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Dog Gum Colors and What They Mean


We tend to overlook our dog’s gum color unless they open their mouths to bark or yawn, but the gums can be an important sign of underlying diseases in our furry friends. It is essential to assess your dog’s gums periodically to know what normal, healthy gums look like. Then you can more easily notice changes to their gum color. Sometimes an abnormal gum color in dogs can be an important yet subtle indicator of an illness that may be life-threatening if left undiagnosed and untreated.

What Color Are Healthy Gums in Dogs?

Normal dog gums should be a powder-pink color, similar to the color of cooked shrimp. Some dog breeds are prone to pigmented or spotted gums, and this is normal. These breeds include:

  • Chow Chows

  • Shar-Peis

  • Dalmatians

  • Golden Retrievers

  • Labrador Retrievers

  • Doberman Pinschers

  • German Shepherds

  • Australian Shepherds

  • Akitas

  • Mastiffs

  • Newfoundlands

  • Irish Setters

  • Airedales

  • Some American Pit Bulls and Staffordshires

  • Certain mixed-breed dogs

Most dogs with pigmented gums have pink speckles, which still allows for color assessment.

How to Examine Your Dog’s Gum Color

Follow these steps to examine your dog’s gum color:

  1. Lift their lip: Use your fingers to gently lift their upper lip or pull down on their lower lip. Note the color.

  2. Feel the gums: If your dog will allow, feel their gums just above or below a tooth. The gum should be moist to the touch.

  3. Press on the gums: Gently press on the pink portion of the gums. The gums should turn white. When you stop pressing, the color should turn from white back to pink in less than 2 seconds (this is called capillary refill time, or CRT).

If you notice that your dog’s gums are discolored or tacky, the CRT is greater than 2 seconds, or there are any new growths, contact your veterinarian to discuss these findings and possibly schedule a veterinary appointment for physical examination.

Gum Colors in Dogs and What They Mean

Pale Pink to White Gums

Pale pink to white gums can be from anemia, shock, poor circulation, or heart disease. Anemia has many causes that can eventually lead to pale pink or white gums. The most common include internal bleeding, immune-mediated disease, clotting disorders, rat poison ingestion, kidney failure, severe internal or external parasitic infections, and bleeding abdominal tumors.

Red Gums

Inflamed, slightly red gums can be secondary to gingivitis or other oral infections. Puppies will often get slightly reddened gums where the tooth meets the gumline when they are teething. Their teeth may even bleed while chewing, or they may lose teeth, and this is a normal process. In older dogs, certain viruses and kidney disease can cause oral ulceration, which appears as slightly reddened (sometimes bleeding) gums.

Cherry Red Gums

Cherry red gums are usually a sign of toxin ingestion, but this is also seen with heatstroke and severe hypertension (high blood pressure).

Yellow Gums

Yellow gums (also called icteric or jaundiced gums) can be a sign of immune-mediated anemia or liver issues, and this can also be a normal side effect of blood transfusions.

Gray, Blue, or Purple Gums

Gray, blue, or purple-tinged gums often signal poor circulation or decreased oxygenation. These are most commonly noted with heart disease, severe hypothermia, severe hypotension (low blood pressure), or respiratory diseases.

Brown or Black Spots on the Gums

Brown or black spots on the gums can be normal in certain dog breeds. If these are new spots that are not normal for your pet, or if they are associated with growths on the gums, they can be signs of cancerous or viral issues.

Signs of Unhealthy Dog Gums

Gum color is not the only important thing to monitor when it comes to your dog’s gum health and overall oral health. Be sure to regularly check your dog’s mouth for:

  • Bleeding gums

  • Ulceration

  • Broken teeth

  • Growths

Early detection of oral masses or dental disease can often help your pet live a longer, happier, healthier life. If you have any concerns, contact your veterinarian to schedule a thorough physical examination.

Q&A Section

Q: How often should I check my dog's gums?

A: It's a good practice to check your dog's gums at least once a week. This helps you become familiar with their normal color and texture, making it easier to notice any changes.

Q: What should I do if my dog's gums are pale?

A: Pale gums can indicate a serious health issue such as anemia or shock. It's important to contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice your dog’s gums are pale.

Q: Can gum color change with age?

A: While some changes can occur with age, significant changes in gum color are often signs of underlying health issues and should be checked by a veterinarian.

Q: Are pigmented gums a cause for concern?

A: Pigmented gums are normal in many breeds. However, if you notice new spots or changes in pigmentation that are unusual for your dog, it’s best to consult your veterinarian.

FAQ Section

Q: Why are my dog's gums red and swollen?

A: Red, swollen gums can indicate gingivitis or an oral infection. Teething puppies may also have red gums. Persistent redness and swelling should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

Q: Can gum disease in dogs be prevented?

A: Yes, regular dental care, including brushing your dog's teeth and providing dental chews, can help prevent gum disease. Regular veterinary dental check-ups are also important.

Q: What does it mean if my dog’s gums are yellow?

A: Yellow gums can be a sign of jaundice, which may be related to liver issues or immune-mediated anemia. This requires prompt veterinary attention.

Q: How can I keep my dog's gums healthy?

A: Regular dental care, including brushing your dog's teeth, providing dental treats, and scheduling regular veterinary check-ups, can help keep your dog's gums healthy.

Real-World Example

Consider the case of Bella, a 4-year-old Golden Retriever. Bella’s owner, Mark, noticed that Bella’s gums were unusually pale during their weekly check. Concerned, Mark took Bella to the vet. The veterinarian discovered that Bella was suffering from anemia caused by a parasitic infection. Early detection of the pale gums allowed for prompt treatment, and Bella made a full recovery. This case highlights the importance of regular gum checks and prompt veterinary attention when changes are noticed.

Veterinary Perspective

Veterinarians emphasize the significance of gum color as an indicator of a dog's overall health. "Gum color can reveal a lot about a pet's health status. Regular checks can catch early signs of serious conditions, allowing for timely intervention. If you notice any abnormalities in your dog’s gums, it’s crucial to seek veterinary advice promptly."


Dog gum colors can provide valuable insights into your pet's health. By regularly checking your dog's gums and knowing what to look for, you can catch potential health issues early and seek prompt veterinary care. Understanding the meaning behind different gum colors and maintaining good oral hygiene can significantly improve your dog's quality of life. At, we are dedicated to providing you with the information and resources to keep your canine companions healthy and happy.

Dog Gum Colors and What They Mean
Dog Gum Colors and What They Mean


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