What colour should my dog’s gums be? Healthy vs Unhealthy gum chart

Updated 15 May 2024
Read time: 12 mins
article author
Written by Corinne Homer

Doggy dental issues can have the most hands-on dog owners dumbfounded - especially when it comes to gum health. How exactly should healthy gums look on a dog? What do different coloured gums mean? If your dog has pale gums, is this bad? What should you do next?

Don’t sweat it, as the answers to all your questions about dog gums will be answered here - so read on, and be prepared to get gummy with your pooch. ‍

What colour should dogs' gums be?

To start, let’s get into the ideal healthy gums for a dog. Ideally, dogs’ gums should be pink, almost like bubblegum or uncooked salmon. However, some dogs have mottled or dark gums, depending on their breed.

When you press them with your finger, they should go pale for a second then flood back to pink (or mottled) almost immediately. They should also be shiny because they’re wet - this is an indicator that your dog is well hydrated.

Get your pooch into a relaxed position and carefully pull their lips down or up with your fingers, and you should be able to see the condition their gums are in.


Healthy vs Unhealthy gum chart

We’ve put together a nifty reference chart so you can clearly see what may be an indicator of unhealthy gums, as well as some more info around tip-top pooch gums.


Healthy dog gum colours

As said above, healthy dog gums should be one of the below colours, wet and slick to the touch (not dry or sticky); and pink gums should quickly flood back to pink when you press them.

  • Pink - a bubble gum or salmon pink
  • Mottled - some dog breeds such as Chow-Chows or Shar Peis have gums that are partially pink with mottled black or dark patches
  • Black - some dogs have completely black gums. If they’ve always been black since being a puppy, this is their healthy gum colour

Unhealthy dog gum colours

Dogs who have the following gum colours may need special attention, as this can indicate underlying health conditions:

An infographic, showing different colours of unhealthy dog gums, and what each colour means

  • Red gums could be a sign of gingivitis. Deep, cherry red gums are a cause for concern, as this could indicate carbon monoxide poisoning, other kinds of poisoning, heatstroke or hypertension. If the gums are just inflamed (a deep pink colour), this could be from your dog being excited or hot. You’ll know this, as the gums will soon return to their regular pink colour). However, if the red colour appears for no obvious reason, or doesn’t fade to pink again, you should take your pooch to the vet immediately.
  • Yellow is another worrying gum colour for dogs. It could be a sign of liver dysfunction, or something else not quite right in the body. It will often be accompanied by yellowing of your dog’s eyes, so look out for that, too.
  • Blue or Purple gums can indicate that an inadequate amount of oxygen is being pumped around your dog’s body, which could be a sign of a serious problem. Medically, it’s called cyanosis, and could mean your pooch has pneumonia, a heart condition or other respiratory issues.
  • Dark Spots on the gums can just be a result of ageing, or it could indicate an infection, or something more serious like an autoimmune disorder. If you notice new dark spots on your dog’s gums, get in touch with a vet.
  • Black gums (which weren’t black before) could be a sign of infection or periodontal disease.
  • Pale or white gums could point to a number of serious health issues in your pooch. Below we’ll go into this in more depth…

Pale and white gums in dogs

Pale or white dog gums may be a concerning prospect for you as a dog owner. You might wonder, what’s the difference between pale gums and normal gums in a dog? The truth is that pale gums are a warning sign for pooch parents - they mean something is wrong, and it’s likely you’ll need to seek emergency vet care.


What causes white or pale gums in dogs?

Here are some of the serious health issues which might lead to pale gums in your dog:

  • Anaemia, meaning a lack or malfunctioning of red blood cells
  • Blood loss / internal bleeding perhaps due to an injury, organ dysfunction or serious gastrointestinal issues
  • Shock, usually accompanied by a drastic change in behaviour such as trembling
  • Blood clotting disorders such as haemophilia or liver disease
  • Heavy metal toxicity, i.e. an excess of metals such as lead or copper building up in the dog’s body
  • Rat poison, which your dog may have accidentally ingested Bloat, usually accompanied by a swollen stomach, pain and discomfort
  • Heart disease can cause bad circulation, presenting as pale gums
  • Pain or anxiety perhaps from surgery, trauma or an injury
  • Parasite infections such as ticks, or infection of tick-borne diseases
  • Cold temperatures that are much lower than normal
  • Sedentary behaviour in your dog for an extended amount of time
  • Dehydration, as this leads to an overall depletion of blood in the body
  • Cancer, as some cancers can lead to internal bleeding or anaemia

    How to check your dog for pale gums

    Check your dog’s gums regularly, so that you’re made aware of pale gums as soon as possible. You should also check them as routine if your dog is showing any other signs of illness, pain or distress.


    To do this, ensure your dog is calm enough to have their mouth touched. Get them into a safe position and gently push their lips away from their teeth with clean fingers. You should be able to clearly see the colour of your dog’s gums. Push lightly against the gums with your fingers, and test if the former pinkness of the gums floods back. If the gums stay pale, i.e. the colour doesn’t return quickly or at all, this is an emergency situation.

    A red-coloured, short-haired, larger breed dog, chewing on a dental stick, against a pale green background

    What to do if your dog has pale gums

    If your pooch has pale gums, immediately get in touch with a vet. As pale gums can be an indication of many different things, take note of any other symptoms in your dog, and be prepared to give a full rundown to a vet.


    How do vets treat pale gums in dogs?

    Once your dog with pale gums is at the vet, they’ll conduct a few tests. Taking into consideration your notes on your dog’s symptoms and behaviour, they’ll physically examine your pooch, and possibly take some blood tests including blood pressure, urine tests or an x-ray.


    Further tests may be carried out based on the results, so that your vet can identify the underlying issue in your dog and prescribe suitable treatment. ‍


    How can I prevent my dog's gums from becoming pale?

    Since there are so many conditions that lead a dog to have pale gums; an internal injury, ingestion of rat poison, or even cancer - sometimes pale gums aren’t something to prevent, but are more an indication of something that needs urgent attention. In that sense, you could say pale gums are a helpful warning.


    That said, there are plenty of ways to keep your dog as safe as possible and ensure they live a healthy lifestyle. This includes taking them for regular check-ups at the vets, supervising them at all times (especially when outside), dog-proofing your house, feeding a nutritionally balanced diet, keeping them well-groomed (including brushing their teeth), and ensuring they get varied, daily exercise.

    A close up of a light brown dachshund, being given a dental stick, against an orange/yellow background

    Other signs of unhealthy dog gums

    Aside from strange colours, there are other signs of unhealthy gums to really pay attention to. The following factors could indicate internal health issues in your dog, or might be signs of periodontal disease:

    • Tacky / dry gums, which usually indicate dehydration
    • Swollen / inflamed gums perhaps due to tooth infection or abscess
    • Bleeding gums during brushing or when your pooch is chewing or eating
    • Bad breath, much worse than usual
    • Gum overgrowth - a common issue when dogs have gum disease, but some dog breeds are predisposed to it. It could also indicate hormonal changes, or be a reaction to medication
    • Receding gums are usually a sign of gum disease
    • Growths / warts / ulcers on the gums are very common, but should still be treated quickly to avoid pain or discomfort If you notice any of the above signs, get your pooch to a vet or for a dental check-up quickly

    Ways to keep your dog's gums healthy

    By this point, you’re probably looking for ways to prevent unhealthy gums in your dog. Here are some tips for dog dental care that you can put into action with your pooch straight away…

    • Schedule regular, professional dental cleaning. Just like you, your pooch needs to get their mouth regularly looked at by a dog dentist or vet - they can analyse any burgeoning issues and get ahead of dental problems with the right treatment.
    • Brush your dog's teeth. We know. For a lot of dogs, this is a palaver! However, you can slowly train your dog to accept teeth-cleaning, and the earlier you start the better. Here are some step-by-step tips on brushing your dog’s teeth.
    • Dog tooth-brushing alternatives. If brushing is a nightmare, you can at least supplement your dog’s dental routine with dental sticks for dogs, chewy veggies (carrots, anyone?) or even dog mouth sprays.
    • The right diet. Getting the right nutrition is the route to a healthy dog mouth, including teeth, tongue and gums. Invest in a nutritionally-balanced diet for your dog, full of fresh ingredients and supplements… and no sugary treats!
    • Give your dog dental treats and toys. You can get dental treats for dogs, long-lasting dog chews and chew toys that are all great for doggy dental care. Did you know that chewing releases endorphins for dogs, as well as cleaning their teeth?
    A small golden-coloured long-haired sausage dog, chewing on a dental stick from a pot containing dental sticks and bamboo toothbrushes, against a pale pink background

    Dog Gum Health Checklist

    We’re almost done on dog gums! For easy reference, let’s summarise the signs of healthy gums in a dog:

    ✔ Salmon or bubblegum pink in colour (or black, or pink with dark patches if they’ve always been this way)

    ✔ Colour quickly floods back to pink after being pressed

    ✔ Slippery and wet to indicate hydration

    ✔ Gums free of abscesses, receding and tartar buildup. If they do have these things, don’t worry as this is very common - but take them to a doggy dentist for a check-up



    How often should you check your dog's gums?

    You should be very familiar with your dog’s mouth, as dental care should be part of a regular grooming routine for your pooch. Gently pull down your dog’s lips with clean fingers, if you can, to check the condition of your dog’s gums regularly - even as often as every week. If your dog is poorly or behaving strangely, check their gums then too.


    Should my dog's gums be black?

    If your dog’s gums have always been black, for instance if they’re a breed predisposed to black gums such as a Chow-Chow, then black gums are healthy.


    However, if your pooch had pink gums at some point, or just pink with dark patches, and the gums have gone entirely black, this is something you’ll need to report to a vet.


    How can I tell if my dog has gum disease?

    Gum disease is extremely common in dogs, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay special attention to get it treated. Signs of gum disease in dogs will include swelling or inflamed gums, gums that bleed easily, receding gums, bad breath, or a lot of plaque and tartar buildup.


    What if I'm not sure if my dog's gums are pale?

    If your dog’s gums are usually bright pink and seem paler than usual, that’s a sign enough that you should get your dog to a vet to rule out anything serious going on. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to pale gums.


    Aside from this, be sure to get familiar with your dog’s mouth and the usual colour of their gums, so you can spot anything strange going on as soon as it happens.


    Are there any home remedies for dogs with pale gums?

    No - pale gums aren’t a condition in themselves, but a sign of something serious going on in your dog. Don’t look for home remedies, and get your pooch to a vet straight away.


    Are pale gums a sign of cancer in dogs?

    It’s a possibility that they could be a sign of cancer - so if you spot pale gums in your pooch, get them to a vet right away to be sure. Pale gums are a sign of lots of things, not only cancer - but are still a cause for concern, so shouldn’t be ignored.


    How does diet affect my dog's gums?

    Diet impacts all parts of a dog’s body and physical condition - including the gums. Make sure your dog gets the right nutrition (definitely a good amount of vitamins C and E, and avoid sugary foods) as this goes a long way in protecting gum health.


    That said, gum disease is extremely common in dogs, even those that eat a healthy diet. Combining a well-balanced diet with a regular dog dental routine is the golden rule.


    If you’re primed to perfect your dog’s dental care, Pooch & Mutt have a bunch of delicious dog dental sticks, long-lasting dog chews and dental treats for dogs - all made with healthy, natural ingredients to boost your dog’s teeth, gums, body and mind.



    ‘Prevalence of periodontal disease, its association with systemic diseases and prevention’, 2017 - National Library of Medicine.

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