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black dog gums

Why Are My Dog’s Gums Black? What Does It Mean?

Some dogs have naturally black gums, while others get black gums as a result of health issues. We explain the differences.

Most dogs will generally have pink gums, which is a sign that they’re in good health. If you notice that your dog has red, swollen gums or very pale white gums, this is an automatic sign that something is not right. But what about a dog with black gums? What do they mean, and what can cause them? 

When a dog has black gums, it can be confusing as to whether something’s wrong. Black gums or black spots on a dog’s gums can be perfectly normal, but they can also be a sign of something far more serious such as poor oxygenation, gum disease, or even cancer.

We’re going to look at when black gums are normal, when they should be a cause for concern, and what you can do about them.


Dark pigmentation inside your dog’s mouth is often completely normal, and is generally due to their DNA. Some breeds like Chinese Sharpeis or Chow Chows are known for having bluish or black looking tongues, and spotted or mottled gums.

No one knows why some breeds have darker mouths, but it’s completely normal. Some other breeds which tend to have darker spots on their tongues, gums and the roof of their mouths include Pomeraninans, Newfoundlands, Mastiffs, Australian and German Shepherds, Irish Setters, and some retriever breeds.

If you own one of these breeds, or know your dog is genetically connected to one of these breeds, then it’s not uncommon for them to have darker spots inside of their mouths. In fact, a lot of dog owners are unaware of this, and when they do go to check their pet’s mouth, are surprised to find that they have black gums.

In most cases, your dog is happy and healthy, and you’ve probably never noticed the darker spots before.

However, you still need to be wary about black gums and gum health. The American Kennel Club notes that texture is more important than color. If you notice that a dark spot is raised, or is different in appearance to the surrounding gum tissue, then this could be an issue.


If you notice your dog’s gums have started to change to a bluish/black color, and they are an older dog, this may just be a result of aging. As a dog ages, it’s not unusual for their gums to change color. Their gums may change from a pink color to black, which can also happen to their tongue.

This is known medically as hyperpigmentation, and is used to describe what happens to patches of skin that become darker in color compared to the surrounding skin.

If you notice your dog’s gums have started to change color, you’ll need to see if the color change is on one specific area, or if it has affected all of the gum. If the color change is only on one area, you need to check if the area is smooth or bumpy. If there appears to be a bump, or raised mass, then this could indicate that your dog may have a tumor or cancer.

It’s important that you bring your dog to the vet as soon as you can, so that they can examine it themselves. When it comes to aging and senior dogs, you shouldn’t disregard any changes.

Poor Oxygenation 

The color of a dog’s gums can give you an indication of their circulation. If the gums are receiving enough oxygen, they will be a nice bubblegum pink color. However, if their gums have a blue or black tint, this can be a sign of poor oxygenation.

There are a broad range of things that could be causing oxygenation disorder in dogs. For instance, it could be a respiratory infection, a malformation of the respiratory system, or an exposure to parasites. These things won’t usually put your dog in immediate danger, but they will have symptoms that will cause their health to deteriorate over time.

If your dog has developed darker gums as a result of poor oxygenation, they will have other symptoms such as trouble breathing. If you notice any difficulty breathing, especially with black gums, it’s important that you get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Your dog may be suffering from lung or heart disease, or may have a red blood cell disorder.


Any appearances of raised areas, accompanied by color change which is different to the rest of the gum area will need to be checked out by a vet.

The main concern is that these bumps may be a presence of cancer, particularly melanoma, as it’s not uncommon for this to develop in a dog’s mouth. In this case, however, we are also talking about a raised, black lump, rather than just a pigment change.

Oral melanoma is the most common tumor which affects the mouth of dogs. Alongside the presence of a pigmented mass, dogs will show signs of bad breath, chewing problems, and bleeding from the mouth. If you notice any raised, pigmented growths that weren’t there before, go and see your vet.


If your dog’s gums begin to change rapidly, this could be a sign that they are suffering from respiratory distress and need medical attention immediately. The cause of this may be cyanosis, which means that there is a lack of oxygen in your dog’s blood, and this will be a medical emergency.

Causes of cyanosis include pneumonia, shock, congestive heart failure, and exposure to poison. Treatment will depend on the cause of the condition, which is why it is vital to seek a vet’s diagnosis as soon as possible.

Gum Disease

If you notice that your dog has foul breath, along with a thin black line where their teeth meet their gums, then your dog may have gum disease.

This means that bacteria have claimed this area of your dog’s mouth, and are in the perfect environment to thrive and multiply. Early signs of gum disease include the darkening of the gum line, foul breath and yellowing teeth.

If gum disease is left untreated, the bacteria can invade further and compromise the roots of the teeth. In more severe cases, the teeth will need to be extracted.

If losing teeth wasn’t bad enough, inflamed gums can be severely painful for your dog, and they might refuse food as it’s too painful for them to chew. If your dog already shows signs of gum disease, it’s important that you take them to a vet so their teeth can be professionally cleaned. This will help get their oral health back on track.

Keeping Track of Your Dog’s Gums 

It can be quite intimidating to go near a dog’s mouth, and even the most sweet-tempered pets can get a bit snappy if you try and go near the inside of their mouth. But it’s important that you establish a relationship of trust so that you can monitor your dog’s oral health.

Any changes to their gums, teeth and tongue can tell us a lot about a dog’s health, so you need to get your dog – and yourself – comfortable with checking their mouths. Make a habit of peeling your dog’s lips back and examining their gums. If you do it frequently, your dog will become accustom to the exam and make it easier when you need to look closer.

Oral Hygiene 

One way you can check your dog’s mouth, and look after their oral health, is to brush their teeth. This will give you the perfect opportunity to check on any changes to their teeth and gums.

Some vets recommend that you brush your dog’s teeth every day, but if that’s not possible, brushing them several times a week is the next best thing. This will also help desensitize your dog to oral exams.

What You Need 

You won’t be able to use human dental supplies, as the flavors in the toothpaste will instantly make your dog hate having their teeth brushed. 

You can get toothbrushes which are made specifically for dogs. Some resemble the toothbrushes we have sitting on our bathroom sinks, whereas others are designed to fit over our fingers

When it comes to toothpaste, you’ll want to stay away from strong toothpastes, as these can cause a burning sensation in your dog’s mouth. It’s also worth noting that some of the cleaning agents in our toothpaste can be harmful to a dog if they are ingested, as they don’t exactly know that they have to spit it out. 

Stay away from any toothpastes that contain xylitol, as this can be fatal for dogs. To be on the safe side, you can get dog toothpaste which is safe when swallowed and will taste better for your dog, making it a much more pleasant experience. 

How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

If you’ve just adopted a dog or puppy, start brushing their teeth early on so that they know it’s a regular routine, and they will get used to it. A lot of dogs may resist at first, but you can use positive reinforcement so that they associate having their teeth brushed with play time, or a tasty snack.

If your dog’s behavior is difficult to manage when brushing their teeth, then you’ll have to slowly introduce them to the process. This will prevent them from nipping your fingers when trying to brush their teeth, and will help you build up trust over time. Here’s how:

  • Start by getting your dog used to having your hands around their mouths. Gently pet the outsides of their mouths, and once they’re comfortable, work your way to massaging their gums. 
  • Massaging your dog’s gums can be a simple way of getting them used to having an object in their mouths. Start by doing this for 10 seconds at a time, and increase to 1 minute. It’s important to reward often so that they know this is a positive experience. 
  • Once they’re comfortable with you massaging their gums, you can add toothpaste. Put it on your finger and let them sniff it. Once they decide to taste it on their own, reward them.
  • Massage their gums using the toothpaste a couple of times, so that they can get used to the taste. 
  • Once they’re used to the taste, introduce the toothbrush. Apply some of the toothpaste to the brush and let them sniff it. Slowly work your way up to using the brush in their mouth. 

While it may seem counterintuitive to give a dog a treat after brushing (doesn’t that defeat the purpose of brushing?), the tradeoff for dental hygiene is worth it. And at some point, your dog will be so used to getting their teeth brushed that they’ll no longer need the treat as positive reinforcement.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to your dog’s oral health, it’s important that you check their teeth, gums and tongue regularly. Getting to know your dog’s mouth will help you notice any sudden changes, and changes that may be a sign of a greater health risk.

Although it can be pretty common for dogs to have darker patches on their gums, you need to monitor any color changes, as any raised bumps or lesions could be a sign of something more serious going on. If you notice any dark patches, or raised areas in your dog’s mouth, it’s important to take them to the vet as soon as you can.

It’s also important to brush your dog’s teeth, as neglecting their oral hygiene can lead to gum disease.

Superb Dog Editor

Superb Dog Editor