What to Look for in Problems with Your Dog’s Gums

The gums are sometimes forgotten when it comes to a dog’s oral health, but they are just as vital as the teeth. Read on to find out what color your dog’s gums should be, what signs of gum disease to watch for, and what you can do to ensure your dog always has healthy gums.

What Determines the Color of My Dog’s Gums?

To see an example of what a dog’s healthy gums should look like, one need just visit the seafood counter at their local supermarket.

According to Dan Carmichael, DVM, DAVDC, a board-certified veterinary dentist at the Animal Medical Center, “healthy gums should resemble shrimp-colored pink.” “Red, swollen gums are a sign of gum disease.”

The gums may change color due to illness. Inflammation of the gums, as seen by their red color, may be an indication of gingivitis.

Plaque, which is largely made up of bacteria, is the main culprit in the development of gingivitis. Carmichael states, “Plaque may build up on the tooth surface, particularly in the area just below the gum line.” When the body’s immune system attacks the germs in plaque, the result is gingivitis.

Other health issues may be indicated if your dog has gums of a different hue than pink.

Anemia may be present if the gums are white or light in color. Carmichael warns that “blue gums generally signify [that] your dog is not receiving oxygen,” and notes that yellow gums in dogs may be an indication of Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can cause liver illness, as well as jaundice, another indicator of liver disease.

Canine Periodontal Disease: a Frequent Health Issue

In addition to bleeding gums, what else can you tell me about the health of your gums? An unpleasant odor comes from one’s mouth. According to Carmichael, “bad breath,” or a sudden deterioration of the breath, is generally a sign that gum disease is progressing.

In most cases, the presence of germs on the teeth is to blame for gum disease rather than issues with the gums. Carmichael advises, “So to take care of the gums, clean the teeth,” explaining that daily tooth brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush is the greatest approach to avoid gum disease, the most prevalent general health and dental health concern in dogs. In addition to regular brushing, you may use items that have been reviewed and certified by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

Although periodontal disease is the most prevalent reason for unhealthy gums, Carmichael notes that other illnesses, including immune-mediated inflammatory disease, bleeding disorders, gingival enlargements, and oral malignancies, may have the same effect.

The majority of dogs with periodontal disease weigh less than 30 pounds, he noted. This is because of the limited space in a tiny dog’s mouth, which forces the dog’s larger teeth to squeeze into a tighter space.

Furthermore, he explained, breeds like boxers might be predisposed to gum overgrowth, a benign illness that is hereditary in origin. This ailment is harmless, but it may lead to tumor-like overgrowths of gum tissue, which can lead to pseudopockets in the dog’s gums, according to Dr. Carmichael.

Imagine gum tissue spreading up and around the tooth, creating a nook, recess, or pocket between the enlarged gum and the tooth where hair, debris, and food may get lodged, leading to poor breath and illness.

Several Other Problems with Your Gums

Papillomatosis, sometimes known as gum warts, is a common problem in younger dogs, particularly pups. Single warts, groups of warts, or even hundreds of warts all at once are symptoms. Worry not if you discover a single wart or even many. After a month or so, those, according to Carmichael. Dogs with many warts, however, may need surgical removal.

The gums of an elderly dog may have a more irregular texture as they age. He reassures us that a cobbled texture is harmless on its own (especially because it is more common in big breed dogs like Labrador retrievers and Saint Bernards), but warns that it may be an indicator of malignancy. In addition to the cobbled gums, other symptoms of oral cancer include foul smell, mouth discomfort, reluctance or trouble eating, and oral bleeding.

He recommends that people pay special attention to the gums if they are bleeding or seem to bleed readily. That worries me more than any changes in texture.

When a dog chews too hard or too rough on a bone or toy, it might bleed from the gums. He explains, “Sharp parts of the chew toy might temporarily roughen up the gum,” and that this gum condition is usually not a major concern until the bleeding doesn’t stop.

Carmichael that urgent care is sought if bleeding persists for more than 10 minutes. A bleeding problem unrelated to tooth health would be my primary concern.

Oral cancer, renal failure (high amounts of ammonia may collect causing ulcerations and gum bleeding), and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)—when the immune system kills platelets so blood doesn’t clot—are all possible causes of bleeding gums, according to Carmichael. Dog A may get bleeding gums if it ingests rat poison, he explains.

How do you treat gum disease?

Go to the doctor if you see any signs of gum disease in your dog. Carmichael says your doctor will examine your pet’s teeth and take X-rays while they are under anesthesia to determine what kind of care is needed.

Carmichael explains that patients may need everything from a simple cleaning to periodontal surgery or even tooth extraction depending on the findings of their examination and X-rays. A biopsy of the gum tissue may be taken and submitted to a lab for analysis if another condition (such as an immunological disorder or cancer) is detected.

If your dog shows signs of dental illness, it’s better to have a veterinarian address the problem before beginning a gum-care routine at home.

There may be nothing more that can be done if your cat already has a prior dental disease that might be causing the sensitivity in the mouth. Carmichael argues that doing so will only serve to aggravate the pet. “When your pet still has a full set of healthy teeth in its mouth, it is the time to start a home-care program with tooth brushing.”

Find out more about the dental health of your pet and how to care for it here.