Dog’s Gums or Tongue Look Odd

The causes and treatments of a dog’s blue, dry, or pale gums or tongue.

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Breed of dog: Chow Chows normally have blue-black tongues.

Infectious diseases: Pneumonia due to distemper; parainfluenza; adenovirus-1 or adenovirus-2 infection; secondary bacterial infections; coccidioidomycosis (fungal infection); or aspiration (due to vomiting, cleft palate, improperly administered oral medication or force-feeding, megaesophagus, enlargement/dysfunction of the esophagus).

Trauma: To the thorax (penetrating wounds, diaphragmatic hernia, tension pneumothorax, fractured ribs, lung injury), trachea, or larynx.

Non-infectious/Acquired disease: Heart disease (mitral valve disease, cardiomyopathy).

Allergic reactions: Pneumonitis/ pulmonary hypersensitivity (due to bacteria, fungi, heartworms) or anaphylaxis.

Foreign bodies: In nasal passages, larynx, trachea, or foreign material causing bronchial obstruction.

Miscellaneous disorders: Gastric dilatation/volvulus or pulmonary thrombosis (secondary to trauma or surgery).

Irritation/Inflammation: Inhalation of smoke or irritant vapors.

Toxicity: Strychnine or ANTU, both rodenticides.

Tumors: In larynx, trachea, lungs, or heart.

Parasites/Parasite-borne diseases: Heartworms or tick paralysis.

Immune disorders: Pulmonary thrombosis (secondary to immune-mediated hemolytic anemia).

What to do: Blue gums or tongue may or may not be an emergency, depending on the cause and other signs of illness. Contact your veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately for specific advice about your dog’s situation.


Environmental: Off-flavored or stale water.

Behavioral: Stress due to travel, moving, etc.

Infectious disease: Parvovirus; gastroenteritis with vomiting and/or diarrhea; distemper, leptospirosis, rabies, and other diseases that cause generalized depression, along with meningitis and/or encephalitis with subsequent pharyngeal dysfunction/paralysis; prostatitis, prostatic abscess; peritonitis due to rupture of a diseased organ (intestine, uterus) or abscess (prostate, liver); or post-surgical infection. Note: Never handle a dog who may have rabies. If possible, without touching the dog, confine him in a room, pen, or yard and call your local animal control for assistance.

Trauma: To the skull (brain), mouth, teeth, tongue, pharynx, or abdomen, burns, snake bite, or massive trauma of any type.

Foreign bodies: In the mouth, pharynx, stomach, or intestines.

Tumors: In the brain, nasal passages (with extension into brain), pharynx, pancreas, or other sites (especially widespread cancer).

Toxicity: Ethanol (alcohol), ethylene glycol, anticoagulant rodenticides (warfarin), metaldehyde (slug bait), lead, grapes, or raisins.

Parasites/Parasite-borne diseases: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, coccidiosis (in puppies), salmon poisoning disease (a bacterial disease contracted by eating salmon, trout or Pacific giant salamanders parasitized by flukes that carry the infective organism)

Miscellaneous disorders: Pancreatitis or heat stroke.

Endocrine disorders: Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease) or pyometra (uterine infection).

Non-infectious/Acquired disease: Chronic kidney disease, liver failure, or urethral obstruction.

Nutritional disorder: Malnutrition or malabsorption syndromes.

What to do: Dry gums or tongue may or may not be an emergency, depending on the cause and other signs of illness. Contact your veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately for specific advice about your dog’s situation.


Parasites/Parasite-borne diseases: Hookworms (especially in puppies), fleas, heartworms, ehrlichiosis.

Trauma: At any location, with hemorrhage.

Toxicity: Anticoagulant rodenticides (warfarin), lead.

Non-infectious/Acquired disease: Chronic kidney disease.

Tumors: In the liver, stomach, intestines, pancreas, or spleen.

Endocrine disorders: Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease) or hypothyroidism.

Immune-mediated disorders: Primary immune-mediated hemolytic anemia or systemic lupus erythematosis.

Congenital/Inherited disorders: Portosystemic shunt or chronic hepatitis (in Bedlington Terriers).

Infectious diseases: Histoplasmosis or salmon poisoning disease.

Drug reactions: Vaccine-induced thrombocytopenia (platelet deficiency) or drug-induced thrombocytopenia.

Miscellaneous: Gastric dilatation/volvulus.

What to do: Pale gums or tongue may or may not be an emergency, depending on the cause and other signs of illness. Contact your veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately for specific advice about your dog’s situation.

Disclaimer:’s Dog Medical Conditions are intended for educational purposes only. They are not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your dog’s ailment. If you notice changes in your dog’s health or behavior, please take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.

Have a health question about your dog? Ask our 
vet expert or ask other dog owners on our forums.

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4 of 25 Comments View All 25 Comments

Give us your opinion Give us your opinion on Dog’s Gums or Tongue Look Odd

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skiw9748   Hartford, AL

1/10/2013 7:56:10 PM

Thanks !

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Eileen - 249708   Port Perry, ON

1/9/2013 5:35:42 AM

Good information to know. I am so glad my granddaughter is studing to be a Vet and she loves animals so I know I will have a Vet in my family I can totally trust.

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Marie   Bountiful, UT

8/5/2011 3:22:48 PM

Jackie- your dog should not have gone home in that condition. I am sorry for your loss.

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jim   Sneedville, TN

7/26/2011 5:17:16 PM

Pale gums is a bad sign. Dog is in shock, or in puppies,very anemic from worms. Swelling,rattle snake bite, give benedril antihistamine and a shot of penicilian because snakes have a dirty mouth. Foaming at mouth and swelling in a warm area, dog tried to bite a cane toad, again first aid is washing out the mouth with a garden hose and give dramamine to keep air passages from closing. article doesnt give first aid. could havesaid it all in 2 words, ; call vet.

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