In most healthy dogs, the mucous membranes are pink and moist. The easiest mucous membranes to evaluate are inside your pup’s mouth -- her gums and inner cheeks. You may notice other colors, such as blue or white gums, which indicate an emergency.
Checking the Color
Mucous membrane color helps evaluate the blood in your dog’s extremities. Unless your pooch doesn’t like her face messed with, you can easily check her membrane color by lifting her lip. Gently touch her gums and make sure they feel moist. Press gently on her gums with the pad of your finger, causing the gums to blanch. Remove your finger and count the seconds until the color returns to normal. You are checking her capillary refill time, or CRT, an indication of blood perfusion. Normal CRT is less than two seconds.
Causes of Abnormalities
Some dogs normally have dark pigmentation in their gums. By familiarizing yourself with your dog’s normal gums, you can pinpoint abnormal more quickly. If your dog’s gums are dry or tacky, she may be dehydrated. If her CRT is greater than two seconds, she may be dehydrated or in shock. Pale gums can indicate shock or anemia, while blue gums are cyanotic and indicates your dog isn’t getting enough oxygen. Yellow gums can indicate liver dysfunction. Gums that have red splotching or bruising can indicate your dog has a blood clotting disorder. If you notice any of these abnormalities, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Elizabeth Muirhead is a practicing veterinarian with an undergraduate degree in biological sciences. She has real-world experience with the husbandry, grooming, training and feeding a variety of household pets.