Skip to main content

Why your dog’s gums aren’t pink (and what to do about it)

Just like our gums, our dogs’ gums are vitally important to their overall oral health. In addition to serving as a support system for the teeth, the gums provide a protective barrier against harmful bacteria. Without the gums, food particles and bacteria would build up near the roots of the teeth, causing infections, tooth decay, and eventual tooth loss. A plentiful blood supply provides the gums with their pink hue. If you’ve noticed a change in the color of your dog’s gums, it could mean something is wrong. Let’s take a deep dive into what the color of your dog’s gums means, what to do about it, and when you should contact your vet.

A yellow lab having his teeth and gums checked.

What should healthy gums look like?

In healthy dogs, the gums are about the same color as bubble gum. They should be smooth, moist, and slippery to the touch. Additionally, they should have a capillary refill time of roughly two seconds. To test their capillary refill time, press down gently on your dog’s gums. The area should blanch — or turn white — and return to its normal pink color within two seconds of lifting your finger. Your pup’s gums should never be dry or tacky, as this indicates dehydration. The color of your dog’s gums is a fairly good indicator of underlying health problems. Here’s what you should know.

Related Videos

Bleeding gums

Gingivitis and a more severe form of dental inflammation, stomatitis, can cause extreme sensitivity and bleeding in your dog’s gums. You should take your pup to the vet for a checkup, as some oral infections require a course of antibiotics or tooth extractions to clear up. You can help prevent bleeding gums by ensuring your dog has proper dental hygiene. Brush his teeth regularly, check his teeth and gums often, and take him in for regular checkups to help him maintain oral health.

Blue gums

If your dog’s gums are blue or purple, an immediate trip to the vet is in order. When a dog’s gums turn blue, it’s a sign he’s not receiving enough oxygen in his bloodstream. Cyanosis is a symptom of respiratory distress, poisoning, and congenital heart disease, all of which require prompt treatment to ensure a positive outcome. Keep medications and chemicals well out of reach, don’t smoke around your pet, and take him to the vet at the first sign of blue gums.

Bright-red gums

In addition to being a classic symptom of gingivitis and stomatitis, bright-red gums coupled with panting can signify that your pup is overheating. If your dog is overheating, take his temperature immediately. A temperature of 104 degrees and higher requires an emergency trip to the vet. However, you’ll still need to see your vet if you suspect a periodontal disease is the cause of your dog’s red gums, but you’ll have time to make an appointment first. Keep your dog inside on hot days, make sure he has plenty of cool water to drink, and maintain proper dental hygiene to prevent red gums.

A dog having his teeth and gums checked.

Brown gums

Brown gums in dogs are a sign of methemoglobinemia, which is caused by ingesting acetaminophen. While it’s an effective pain reliever for us, it replaces your dog’s hemoglobin — the substance responsible for carrying oxygen through your dog’s bloodstream — with methemoglobin, which can’t carry oxygen. This is a dangerous, potentially fatal condition that requires immediate treatment. To keep your dog safe, store any products containing acetaminophen where he can’t reach them.

Bumpy gums

If your dog has lumps, bumps, or growths on his gums, you’ll need to have the vet check him out. While growths can be benign and disappear as suddenly as they appeared, they could be a symptom of papillomatosis, which is caused by a virus that leads to oral warts. And, while no one wants to think about the Big C, it’s also possible the growths are cancerous. Keeping your fur baby away from strange dogs can cut down on his risk of developing papillomatosis.

Pale or white gums

We don’t mean to frighten you, but if you ever find yourself saying, “My dog’s gums are white,” take him to the vet immediately. Common causes of pale or white gums include blood clotting disorders, cancer, kidney disease, internal bleeding, shock, anemia, heart disease, heavy metal toxicity, and bloat.

A tan and white dog having his teeth brushed with a red toothbrush.

We all want what’s best for our dogs, and that includes maintaining a proper dental regimen. In addition to preventing periodontal diseases, keeping an eye on your dog’s gum health can serve as an early detection system in cases of poisoning, heart disease, and cancer. Ensure your pup eats a balanced, nutritious diet, take him for daily walks, stay up to date with vaccinations and checkups, and examine his gums each time you brush his teeth.

Editors' Recommendations

The best ways pet parents can cut costs in 2023, according to the experts
We asked the experts: Here's how to cut pet costs — and where not to cut corners
A person pouring dog food into a dish

From groceries to home goods, it seems no industry was immune to inflation in 2022, including pet products.

For example, inflation and supply chain disruptions drove pet food prices to an all-time high. A report on the cost of owning a pet found that pet owners have been forking $40 to $290 per month on their pups — it’s a wide range, and the word "expensive" is relative. However, pet parents still want to ensure their fur babies get the best of the best when it comes to nutrition, exercise, fun, and treats, regardless of budget.

Read more
3 scientific benefits of being a cat person – you’ll be surprised with what we found
Here's the scoop on what we know about cat health benefits
A dark-haired woman wearing a green sweater holds a tabby cat on her lap

Cats are our best friends, our constant companions, and our furry, purring lap warmers. While the debate between cat people and dog people seems endless, one fact remains: Pet parents are happier and healthier than those who don't have pets.

We love cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and reptiles equally here at PawTracks, but did you know that there are scientific benefits to being a cat person? We're here to share the top three cat health benefits and why sharing your home with a feline companion is the best thing you do for yourself. We'll also recommend some of our favorite beginner-friendly cat breeds.

Read more
Is getting a puppy for Christmas a good idea? You can’t return them like a sweater
Here's what to know before you bring home a puppy for Christmas
Woman snuggling Samoyed puppy in front of the Christmas tree

Of all the viral holiday videos to make their way around the internet, there’s nothing quite as heartwarming (and adorable) as seeing a new puppy jump out of a box on Christmas. It’s easy to see why many families feel inspired to get this surprise present for their loved ones and show up with a new furry friend during the holidays.
Getting a puppy for Christmas can seem like a special, even life-changing gift, but the cleaning and work that accompany them aren’t as cute. Many families aren’t prepared for the effort and expense that raising a dog requires, which unfortunately leads to pets being dropped off at shelters not long after the holidays.
If you’re considering gifting a puppy to your family this Christmas, make sure you do the research and consider the obligations that pet parenthood entails. Here’s what to know.

Why getting a puppy for Christmas isn’t always smart
Although getting a dog can be a rewarding and joyful experience, it also requires work, patience, and responsibility. Is your family ready to take this on?
According to the shelter staff at the Marion County Humane Society in West Virginia, the end of January tends to see a rise in shelter admissions. Unfortunately, many of these pets are Christmas gifts that families weren’t ready to care for. “People that got a new puppy or a new kitten, and they expect their young child to take care of them,” one shelter tech told WDTV. "Of course, if the kid doesn't do it, the parent doesn't want to take care of them either.”
A lack of research is also a large factor in unsuccessful pet adoptions. Not all dog breeds will do well in all homes, so consulting an expert or doing some reading is vital before taking action. And remember — a cute, tiny puppy can still grow into a huge, rambunctious dog (depending on their breed) so you’ll need to be prepared.
It’s also important to consider where you’re adopting your new pup from because not all breeders are reliable. As awful as it is to acknowledge, there are people who sell sick and injured dogs for a quick buck. Needless to say, a dog with health concerns can be as loving of a companion as any other — after treatment, of course — but you have a right to be informed about the condition of your new friend, including information about the puppy's parents.
Shelters can help you get to know your pup a bit before bringing him home, but rescued dogs may need some extra time to adjust to their surroundings. The honeymoon phase may not be as happy-go-lucky as you expect, especially if there has been any past trauma.

Read more