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How to Assess Health by Looking at Your Dog’s Gums

Dental hygiene is an important part of your dog’s health. In addition to cleaning their teeth, it is an opportunity to assess their health by checking your dog’s gum color. From pale gums in dogs to bright red, you can tell a lot about their health from the color. Learn more in this informative article.

Most dog owners forget that their pets need tooth care; that is, until a visit to the vet results in periodontal disease and the recommendation of a veterinary cleaning that involves general anesthesia.

You can also learn a lot about their health from the color of your dog’s gums.

You can avoid all these problems by strictly following all steps towards good dental health.

For instance, using the right toothpaste for your dog when brushing teeth may seem like an obvious practice but you’ll be surprised how many people fail to consider it.

If you’ve been ignoring this part of hygiene, then it’s time you made the necessary changes.

Learn how you can assess health by looking at your dog’s gums AND what the different gum colors from bright red to extremely pale gums in dogs can tell you!

How to Assess Health by Looking at Your Dogs Gums

While a veterinary procedure may be necessary every year, you can help with your own dental care at home. Without proper care of your pet’s teeth at home, problems like bad breath, plaque build-up, gum disease, and tooth loss arise.

Dogs with discomfort in their mouth from poor hygiene lose their appetites.

If a dog’s mouth becomes infected, then bacteria begin to slough off into their digestive systems which, over time, weakens the whole system and can result in kidney and liver disease and failure thus shortening their life span.

Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

You can take action at home to prevent periodontal disease in your beloved dog.

Brushing your dog’s teeth daily is one way to lessen the build-up of tartar and plaque. Use toothpaste specifically made for dogs, and never use your human toothpaste: it’s toxic for dogs to swallow.

Person brushing a dog's teeth

A long, angled brush is good for larger dogs, while you can use a short brush for smaller breeds.

Most dog toothpaste is flavored to help the dog accept the brushing. However, if your dog is resistant to the use of a toothbrush, there are finger brushes that are easier to manage while holding your dog at the same time: the finger brush seems more like a treat.

Adding a tarter control supplement to your dog’s water also helps prevent tooth decay.

One good brand to try is called Aquadent. Allowing your dog certain treats to promote chewing also helps break away plaque build-up.

CET chews are great because they are super tough and have been pre-treated with plaque stopping enzymes.

Dental Chews

Dental chews are also a good option if your dog will actually chew on one for an extended period rather than wolfing it down.

There is an assortment of approved (NO RAWHIDE) chews that last longer for vigorous chewers. My pups love Tropiclean Dental Chews, Whimzees, Zuke’s Z Bones, KaNoodles, etc.

Another option is a Nylabone (particularly good for the puppies).

Vet looking at dog's gums

What your dog’s gum color can tell you about their health

So if you think that your dog doesn’t get the “proper” dental care there are a few tips to determine any disease if you inspect your dog’s gum color.

You may be wondering “what color should my dog’s gums be”?

Let’s take a look at a few color variations and their meaning. To do this, simply lift the upper lip and take a look. If you see…

From light red to pink shades

If your dog’s gums are light red to pale pink or pink color then your dog’s health is overall good.

Please remember that you should look only at the gums, not at the inside of the cheeks or the tongue.

They also have to be a little wet when you touch them.

If they are dry or sticky it may be a sign of dehydration and you should go to the vet.

White or extremely pale gums in dogs

Extremely pale or white gums can be a sign of low blood flow or anemia.

If a dog has pale gums it could be a symptom of internal bleeding, blood loss, certain types of cancer, or even ingestion of rat poison.

It could also be a result of an intestinal parasite or maybe a flea infestation.

Blue color

Blue colored gums can be from a myriad of things.

It can be anything from lack of oxygen or cyanosis to lung disease or hypoxia.

Yellow tinged gums

Yellow tinged gums may indicate liver failure.

Please check the whites of the eyes (just like the same in humans).

Extremely dark red gums

Extremely dark red gums may indicate heat stroke or early stages of dehydration.

Smiling happy dog

You can also check the capillary refill time

To do this, simply press on the gums for a few seconds. When released the color should turn from white back to pink in less than 2 seconds.

So, these small efforts can increase your dog’s lifespan, enhance the overall quality of life, and prevent serious surgeries or frequent veterinary cleanings.

It is well worth the effort for a happy, healthy dog!

Nina Paul

Wednesday 29th of December 2021

Thanks for sharing this tip. It will help me better assess my dog's teeth.

Dorothy Boucher

Saturday 21st of November 2020

This is good information, never thought to see if my dogs are unhealthy by looking at the gums in their mouth, good to know. @tisonlyme143


Monday 4th of February 2019

I brush our dogs teeth. Probably not as often as I should though.

Janet W.

Sunday 3rd of February 2019

These are great tips! We give our dog dental chews because she won't let us brush her teeth.

rochelle haynes

Saturday 2nd of February 2019

Thanks for the tips

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