If your dog’s gums have turned black, you may be concerned about this change.
It is crucial to determine if your dog has always had black gums or if it is a sudden change.
Many dogs have black pigmentation in their mouths, which is just a normal trait they are born with.
However, when a dog’s gums turn black, there can be a number of causes.
Generally, a dog’s gums are pink, except for certain breeds like the Chow Chow or Chinese Shar-Pei, known for their bluish/black tongues and black or mottled gums.
If you’ve noticed your dog’s gums turning black, read on for possible explanations. However, see your vet right away if your dog doesn’t seem well, is having trouble breathing, or if the black gum area appears raised.
Normal pigmentation in a dog’s gums
As mentioned above, some dogs naturally have black areas in their mouths and in most cases it is just normal pigmentation.
Black gums can be a genetic trait in some dog breeds.
Dog owners who notice their dog’s black gums may not have carefully examined their dog’s mouth before or may not have checked the gums in a while.
Last time they looked, their dog might have been a pup, and now the dog has matured, resulting in black gums due to melanin.
If your dog is healthy and happy, chances are he’s dealing with normal pigmentation that you haven’t noticed before.
Many dogs have black mouths, but most have pink (or partially spotted) tongues unless they are a Chinese Shar-Pei or Chow Chow.
presence of lentigo
Lentigo is an asymptomatic condition in which a dog develops flat, pigmented patches on the skin or inside the mouth.
Lentils refer to multiple individual pigmented patches that resemble freckles.
Lentigo is common in middle-aged to older dogs.
These pigmented areas are of cosmetic significance only, similar to freckles on human skin.
“The normal pigmentation that some dogs develop as they age… It’s very normal in some dogs, like getting age spots or gray hair. As long as they’re not raised at all, that’s fine, but if you notice any raised areas, it’s time to have them examined by a vet.” ~ Dr. Altman, Veterinarian
In older dogs, the change in color in the gums may be due to aging.
As dogs age, color changes can occur and their gums can turn from pink to black, as can their tongues, explains veterinarian Dr. Beth.
Hyperpigmentation is the medical term for areas of skin that become darker than the surrounding skin.
When to worry about a dog’s dark gums?
It is more of a concern when a dog’s gums that were not previously black turn black or the dog does not appear to be doing well.
If you the dog’s gums were pink a day or two ago and now it suddenly appears black, or your dog appears sick, it can be concerning.
Please consult your vet if you have any questions.
changes related to inflammation
Occasionally, pigmented areas on a dog’s gums are the result of inflammation.
The color change in a dog’s gums can be secondary to inflammation, as can occur with losing a tooth.
In such cases, inflammatory cells (macrophages) release melanin during inflammation, which causes the black color.
This gum discoloration usually doesn’t go away, as it’s the end result of inflammation, notes veterinarian Dr. Peter.
Address underlying inflammation is essential.
Any new, raised area with a change in color compared to the rest of the gums warrants examination by a veterinarian.
The main concern here is cancer, particularly melanoma, which is not uncommon in a dog’s mouth.
In this case, we are referring to a raised, black lesion rather than a simple pigment change affecting the dog’s gums.
Unfortunately, oral melanoma is the most common malignant tumor found in the mouth of dogs.
The lesion is usually localized in one spot instead of spreading throughout the dog’s mouth, as can occur with lentigo, explains veterinarian Dr. Salkin.
In addition to a black, raised lesion, affected dogs often present with bad breath, chewing problems, bleeding in the mouth, or a pigmented mass.
Although black pigmentation is common in melanoma cases, sometimes the mass can appear fleshy in color and non-pigmented, states Dr. Gerald Post, a board-certified veterinarian who specializes in internal medicine, in an article for DVM360.
If you notice a new pigmented area in your dog’s mouth, see your vet.
“If you feel there are raised black areas or black growths, you should have it evaluated by your vet. Melanoma is a possibility if this is the case.” ~ Dr. Pedro, veterinarian
Insufficient oxygenation due to heart/lung disease
The color of a dog’s gums can indicate the dog’s circulation.
Cyanosis is the medical term for bluish-black discoloration of the skin due to poor circulation or inadequate oxygenation of the blood.
Healthy, oxygenated gums are a brilliant bubblegum pink.
Gums that turn bluish/black may indicate insufficient oxygenation.
In this case, the color change occurs suddenly and is often accompanied by other worrisome signs, such as the dog having difficulty breathing.
If you notice any trouble breathing along with the black gums, take your dog to the vet immediately.
Your dog may have heart or lung disease (cardiopulmonary disease) or a red blood cell disorder, explains vet Dr. Peter, so see your vet right away.
Inadequate circulation due to red blood cell disorders
Occasionally blue/black gums can be caused by destruction of the dog’s red blood cells. This occurs when the hemoglobin in the dog’s red blood cells lacks adequate oxygen or is unable to carry oxygen at all.
This can happen as a result of the dog’s immune system, as it does with immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), other disorders of the red blood cells, or due to shock.
Dog Can developed black gums almost overnight and suffered from poor oxygenation due to a red blood cell disorder caused by a rare type of cancer, hemophagocytic histiocytic sarcoma (HHS).
Dogs with this condition often develop severe red blood cell disorders. This cancer may be accompanied by thrombocytopenia and moderate to marked regenerative hemolytic anemia.
Notice the dark gums, the pale gums, and the pale tongue as well.
An indicator of gum disease
If the gums around a dog’s teeth are black instead of the entire gums, it could be a sign of gum disease.
If your dog’s gums bleed, recede, and there is a foul, foul odor coming from the dog’s mouth, the darkness around the teeth may be caused by gingivitis or a bacterial infection occurring along the edge of the gum, explains veterinarian Dr. Bruce.
In such cases, it’s a good idea to have your vet check out the area and determine what’s going on.
Your dog may need a dental cleaning to remove tartar.
What to do if your dog has black gums
It is crucial to identify if the color change is limited to a specific area or affects the entire gingiva.
If it is located in a certain area, it is essential to determine if the area is smooth or irregular.
Generally, smooth surfaces suggest something benign, but it’s always best to consult your vet when in doubt.
If there appears to be a lump or mass in the area, this could indicate a tumor or cancer and requires immediate investigation.
If your dog suddenly develops black gums and has a heart murmur or other heart condition and/or shows signs of difficulty breathing, it’s crucial to visit the emergency vet right away.
Therefore, it is important to inform the vet about the change just to be careful.
Any changes in a senior dog should not be dismissed as insignificant.
Frequently asked questions
1. What are the possible reasons why my dog’s gums turn black?
There are several potential explanations for a dog’s gums turning black, including normal pigmentation, lentigo, age-related changes, inflammation, cancer, insufficient oxygenation due to heart or lung disease, or inadequate circulation. caused by disorders of the red blood cells. It is essential to see your vet if you are concerned about the color of your dog’s gums.
2. How can I tell if my dog’s black gums are normal or cause for concern?
Normal pigmentation in a dog’s gums may be a genetic trait and not a cause for concern. However, if your dog’s gums were previously pink and suddenly turned black, or if there are raised black areas or growths, it’s crucial to see a veterinarian. Also, if your dog does not seem well or is having difficulty breathing, seek veterinary assistance immediately.
3. Can black gums be a sign of gum disease in dogs?
Yes, black gums around a dog’s teeth could be an indicator of gum disease, such as gingivitis or bacterial infection along the gum line. Symptoms can include bleeding, receding gums, and a foul odor coming from your dog’s mouth. In such cases, a veterinary examination and dental cleaning may be necessary.
4. Are there specific dog breeds more prone to black gums?
Certain breeds of dogs, such as the Chow Chow and the Chinese Shar-Pei, are known for their bluish/black tongues and black or mottled gums. Being familiar with your dog’s breed characteristics is essential to understanding whether his black gums are a normal genetic trait or a potential health problem.
5. How can I maintain my dog’s gum health and prevent gum disease?
Regular dental care is crucial to maintaining the health of your dog’s gums. This includes daily brushing of teeth with a dog-specific toothpaste, providing dental toys and chews, and scheduling professional dental cleanings with your vet as needed. Regular dental checkups with your vet can help identify any potential problems early on and prevent the progression of gum disease.
6. How do I know if my dog’s gums are healthy?
The gums of healthy dogs are usually a light pink color, similar to shrimp, and should be moist with minimal plaque or tartar buildup. There should be no strong odor, swelling or significant lesions and pus. If you’re unsure about the health of your dog’s gums or notice any changes, see your vet for a full exam.