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What Do Pale Gums Mean in Dogs?

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

There are several possible reasons for pale gums in dogs, from low iron levels to anemia.

When the blood lacks normal amounts of oxygen, it appears paler.

The lack of oxygen in the blood can be caused by about a dozen different reasons for dogs, but pale gums due to anemia are very common.

Anemia, Low Blood Sugar & Shock

If the gums become too pale, your dog may appear gray or blue around the mouth. The gums may also feel cool to the touch, and this can be a sign of shock.

Pale or yellow gums can also be a symptom of liver disease, but this is more common in dogs with yellow than white gums.

Gum color changes are often the easiest sign to see that indicates a problem.

A pale gum generally means that the body is not getting enough oxygen.

Pale gums can be a sign of anemia, low blood sugar, shock, or an infection.

Here are some of the possible causes of pale gums:

-Hypovolemic shock



-Liver disease (yellow gums)

-Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)

-Bacterial infection


-Low red blood cell count (microcytic anemia)

-Heartworms entering the heart

-Mouth or tongue injury

-Lack of oxygen (hypoxia)

-Oxygen toxicity (from inhaled or injected oxygen)

-Drugs (drug toxicity, overdose, antihistamines)

-Cyanide poisoning

If your dog's gums are paler than usual and they are not feeling well, you should schedule a visit with the vet immediately.

It is essential to get your dog checked out as soon as possible because some of the causes of pale gums are more serious than others.

Veterinary Care

The earlier the problem is caught, the more likely it will be managed or prevented from becoming severe. To understand what might be causing your dog's pale gums, your vet will need to do a complete physical exam, including listening to the heart and lungs for abnormalities. They will also need a blood panel to check electrolyte levels, biochemistry readings and red and white blood cell count. In some cases, a blood sample is sent to a lab for further analysis.

What to Look Out for?

It is essential to understand that there may be more than one reason for your dog's pale gums.

Therefore, it’s best to try to answer the following questions:

  • Is it just the gums that are pale (anemia), or has your dog developed a blue tinge to their mouth and gums (low blood pressure, shock)?

  • Is the tongue also pale (anemia) or cherry-red (low blood sugar)?

  • Is your dog otherwise acting normal, or is he lethargic, weak, or vomiting (infection)?

  • Is your dog panting excessively? This could be a sign of anemia, shock, heart failure, or heatstroke.

  • Does your dog seem to be in any pain (infection, pancreatitis)? Has there been any recent trauma (lacerations, puncture wounds)?

  • If your dog is a brachycephalic breed (e.g., bulldog), has he been exercising excessively on hot days (heatstroke)?

  • Are there any signs of a strange smell to your dog's breath or stool? This may be a sign of liver or kidney disease or even diabetes.

  • Is your dog drinking excessively? Thirst is often a sign of diabetes, Addison's disease, or hyperthyroidism.

  • Is your dog peeing more than usual? Excessive thirst and urination could be a sign of diabetes or kidney disease.

  • Does your dog seem to tire quickly with exercise? This might be a sign of anemia or heart disease.

The earlier you catch problems, the better they can be treated and managed. If your dog's pale gums are due to anemia, you may be able to manage the problem with a change in diet.

In some cases, you will need medication to help build the red blood cell count.

If your dog has pale gums due to liver disease, you will need to manage this problem differently from anemia. The pale gums in these cases result from a decreased red blood cell count, but the underlying problem is a diseased liver.

In some cases, your vet will check your dog's urine to see what might be causing the pale gums. If there is a bacterial infection, then antibiotics may be recommended.

In some cases, an underlying pancreatic insufficiency or some other problem will be found.

If you notice your dog's gums are pale, take your dog to the vet right away for an exam!

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