Why are my dog’s gums pale?

Pale gums in dogs can be a sign of several different serious health conditions. Anything that causes pale gums in dogs should be considered an emergency and you should contact your vet, or out of hours, your nearest Vets Now straight away.

What colour should dogs’ gums be?

The colour of your dog’s gums says a lot about their health and any changes could be a sign that something is wrong. The colour of healthy dog gums varies from dog to dog but they should generally be a bubblegum pink or salmon colour.

Some dogs have naturally mottled gums which isn’t anything to worry about. However, if your dog’s gums have changed this could be a sign of something more serious. Our ‘dog gum colour chart’ below can give you an indication of what could have possibly led to a change in your dog’s gums, but remember that only an examination from a vet can determine the real cause and your dog might need urgent treatment. So, always err on the side of caution and contact your vet immediately if you have any concerns about your dog’s gum colour.

What should I do about pale gums in dogs?

All causes of pale gums in dogs could be life threatening and could require urgent treatment so it’s vital that you contact a vet right away.

Image of a dog's open mouth for Vets Now article on pale gums in dogs and dog gum color chart

You might also be interested in:

What causes pale dog gums?

There are many conditions in dogs which list pale gums as a symptom. These include:

Anaemia

Anaemia is when there’s a fall in the number of red blood cells which transport oxygen around the body. As a result, anaemia can lead to oxygen deprivation. Pale pink or white gums is the most obvious and common clinical sign of anaemia, with other signs including weakness, lethargy and shortness of breath. If left untreated, anaemia can be fatal.

Kidney disease

The kidneys play a vital role in the functioning in the body and any condition which hinders the kidney’s working properly is known as kidney or renal disease. There are many causes including chemicals, toxic foods and infections. Although symptoms can vary depending on the cause and severity of the disease, pale dog gums (caused by anaemia) is one of a number of possible symptoms.

Blood loss

Blood loss can be due to a wide range of causes including trauma and a severe parasite infestation from fleas and ticks. All causes of blood loss are life-threatening and should always be considered an emergency, so contact a vet immediately.

Shock

Shock refers to a significant compromise in oxygen delivery to the tissues and particularly failure of the circulatory system to deliver blood flow to the tissues. Shock can be caused by several different issues and is often caused by trauma such as car accidents. If left untreated it can be fatal so immediate veterinary treatment should be sought.

How do I check for unhealthy dog gums?

  1. Lift the upper lip to observe the colour of the gums just above the upper canine teeth.
  2. Press firmly on your dog’s gums with your finger and then release to test how long it takes for the gum to return to its normal colour (this should happen within 1 – 2 seconds)
  3. If you are unable to check their gums, examine the eyes instead by gently pulling the eyelid down and looking at the colour of the tissue.

If you notice any abnormalities, contact your vet or your nearest Vets Now as soon as possible.

Image of a dog's mouth for Vets Now article on pale gums in dogs and dog gum color chart

Dog gum colour chart

Use our ‘dog gum colour chart’ to get an idea of what might be causing pale gums or any other change in your dog’s gum colour. Remember that many of the causes are considered emergencies and your dog should receive treatment from a vet as quickly as possible.

Gum colour Possible reasons
Pale
  • Anaemia
  • Blood loss
  • Pain
  • Shock Anxiety
Yellow
  • Liver problems
  • Red blood cell damage
Blue or purple
  • Breathing problems
  • Pneumonia/asthma
  • Choking
  • Heart disease
  • Hypothermia
  • Low blood pressure
Cherry red
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Heat stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Toxicity (poisoning)

Can I prevent pale gums in dogs?

Given the range of underlying causes which could have led to a change in your dog’s gum colour, the methods of prevention vary, and in some cases, there’s no way to prevent it. The best method is to take general steps to keep your dog’s environment as safe as possible — keep toxic substances out of their reach, keep them away from sharp objects which could cause bleeding and avoid situations where they could get hurt. Carrying out routine checks of your dog’s gums will also ensure that any issues are caught quickly.