy, they produce a substance called erythropoietin. Erythropoietin is responsible for producing red blood cells. When the kidneys are not producing erythropoietin, a dog’s gum tissue can become pale. Kidney disease is serious and can cause death. Take your dog to the vet right away if it has pale gums, reduced appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive drinking and urination.
Many dog owners are shocked to find their dogs can develop heart disease. Many of the conditions humans suffer from can also occur in dogs.
If a dog’s heart is not pumping correctly, its blood will not circulate normally. Dogs that have heart disease will have pale gums. Dogs will also show signs of coughing, having a reduced appetite, lethargy, and a fluid-filled belly. Take your dog to the vet immediately if he has these symptoms.
Unfortunately, cancer can also impact a dog’s life. Some kinds of cancer in dogs cause problems with bone marrow and production of red blood cells. Cancer will cause your dog’s gums to be pale, so take it to the vet to be screened.
Blood Clotting Disorders
The clotting process is complex and somewhat difficult to understand. When a dog has thrombocytopenia, its gums will be pale and they will likely bruise easily . A dog’s gums may also bleed when brushing its teeth.
Heavy Metal Toxicity
Pale gums in dogs can also be caused by heavy metal toxicity. Dogs sometimes exhibit scavenger tendencies and will eat just about anything. If your dog swallows metal, it could develop anemia. Heavy metal toxicity causes vomiting, lethargy, and a reduced appetite.
A swollen, bloated belly is a danger to dogs. Sometimes, a dog’s abdomen can become so filled with excess gas that it becomes twisted. Dogs that have distended abdomens can experience a wide range of problems, including pale gums. Seniors are especially prone to developing bloating.
What Should You Do If Your Dog’s Gums are Pale?
So, what do you do if you discover your dog has pale gums? It is important to find the reason for your dog’s pale gums. Acting quickly could save your dog’s life!
Pale gums are abnormal and should prompt you to schedule a vet appointment right away. If your dog has a shock or an extended belly, these are medical emergencies and cannot wait. Seek immediate emergency veterinarian services.
While some of the above conditions are not considered life and death emergencies, it is best to seek veterinarian care whenever there is a possible issue with your dog’s health.
When you take your dog to the vet, it is important to be as prepared as possible. Your vet will likely ask you the following questions.
- When did you first notice your dog’s pale gums?
- Have there been any other symptoms or changes in your dog’s normal behavior?
- Has your dog been injured?
- How do your dog’s gums look and feel?
- Has your dog ever eaten non-food items, such as coins?
- Has your dog been drinking enough water?
Giving a detailed account to your dog’s vet will allow the doctor to begin the process of diagnosis. After performing a physical examination of your dog, the vet will also likely order bloodwork. Another diagnostic testing, like X-rays and a blood clotting test may also be performed.
When your dog’s vet concludes the diagnosis, you must follow the treatment plan. Your vet will treat the underlying cause, according to the condition and its severity.
For instance, if your dog has a clotting disorder, your vet will instruct you on how to stop bleeding nails or gums. Following your vet’s plan of care and bringing your dog in for subsequent follow-up appointments will protect his health and prevent it from declining.
Can Dog Owners Prevent Their Dogs From Getting Pale Gums?
Many dog owners are surprised to learn their dog’s gums can also change to other colors. The color of a dog’s gums is directly impacted by its health.
While some health conditions that cause pale gums cannot be prevented, there are some things you can do as a dog owner to keep your pooch healthy.
- Practice good oral hygiene. Brush your dog’s teeth a few times a week with the best toothpaste for dogs.
- Keep your dog hydrated. Feed him the best dog food, on the right feeding schedule.
- Regular vet checkups are essential for your dog’s health. Keep up with all vaccinations.
- Report any changes in behavior or adverse symptoms to your vet right away.
Your dog is counting on you to be his health advocate. Keep him away from dangerous areas, and do not allow him to roam about. Dogs that are allowed to roam freely may eat non-food items that could make them ill. If you are concerned about your dog’s ability to escape the yard, consider investing in today’s best invisible dog fences.
FAQ About Pale Gums in Dogs
This information is provided to help reiterate the above in a simpler format. The following are some of the top questions owners have about pale gums in dogs.
1. What causes pale gums in dogs?
Pale gums in dogs can be caused by multiple health conditions, as discussed above. Dehydration, kidney disease, anemia, and heart disease are all common culprits. Some dogs also develop cancer. Even if your dog is not exhibiting any other signs of health issues, it is wise to always seek the vet when a dog’s gums are pale. Your vet will perform a thorough examination and diagnostic testing.
2. What to do if a dog has pale gums?
If you have discovered your dog has pale gums, there is no reason to panic just yet. Dehydration and mild anemia can both cause a dog’s gums to look pale. You should always take your dog to the vet if pale gums develop. Even minor concerns need to be addressed by your dog’s vet promptly.
3. What are the signs of your dog dying?
No dog owner wants to have to say goodbye to their beloved friend. Unfortunately, dogs cannot live forever! Dogs that are near death will become markedly lethargic. They will typically stop eating and drinking and may lose control of their bowels and bladders. If your dog is suffering, the vet may recommend putting them to sleep.
4. What do unhealthy gums look like in a dog?
Healthy dog gums should be pink, shiny, and moist. If your dog’s gums are overly red or pale, health issues could be to blame. Unhealthy gums become swollen, red, and inflamed. Dogs can also develop sores on their gums. Most gum conditions occur because of a lack of oral hygiene care.
Check Your Dog’s Gums Frequently
Now, you know what causes pale gums in dogs and what needs to be done. Keep a check on your dog’s gum tissue frequently. Perform the capillary refill test each time you brush your dog’s teeth. Your dog’s gum condition is a good indicator of his overall health.