How to Assess Health by Looking at Your Dog's Gums

January 3, 2019
As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

A dog's mouth can tell a whole lot about your dog's health status if you learn how to interpret the gum's color, feel and response to pressure. Indeed, in veterinary practice it is not unusual to see a veterinarian look at a dog's gums before anything else. By looking attentively at your dog's gums you may determine if your dog is sick and requires immediate veterinarian treatment.

Interpreting a Dog's Gums

The first step in identifying potential problems is recognizing what your dog's gums normally look like. By getting accustomed to how the gums appear under normal circumstances, you will readily recognize when something is potentially wrong. If you brush your dog's teeth on a regular basis, you will learn what trouble may look like. Following are some possible indicators of potential problems you can identify by looking at the gums.


  • Color 

A healthy dog's gums are a normal bubble gum pink color. In some dog breeds however, the gums may be black, such as in the Chow Chow or Shar Pei. If you notice gums that appear a different color consult your veterinarian. Commonly, gums that appear pale such as light pink, grayish or whitish are indicators of trouble. Pale gums may be an indicator of decreased blood pressure, blood loss, anemia, dehydration, or shock, to name a few.

While pale gums are a pretty reliable sign that things may be very wrong, sometimes a dog's gums may assume other interesting colors. Yellow gums may be indicative of liver problems, and therefore may suggest a dog may also be affected by jaundice. Bright red gums may be indicative of heat stroke, whereas blue gums indicate a lack of oxygen in the blood. All these are serious disorders that require prompt or emergency treatment.

  • Texture

Get used to how your dog's gums normally feel under your finger. Normal gums commonly are wet and slick, as they are covered in saliva. However, tacky, dry gums may be an indicator of dehydration, and this requires prompt veterinary attention.

  • Response to Pressure

Place your finger on your dog's gums for two to three seconds and then release. Healthy gums should turn whitish for a little bit and then resume their normal color within a second and a half. This indicates that the blood is flowing normally and refilling the capillaries promptly. A delay in refilling, and therefore a delay in resuming normal color, can be indicative of certain heart disorders or shock, explains veterinarian Holly Nash, in an article for Pet Education.

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