What Can You Tell by Looking at a Dogs Gums?

by Lisa McQuerrey
    A dog's gums say a lot about his health.

    A dog's gums say a lot about his health.

    George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Your dog’s gums are a good indicator of not only the pup’s oral health, but of his internal health as well. Healthy gums are typically pink and firm, though some may be spotted or black, depending on your dog’s breed. Many diseases, conditions and even emergency medical situations first present with discolored gums. Knowing the signs to watch for can help you take fast action when your dog needs it.

    Soft Gums

    If your dog has soft, swollen or puffy gums, it could be an indication that he has a tooth infection. While a dog doesn’t get dental decay like a human, the root of the tooth can become infected. If there is a blister-like lesion on the gum, it could be a sign of abscess. This requires antibiotic treatment before infection enters the bloodstream and compromises other internal organ systems.

    Red Gums

    Bright red gums that are inflamed or discolored where they meet the teeth could be an indication of plaque or tartar buildup and resulting gingivitis, a common canine gum disease. Minor cases can sometimes be averted by instituting a regular regime of brushing your dog’s teeth with a canine toothpaste or taking him to a veterinary dentist for cleaning. Watch your dog’s gum line for indications of this disorder -- the gums should curve in an arc above each tooth, not run in a straight line.

    Blue Gums

    If your dog develops blue gums, it’s often an indication that he isn’t getting enough oxygen, and should be seen by a vet right away. Blue gums can be a sign of poisoning or infectious disease, such as parvo, rabies or distemper. It also could be a sign of parasitic infection, such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain fever. Blue gums also can signal organ failure, heat stroke or trauma, so prompt attention and diagnosis by a veterinary medical professional is essential.

    Pale Gums

    Pale gums can be a symptom of gastric dilatation/volvulus, commonly known as bloat. This twisting of the stomach right after eating can be deadly if not treated in short order -- resulting organ damage can occur in as little as 20 minutes. Pale gums also can be a sign of chronic illness, anemia or lead poisoning or an indication of heartworms, hookworms, tumors or immune system disorders.

    Photo Credits

    • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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