The color of a dog's gums is an indicator of general health. Healthy dogs have pink to light red gums; normal pigmentation can cause gums to appear darker in certain spots.
• Any change in gum color can indicate the presence of a life-threatening underlying condition and must be treated as an emergency
• Bright red or spotted gums are an indication of a number of potentially life-threatening underlying conditions such as blood clotting issues, poisoning, heatstroke, and carbon monoxide poisoning
• The first step in diagnosis and treatment of red or spotted gums is stabilization and identification of the cause through physical examination, bloodwork, and measuring blood clotting ability
• Both treatment and prognosis vary greatly in accordance with the underlying condition
Healthy dogs have pink to light red gums. Completely red or red spotted gums are a medical emergency, and immediate veterinary attention is required, as this is an indication of disruption to the normal blood clotting mechanisms.
While spotted gums must be treated as an emergency, some breeds are prone to pigmentation that can cause gums to appear darker in certain areas. Examination of the mouth and gum color while dogs are healthy is advisable as it provides a baseline to help identify any changes in the future.
Red or spotted (petechiae) gums occur when the circulatory system has been disrupted and the normal clotting mechanism is compromised. There are a number of conditions and risk factors that can lead to this symptom; including:
• Toxicoses, such as rat poison ingestion
• Traumatic injuries to the mouth
• Blood-clotting disorders
• Tick-borne diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
• Kidney disease
• Adverse reaction to medication
• Gingivitis or periodontal disease
Red or spotted gums are an uncommon finding in dogs. A change in gum colors in dogs is a cause for concern. There is some variation in severity of the symptom.
Bright red gums with no spots is to be treated as an emergency as it can be caused by life-threatening underlying conditions, including:
• Carbon monoxide poisoning
• Heat stroke
• Toxin exposure
Bright red gums can also be caused by non-life threatening conditions such as:
• Gingivitis (gum inflammation)
Slightly red gums are generally not a cause for concern, but prompt veterinary examination is advised.
Bleeding gums can be caused by gingivitis or traumatic injuries. If bleeding does not stop within 10 minutes, it must be considered a medical emergency.
The first step in treating red or spotted gums is stabilizing the dog’s condition through supportive treatment that varies in accordance with the underlying cause. Stabilization may include:
• GI decontamination
• Reduction of body temperature
• IV fluids
• Blood transfusion
Once stabilized, a dog presenting with red or spotted gums usually undergoes the following diagnostics:
• Physical examination
• Blood work
• Measuring blood clotting ability
• Diagnostic imaging, including X-rays, or ultrasound
• Fecal analysis
Treatment of red or spotted gums varies greatly and depends on the underlying cause. Broad treatments for the underlying causes may include:
• Vitamin K1 supplementation
• Anti-seizure medication
• Supplemental oxygen
• IV fluid therapy
• Blood transfusions
Prognosis is extremely variable and depends on the underlying condition and how promptly treatment begins.
Ulcers and oral tumors may be mistaken for red or spotted gums.
A dog suffering from red or spotted gums may present several additional symptoms depending on the underlying cause, including but not limited to the following:
• Decreased appetite
• Bruising or red spotting on other areas of the body
• Loss of consciousness
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