If you managed to steal a glimpse into your dog's mouth when he was panting or yawning, you may have been taken aback by the sight of black coloration on his gums. The color of your dog's oral mucous membranes can provide an insightful hint to his dental and overall health status. Black may be an indicator of illness, or it could be your dog's unique oral beauty mark.
Open Wide to Peek Inside
Healthy gums should be bubble gum-pink in color. Some dogs, especially those of certain breeds, such as the chow chow, have black coloring in their mouths. Your dog may have flat, black splotches on his gums, inner lips or on his tongue. This is normal pigmentation for some dogs. It is the result of microscopic melanin granule deposits, and it is not something to be concerned about. As your dog ages, these patches may change slightly in size or shape.
Raised Black Raises Red Flag
While flat black spots on your dog's gums, inner lips or tongue are of no health consequence, a raised black spot should signal a red flag that leads you and your canine companion straight to the veterinarian for an evaluation. This could be a cancerous tumor called a melanoma. Melanomas are the most common oral cancer to afflict dogs. They are locally invasive and have a high incidence of metastasis. Although any dog can be affected, there is a higher incidence in some breeds, including golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, chow chows, Scottish terriers and Gordon setters. Melanomas are more commonly diagnosed in males than in females. Since melanomas also can be pink, white or light gray in color, any raised mass should be examined by a veterinarian.
Bacteria Invasion in Line Formation
Once plaque on your dog's teeth hardens into tartar, the bacteria cause inflammation of the gums. This inflammation is known as gingivitis, and it presents as a reddening of the gums where the teeth meet the gumline. Gingivitis is the early stage of periodontal disease. If you notice a thin black line along the border where the teeth and gums meet, the bacterial army has invaded under the gumline. This characterizes the next stage of periodontal disease, and it is one scenario where black along the gums indicates a health concern. As the bacteria accumulates and invades deeper into the gums, roots of teeth and supporting bone structures, the periodontal disease progresses to advanced stages that can result in tooth loss, bone decay and internal organ damage as the bacteria infiltrate the bloodstream. You can be proactive in preventing advanced periodontal disease with a home dental care routine.
Regular Brushing for Visual Judging
The best way to monitor your dog's gums is to establish a routine of regular home dental care. Brushing his teeth every other day will enable you to become acquainted with the normal appearance of his oral cavity, including gum color and pigmentation. This will enable visual inspections to detect any changes in color or new growths that appear. If you see anything unusual, be sure to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for an examination. Be aware that pale pink or white gums indicate anemia, or lack of red blood cells, and blue or purple gums indicate that your dog is cyanotic, or not receiving adequate oxygenation. Either of these scenarios is considered an emergency and warrants bringing your furry friend immediately to a veterinarian.