It goes without saying that the oral hygiene of your dog should be a top priority. They need regular check-ups, a balanced diet and the occasional dental stick if you want to prevent them from getting gum disease, tooth decay or other oral issues.
For us humans, bright pink gums are usually associated with healthy oral hygiene. This then means that you see your dog has black spots on his gums (or even completely black gums) you are going to be concerned, and rightly so.
Whilst it is important to be vigilant if you see black spots on your dog’s gum or in their mouth, it is quite normal in many cases. With some dog breeds, black in their mouth is standard… and here’s the short answer first to what it can mean.
Why does my dog have black spots on his gums? Genetically, some dog breeds might experience higher levels of pigmentation in their mouth, which causes their gums to have black spots. Whilst it can also be a sign of other oral issues, this is very rare.
Whilst it is important to remain vigilant if you suspect something is wrong with your dog’s mouth, it is equally as important to research your breed. If possible, find out more about their genetic background in order to establish whether their black gums and spots in the mouth are merely a surface-level pigmentation issue, or something more serious.
In this helpful guide I will explain more what black spots in your dog’s mouth mean to give you a better idea of the state of your pup’s gums and what it might mean for him.
I’ve also included a list of which dog breeds are more likely to have black gums.
Is it normal for my dog to have black spots on his gums?
The question of whether its normal for your dog to have black spots on his gums (or even have gums that are completely black) depends on whether they’ve always been this way, or if it is has started to happen recently.
This is because a lot of dog breeds are genetically predisposed to spotted tongues, gums or even completely black mouths.
In fact, many hunters used to check the mouths of prospective hunting dogs for black spots or completely black gums. They believed that dogs with more black pigmentation in their mouth made them better hunting dogs, and even now it is believed that dogs with black spots in their mouth are more easily trained.
If a dog has black spots in their mouth, this is usually the result of heavy pigmentation in the mucus membranes that make up your dog’s mouth.
Specifically, the dark spots you find in your dog’s mouth are essentially microscopic granules of melanin. They’ll present as flat (not raised) areas on not just your dog’s gums, but also on their tongue or inside the lips and mouth.
This pigmentation is, usually, genetic. In the same way your dog’s coat colour is genetic, the amount of pigmentation in your dog’s mouth is also genetic.
Dogs breeds with black mouth and gums
As mentioned, some dog breeds are more predisposed to black spots in their mouth or black gums than others.
Up to thirty different dog breeds have hyperpigmentation in your mouth, but here are some of the most well-known domesticated ones:
- Mastiff breeds
- Pitbull breeds
- Irish Setters
- Australian Shepherds
- Chow Chows
- Shar Peis
Of course, this list is not exhaustive. If your dog has unraised black dots in their mouth and these aren’t accompanied by any other symptoms, the chances are that they too are just disposed to hyperpigmentation of melanin in the mouth area.
If in doubt, however, it is better to be safe than sorry and double check with your vet.
What other reasons might there be for black gum discoloration in dogs?
If these black dots or discoloured gums haven’t been present in your dog’s mouth since birth, it is important to be aware of other possible causes of gum discoloration. I will go through some of the most common ones here.
1. Your dog has chewed on a pen or another ink source
If your dog has stained-looking, blackened gums and teeth that have seemingly appeared overnight, and they aren’t presenting any other symptoms, it is worth checking to see if any of your pens, markers or other sources of ink and dye have been chewed.
If this happened, the ink from the device would have transferred to your dog’s mouth and tongue, staining them.
Although not indicative of an underlying health issue, it is important to take your dog to the vet immediately if you suspect this is the cause, because the ink they ingested may have some harmful toxins or chemicals.
If your dog’s gums have more of a bluish tinge, this could be an indication of cyanosis, which occurs when not enough oxygen is getting into the mucus membrane.
3. Periodontal tumours
If abnormal growths (whether cancerous or benign) develop in your dog’s mouth, they might impact irrigation and cause your dog to develop hypoxia (when a region of the body is deprived of oxygen), which can then lead to a darkening of the gums.
4. Canine acanthomatous ameloblastoma
Raised as opposed to flat black spots across your dog’s gumline could be a sign of oral cancer – or canine acanthomatous ameloblastoma. It is one of the most common types of cancer found in dogs.
5. Periodontal disease
If you find a black spot right along your dog’s gum line, this could actually be the furcation (the space between the tooth roots) being exposed to gum disease. Gum disease in dogs happens when they aren’t provided with sufficient oral care. If the gums aren’t well-irrigated, they can also darken.
Gingivitis is a type of periodontal disease. One of the symptoms of gingivitis in dogs is a black line around the dog’s gums above the teeth, as well as general inflammation and swelling in the gum area.
7. Acanthosis nigricans
This is a skin disease that causes discoloration in certain areas of the body: the gums and mouth area are no exception. It could be another reason why your dog has black spots on his gums, so will need to be checked by a professional.
Generally, if you aren’t completely sure that the black spots on your dog’s gum are due to their genetics, it is important to take them to the vets. The vets can run some diagnostic tests to find out the underlying cause of your dog’s oral discoloration and treat them accordingly. If you follow the guidance of your vet, your pup will soon be right as rain.