Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dog Medical Emergencies Survey: Are Pale Gums an Emergency?

69.70% survey participants checked pale gums as an emergency.


Now, yes, different breeds have differently colored gums. My guys' gums are very dark, mostly black. Other breeds have gums that are straight pink. Somehow I hope that those who didn't check pale gums as an emergency were thinking something along these lines.

Yes, it is important to be familiar what your dog's normal gum color is. 



Pale gums, then are gums that are lighter than they normally would be. Gums that are any other than normal color signal a serious problem.

Bright or dark red gums can indicate heat stroke, fever, severe infection, poisoning, smoke inhalation, or abnormal levels of red blood cells, which can be caused by dehydration, chronically low blood oxygen levels or bone marrow disease.

Blue or purple gums indicate a lack of oxygen, which can be caused by heart failure, poisonings, or respiratory problems.

Yellow or orange gums (i.e., jaundice) are typically associated with liver disease/jaundice or red blood cell disorders.

When I see pale gums, the first thing I'm thinking is anemia.


Anemia means an insufficient amount of red blood cells. Insufficient amount of red blood cells means not enough oxygen for the cells and organs.

"You know how they say that all you need is love? Oxygen is pretty important too." ~House MD

Low enough supply of oxygen = game over. Without oxygen, cells start the die. The brain is most vulnerable to lack of oxygen.

While the urgency might depend on how pale the gums are, how long would you want to wait?


How pale do the gums need to get before you'd notice? How lethargic and sick-looking would your dog have to look before you'd even look at the gums? What are the chances things would improve on their own? 

What can cause anemia?


Anemia can be caused by:

  • loss of red blood cells such as from trauma, clotting disorders, tumors or heavy parasite infestation ...
  • destruction of red blood cells such as with autoimmune disease, poisoning, certain infections or cancer ...
  • insufficient red blood cell production such as from severe chronic kidney or liver disease, autoimmune disease, cancer ...


Pale gums can also be a sign of shock.

Checking gum color is one of the first things I do when my dog looks ill or lethargic as one of the measures of urgency.

If I found pale gums on my dog, I am on my way to a veterinarian.


I also invite you to read Bailey's story.


Related articles:
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey Results
Is Unproductive Retching an Emergency?
Is Difficulty Breathing an Emergency?
Is Panting an Emergency?
Is Severe Pain an Emergency?
Is Limping an Emergency?
Is Vomiting Bile in the Morning an Emergency?
Is Profuse Vomiting an Emergency?
Are Convulsions or Seizures an Emergency?
Is Loss of Appetite an Emergency?
Is Reduced Activity an Emergency?
Is Severe Lethargy an Emergency?
Is Inability to Stand an Emergency?
Is Inability to Urinate an Emergency?
Are Cuts and Abrasions an Emergency?
Is Bleeding an Emergency?
Is Blood in Vomit an Emergency?
Is Fresh Blood in Stool an Emergency?
Is Black, Tarry Stool an Emergency?



Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

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