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Last updated on
3 min read

Key takeaways

Pale gums are when the normal pink color of the gums turns pale or white, usually due to a serious underlying health problem.

  • Any change in color can indicate the presence of a life-threatening underlying condition and must be treated as an emergency
  • The most common cause of pale gums in dogs is anemia: the reduction of red blood cells through numerous mechanisms, such as blood loss, red blood cell destruction, or inadequate production of red blood cells
  • Anemia has many potential causes, which are frequently life-threatening
  • Dogs presenting with pale gums require stabilization via supplemental oxygen, IV fluids, or blood transfusions before diagnostics begin
  • Diagnostics to identify the underlying condition include physical examination, blood work, diagnostic imaging, and urinalysis
  • Treatment and prognosis vary widely depending on the underlying condition
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A closer look: Pale Gums in Dogs

Healthy dogs have pink to light red gums; normal pigmentation can cause gums to appear darker in certain spots. Examination of the mouth and gum color while dogs are healthy provides owners a visual baseline to help identify any changes in the future. In some cases, comparing to another pet in the household can also provide a useful baseline.

Pale gums are confirmed by lifting the upper lip, applying pressure to the gum, releasing pressure, and observing how long it takes for color to return, which should take no longer than 1 or 2 seconds.

Possible causes

Pale or white gums can be caused by a number of underlying conditions.

Anemia: the most common cause of pale gums in dogs. Anemia is a state of inadequate red blood cells in the bloodstream, and can be caused by blood loss, breakdown of red blood cells, or decreased production of red blood cells.

Risk factors

The paleness of the gums is not always representative of the severity of the underlying condition. Most conditions that result in pale gums are emergencies so urgent veterinary care is required in any dog with pale gums.

A dog who exhibits pale gums needs immediate emergency care as it is a symptom of a number of life-threatening conditions. If the animal is presenting other symptoms such as lethargy, difficulty breathing, collapse, or is visibly bleeding, a veterinarian should be contacted immediately.

Testing and diagnosis

The first step in the treatment of pale gums is the stabilization of the dog’s condition through supportive treatments such as:

  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Supplemental heat
  • IV fluids
  • Blood transfusion

Once stabilized, a dog presenting with pale gums usually undergoes the following diagnostics:

  • Physical examination
  • Blood work
  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Urine analysis
  • Fecal analysis

Treatment of pale gums varies greatly and is dependent on the underlying cause.

Broad treatments for the underlying causes of pale gums may include:

  • Specific medications
  • Surgery
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Palliative care
  • Euthanasia

Prognosis is extremely variable and depends on the underlying condition.

Similar symptoms

With cyanosis, the gums are pale blue, reflecting poor oxygen delivery to the tissues. Blue gums are also an emergency.

Associated symptoms

Dogs suffering from pale or white gums may present a number of additional symptoms.


No Author - Writing for Vet West
No Author - Writing for Emergency Veterinary Care Centers
No Author - Writing for Vet West
Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP - Writing for Veterinary Partner

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