Most of us are diligent owners when it comes to feeding our dogs the best food, giving them exercise, and surprising them with new toys. But one area where many of us can improve? Canine dental care. Which is why we’re talking all about healthy dog gums today.
Quite frankly, a lot of us don’t even floss our own teeth (yup, I said it) let alone brush our dog’s teeth! But taking care of your dog’s teeth and gums is super important.
Poor canine dental hygiene can lead to expensive problems down the road and a lot of mouth pain for your pup.
Specifically, neglecting your dog’s dental health can result in periodontitis. This leads to bone loss associated with the plaque and tartar build-up on your dog’s teeth and below the gum line.
What’s more, your dog’s gum health and overall gum appearance can give other clues about their health and wellness, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.
Healthy dog gums: what to look for
To begin, let’s assess the current status of your dog’s mouth. A quick look for a few key factors can let you know a bit about the status of your dog’s gums. From there, you can make an action plan for at-home care, or get some help from the professionals.
- Healthy dog gums should appear light pink, like the color of a shrimp.
- When you apply pressure with your finger, they should turn briefly white and then regain their light-pink color in 1-2 seconds.
- There should be no visible swelling or redness at the base of the teeth
- There should be no bleeding of the gums
Signs of unhealthy dog gums
Red and/or swollen gums in dogs
Red gums, gums that are red at the tooth base, or gums that appear swollen are all signs of gingivitis and/or periodontitis. This is an inflammation and possible infection of the gum that can become very painful and result in bone and tooth loss if not treated.
In some cases, bright red gums can indicate that your dog is overheated or suffering from a heat stroke. If your dog was recently in extremely hot conditions and you are noticing bright red gums, call your vet immediately!
Pale or white gums in dogs
Most often, pale or white gums are a sign of anemia or a sudden loss of a large amount of blood. Their gums appear lighter in color or even white because there is not enough blood circulating in their body. In the case of anemia, there isn’t enough hemoglobin present in your dog.
It should go without saying that if your dog is suffering from acute blood loss and has pale gums, you need to contact your vet immediately.
If your dog has not experienced acute blood loss but has pale or white gums, anemia is probably the factor. It’s important to get them seen right away to find out the underlying cause of the anemia, which could be serious.
Blue gums in dogs
If your dog’s gums appear blue this means they are not getting enough oxygen in their blood supply. Often this is associated with pneumonia, congestive heart failure, pulmonary thromboembolism or other respiratory problems.
These are all emergency situations that need to be handled immediately. If your vet is not available and you’re seeing blue gums, take your dog to the nearest emergency vet right away.
Bleeding gums in dogs
Bleeding gums are another indication of periodontal disease or gingivitis. When dog gums are inflamed and irritated, they bleed more easily, much like when humans don’t keep up with regular flossing.
Other signs of unhealthy dog gums:
- Bad breath
- Visible yellow build-up on the teeth
- Visible plaque and tartar
- Visibly rotting teeth
- Sudden chewing, especially in older dogs
One thing to note: some breeds naturally have dark or black-colored gums, which can make it more difficult to spot problems. If your dog’s gums are naturally dark or black, you won’t be able to check them for blanching or use the gums as an indicator of larger health issues.
You will need to rely on other clues like their eyes, heart rate, breathing, and disposition. If you’re ever in doubt about your dog’s health, always call your vet!
Tips for healthy dog gums
Your main line of defense for keeping healthy dog gums is preventative care. Taking good care of your dog’s teeth will lead to a lifetime of healthy gums.
Here are the top five things you can do for healthy dog gums:
- Brush your dog’s teeth regularly: and luckily this doesn’t mean daily—which is simply unrealistic for most people. Instead, aim to brush your dog’s teeth a few times per month. This is the single best way to fight plaque and improve gum health
- Take your dog in for professional cleanings once per year: when your dog’s teeth get professionally cleaned, they scale their teeth to remove the calcified plaque and tartar on their teeth and below the gum line. This makes their overall gum health and risk for periodontal disease much lower
- Give them natural rubber dog toys to chew: regular chewing is a great daily defense against plaque build-up for your dog. Specifically, rubber dog toys help remove the build-up, leading to healthier gums
- Try dog dental treats: many owners swear by dog dental treats to keep their dog’s teeth clean and breath fresh
- Look into dog tooth wipes if brushing is challenging: this is a genius product which may help you reach your goal of regular ‘brushing’ or cleanings once per week because it’s WAY easier than actually brushing your dog’s teeth
So, how are your dog’s gums looking? After reading this guide, if you have any concerns about your dog’s gum health, reach out to your vet.
Only a professional can get to the bottom of what’s going on and recommend a treatment plan tailored to your dog’s needs.
If you have an additional tip for healthy dog gums, feel free to chime in below! We’d love to keep the conversation going.