Checking Your Dog's Mouth & Gums for Disease Illness or Other Issues

The color of your dog’s gums can be a vital sign of the status of your dog’s health. If you take your dog for regularly scheduled checkups you will see the Veterinarian lift your dog’s upper lip to check the gums. A dog’s gums should always be a light colored pink. If they are ever a color other than pink then a variety of medical issues could be present. Some dogs naturally have darker, redder, or tinted colored gums, which may be considered absolutely “normal”. But if you find that your dog’s gums suddenly change color then there may be a cause for concern.

Dog's Gums & Mouth

You can test to make sure your dog has good circulation and hydration by performing the capillary refill test. This is when you take your thumb and gently press down onto your dog’s gums and then release. Under your thumb, your dog’s gums should turn white and then once you release the pressure of your thumb the gums should go back to their normal light pink color within a second or two. If your dog’s gums do not return to their normal color within this short time, then he or she could be dehydrated and/or have lack of blood flow. Make sure your dog has plenty of water to drink. If you think hydration isn’t the main cause for concern then seek medical attention so an expert can determine why your dog may be having lack of blood flow. If you happen to look at your dog’s gums and they look white even before you perform the capillary refill test then, once again your dog may be severely dehydrated, or your dog may be experiencing loss of blood. Blood loss can happen externally, which will be more obvious, but it can also happen internally. In this case, medical attention must be sought immediately. If your dog loses too much blood, he or she may start to experience organ damage and/or failure. White gums can also indicate anemia, which is when the blood supply does not have enough healthy red blood cells and/or an iron deficiency. An infection may also be present, which has a variety of causes including ticks.

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If you take a look at your dog’s gums and they look blue, he or she may be experiencing a lack of oxygen, which could be due to a number of issues. Your dog may have an infectious disease, a tumor, toxicity, parasites, an immune disorder, an allergic reaction, heart disease, a foreign object obstructing their passage way, or may have experienced some sort of trauma to the gums. Whatever the cause may be for blue gums, it requires medical attention. The Vet should be able to pinpoint the cause if you are not already aware of a health problem your dog may have.

Purple or grayish colored gums could indicate some sort of trauma, i.e. your dog is getting new teeth in, but it could also indicate poisoning from food or chemical products, or shock. There are several bodily functions that take place when a dog goes into shock. Shock typically occurs after a major injury that may be very traumatic or cause a lot of blood loss. The body becomes “scared” and begins to increase the heart rate and blood pressure, and constrict blood vessels to prevent blood loss. If your dog is in shock you may find him or her breathing rapidly, having a shallow but rapid heartbeat, or their skin may feel cold to the touch because of their decreased blood flow. If you find your dog in shock, immediately try to stop the bleeding if there is an open wound, make sure your dog has a clear passage way to breath, and elevate your dog’s hind legs to increase blood flow to the heart and brain.

If your dog has really red gums then this may be a sign of an infection or some sort of irritation. Pink colored gums can often have a red look to them but don’t be alarmed. When you see red gums, you will be able to tell that they are a little too red and sometimes they can look puffy or inflamed. Red, inflamed gums can be due to a topical irritation, such as a new toy, or dental concerns such as gingivitis, which is similar to humans. If your dog has too much dental plaque it can cause a buildup of bacteria which then turns into gingivitis. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums which can also cause them to bleed and be tender to the touch. Red gums can also be an indication of an infection or poisoning, which is likely due to an exposure to toxins or consumption of a foreign object.

Some dogs naturally have blue colored tongues, like the Chow Chow, or black pigmented gums, like the German Shepherd. Be sure to look at what is “normal” for your dog so you will be able to tell the difference if your dog’s gums seem to be an abnormal color. If for some reason you think your dog may be sick and you are unable to look at the color of his or her gums, you can try checking other similar parts of their body like underneath their eyelids.

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March 6, 2012

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