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Health & Wellness

Here’s what your dog’s pale gums mean and why you should care

Your dog’s gums should be a certain shade of pink.

You pay attention when your pup isn’t eating their food or if they lose a tooth, but have you ever thought to check on your dog’s gum health? Paying attention to changes in your dog’s gums, specifically the color, can indicate if they’re struggling with an underlying condition so you can get ahead of it. 

What color should dogs’ gums be?

A dog’s healthy gums should be light pink, but pale gums (think: white or really light pink) usually mean a dog has anemia or a low red blood cell count. “This can be due to internal bleeding, autoimmune disease or blood-clotting abnormalities. Other causes include shock and heart disease,” Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, says. 

Pale gums might not be the only indicator that something’s up with your pet’s health. According to Dr. McCullough, other signs of anemia are lethargy, decreased appetite, gastrointestinal upset (diarrhea and vomiting) or the inability to stand, walk or move around.

RELATED: How to prevent periodontal disease in dogs

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What should I do if my dog’s gums are pale? 

If you notice that your dog has pale gums, talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible, Dr. McCullough explains. Veterinarians typically diagnose pale gums through a physical exam, X-rays, an ultrasound of their heart or abdominal area or blood work. The blood work would include a complete blood count, which measures red and white blood cells and platelets, a blood chemistry test (tests the value of a dog’s internal organs) and/or a clotting profile. 

“The treatment for pale gums depends on the underlying cause of which there are many possibilities,” she adds. “Some pets may need a blood transfusion if their anemia is severe.”

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

Unfortunately, Dr. McCullough shares that there’s no way to prevent dogs’ gums from being pale. “Pet parents should adhere to their dog’s preventive care schedule for vaccinations and testing so medical issues can be detected as early as possible,” she adds. 

If you brush your dog’s teeth daily, you may be able to catch a change in color early (as well as other oral conditions like periodontal disease). Before giving your dog’s teeth a brush, talk to your veterinarian about the correct at-home oral care regimen. However, she acknowledges that it may be challenging to gauge what’s normal versus abnormal in a dog’s mouth. 

“If pet parents have concerns about the color of their dog’s gums or their dog is exhibiting any other abnormal behavior, they should consult with their veterinarian as soon as possible,” she adds. 

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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