Your Dog’s Gums: Problems to Watch For
A common canine misconception is that a dog’s nose tells us what we need to know about their overall health. However, the mouth is actually more telling than the nose. If you take your sick pup to the vet, there’s a good chance his mouth will be investigated before his sniffer. Fido’s gum color, capillary refill time, and hydration are all important indicators of his dental health, and could even alert you to seemingly unrelated health issues.
Checking for Healthy Gums
If your dog is healthy, his gums should be healthy too. Make sure your furry friend is feeling relaxed, and then lift up his upper lip to assess his gums. If everything looks normal, you can consider this to be the baseline, with an understanding that any significant changes could mean it’s time to visit the vet.
Normal gums should be light pink, kind of like bubble gum. Some dogs have black gums, or black spots on their gums, which is perfectly normal for some breeds as long as the spots aren’t raised or changing over time. If your dog has naturally dark or patchy-colored gums, you can assess the color of the tongue or tissue under the eyelid as an alternative.
Capillary refill time refers to the amount of time it takes your dog’s gums to return to their normal color after being pressed. If you press on the gums, they should lighten to a white or pink color; after removing the pressure, they should return to the normal color within two seconds.
The gums can also tell you whether your pooch is properly hydrated. Healthy, hydrated gums should be firm, slipper, and smooth—slimy is good. If the gums are puffy, sticky, or dry, it’s a sign that something is wrong.
Abnormal Gum Colors
Blue or purple gums, medically referred to as cyanosis, are generally an indicator that your dog isn’t getting enough oxygen. Blue-toned gums could be a sign of asthma, pneumonia, low blood pressure, heart disease, or respiratory issues. If your dog is having trouble breathing or symptoms of low oxygenation, contact your vet as soon as possible.
Pale or white gums are a sign that your dog’s blood isn’t circulating properly. This can often be a sign of blood loss, shock, bloat, toxicity, hypothermia, or anemia. These issues can all be serious and possibly fatal, so seek veterinary assistance immediately.
Yellow gums generally indicate liver issues such as Leptospirosis and jaundice. Yellow gums can also be a sign of anemia, which is often a symptom of serious underlying health issues.
Bright red gums could be a sign of heatstroke, stomatitis, gingivitis, or infection. Bright red gums accompanied by inflammation are a sign of unhealthy gums, likely meaning your pup needs some extra at-home dental care.
Other Gum Concerns
If your dog’s gums bleed easily, it means that they are too sensitive… and sensitive gums are often a sign of poor oral hygiene. In more serious cases, bleeding gums could also be a sign of oral cancer, kidney failure, or toxicity.
If your dog’s breath seems noticeably worse than normal, lets be honest, Fido’s breath is never minty fresh, it could just be a sign that he’s been digging around in the trash. Or, it could be a sign of poor hygiene, complete with plaque and tartar build-up and/or gum disease.
Periodontal disease typically starts with bad breath and sensitive gums, but could eventually lead to cavities, infections, loss of teeth, and more serious gum issues—an overgrowth of gum tissue could lead to infection, and receding gums cannot be regenerated.
If you have any oral health concerns about your dog, talk to your vet before jumping to any self-diagnoses. Your vet will be able to help you rule out any underlying health issues and come up with an appropriate treatment plan depending on your dog’s individual needs. This could mean simply implementing a more rigid home dental care routine, it could mean oral surgery, or it could mean treating something else entirely. After all, you want to be able to treat the issue itself, not just the symptom.
Your Dog’s Dental Care
Shortly after bringing your dog home for the first time, you will want to be sure to implement a dental hygiene routine. Like baths and grooming, it’s important to establish a predictable set of steps so the ordeal is as low-stress as possible.
Take some time to figure out what works best for you and your dog. Some pet owners prefer canine toothbrushes, while others use finger brushes or even dental wipes. To avoid any unwanted ingredients, be sure to use toothpaste made specifically for dogs. Chewing is also a good way to help remove plaque and build-up from the teeth. Plus, it’s a good outlet for some of that excess energy! Invest in some safe rawhide alternatives, or join the waitlist for some of PetStrips’ oral hygiene strips.
Breath & Oral Health
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