Pale Gums in Dogs - Causes And Treatment

Alex Seilis
pale gums in dogs

White gums or pale gums in dogs can be a sign of a number of health issues, some of them quite severe. Here are the most common causes of pale gums in dogs. plus treatment options, and when to consider taking your dog to the vet. 

10 Common Causes of Pale Gums in Dogs

These are common causes of pale gums in dogs, and other symptoms that can accompany the issue. 

1. Dehydration

Sometimes pale gums are brought on by something as simple as dehydration. If your dog’s gums are pale, and also feel a little sticky or tacky, it could mean your dog is dehydrated. You can test for dehydration by pinching the loose skin on the back of your dog’s neck. If it sticks for more than a moment, he’s dehydrated. Make sure he has plenty of cool water available to drink as soon as possible. In cases of severe dehydration, your vet can provide subcutaneous fluids that are easy to give at home. If your dog has had plenty of water and his pale gums don’t resolve in a few hours, then it’s likely the issue is being caused by something else. 

2. Anemia 

Anemia s a lack of red blood cells, which can be caused by a more serious disease (although it could be caused by parasites or poor diet as well). In addition to pale gums, dogs with anemia often have symptoms like sudden weight loss, lethargy, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, and bloody noses. 

RELATED: Learn more about causes of anemia in dogs … 

3. Shock

Trauma and injuries that cause significant bleeding can put dogs into shock. When a dog is in shock, his circulation plummets, which may result in less blood flow throughout the body, leading to pale gums. Other symptoms of shock in dogs include rapid heartbeat and breathing, and a drop in body temperature. Shock is a medical emergency, so if you think your dog is in shock you should take him to the vet immediately. 

4. Internal Bleeding

Like shock, internal bleeding often results from traumatic physical injuries. However, it can also be caused by certain illnesses, like stomach ulcers or organ disease. Since it reduces circulation, internal bleeding can cause your dog’s gums to become pale.  

5. Kidney Disease

If a dog has kidney disease, his kidneys will stop producing enough erythropoietin, or EPO. Low EPO levels cause the number of red blood cells to drop, which can lead to anemia, and ultimately, pale gums. Kidney disease in dogs is usually accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, and frequent drinking and urination. 

6. Cancer

Certain cancers can affect the bone marrow, which is responsible for producing red blood cells. This can cause anemia and pale gums in dogs. 

7. Bloat

Bloat in dogs is a serious and life-threatening condition so you must get your dog to the vet immediately. It happens when a dog’s stomach is filled with gas, food, or fluid, and suddenly twists. This causes a distended abdomen and a range of circulation problems. In addition to pale gums, dogs with bloat will be anxious or distressed,and may be pacing or trying to vomit or poop. The most obvious sign of bloat, though, is the distended abdomen. 

8. Blood Clotting Disorders

Blood clotting disorders can cause abnormal bleeding. If enough blood is lost, you may notice symptoms like pale gums.  Other symptoms include bruises and excess bleeding. 

9. Heavy Metals

An excess of certain heavy metals, like zinc, can interfere with red blood cell production. If your dog has had significant exposure to heavy metals, anemia and pale gums could develop as symptoms. 

10. Heart Disease

If your dog’s heart can’t pump blood properly, certain areas of his body won’t receive a sufficient supply of fresh, healthy blood. The gums are no exception. You may recognize heart disease by other symptoms, like coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite, and more. If you suspect heart disease, it’s time for a vet exam. 

Capillary Refill Time in Dogs

Checking if your dog’s gums are pale can be as simple as gently lifting his lips and observing the color of his gums (they should normally be a salmon or pink color). 

However, you can get a more thorough read on your dog’s health by testing his capillary refill time. While it sounds fancy, this test is super easy to perform, and a great way to evaluate your dog’s blood flow and hydration. 

To perform the capillary refill test in dogs, just press your finger gently into your dog’s gums, then lift your finger back up. The area you pressed should be white from your finger’s pressure but then return to its normal deep color in 1-2 seconds. 

If the gums don't return to their full color right away, it may mean that he isn’t drinking enough water or that he’s having blood flow problems that could be symptoms of an issue discussed above.

To make sure your dog is healthy, you should check his gums at least once every month, or better yet, every time you brush his teeth.

Treatment for Pale Gums in Dogs

If your dog has pale gums, it’s best to take him to your veterinarian to find out  the underlying cause. 

To help your vet, make sure you’re prepared with information like when you first noticed the issue, any other symptoms your dog is experiencing, and any history of trauma or severe injuries. 

While not every cause of pale gums in dogs is a life-threatening issue, pale gums are always abnormal and need further investigation. It’s possible that your dog is just dehydrated, but if he has a more serious illness, you’ll want to catch it early.

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© 2024, Four Leaf Rover - The content on this website is not meant to replace veterinary advice. Please support the hard working holistic vets who make this information possible. To find a holistic or homeopathic vet near you or to find one who will do phone consultations, visit The Academy Of Veterinary Homeopathy.