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Pictures of Black Spots on Dog’s Gums: Normal or Worrisome?

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inspection of a dog's gums at the office

This article was updated on May 9th, 2023

Performing a thorough oral exam is a really important part of a dog’s physical exam, and is something I will try and perform every time I see a dog for a check up. This is especially crucial because many owners won’t regularly look inside their dog’s mouth and new issues can easily go overlooked.

Of course, with dog’s generally taking a dislike to us ‘rummaging’ around in their mouth, it is little wonder that owners don’t often have a look inside! However, as vets, it is our job to detect any changes and to determine if there could be something worrisome going on. Where the dog permits, owners should try and assess their gums and teeth at least once a week.

What is the normal color of a dog’s gums?

For the majority of dogs, we expect their gums to be a salmon pink color. In general, this won’t change as they get older. While dogs can develop some pigmented spots that are black, they should still continue to have some areas of gum where we can assess the ‘true’ gum color.

Certain breeds, however, will naturally have a more dark blue or black color on their gums and tongues. This is true for breeds including the Chow Chow and Shar Pei. This can make it a little trickier to assess their circulation and oral health.

Chow Chow dog’s black gums

For the vast majority of our canine companions, black spots on their gums are simply a buildup of pigment, which can be present from birth or can develop as a dog ages. This pigment causes no problems for the pet and requires no treatment.

black spots on gums of a border collie dog

What do abnormal black spots on a dog’s gum look like?

It is always a sensible idea to familiarize yourself with what your dog’s gums look like, so any changes can be detected more rapidly. If they’ve always had dark, pigmented spots then we know that these are nothing to be concerned about. However, if a new spot appear suddenly, it may be wise to have this checked out.

WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]

A black spot that is raised or has an irregular surface would be worth looking at, as normal pigmentation should be flat. Similarly, a black spot that is changing or ‘evolving’ is more likely to be something sinister. If the lesion is ulcerating, bleeding or becoming infected, then this is cause for concern. See picture below or click to see this example on

melanoma in dog's mouth
Black growth inside a dog’s mouth (Melanoma)

What are the causes of black spots on dog’s gum?

1. Pigmentation

By far the most common cause of black spots in the gums is a build up of a dark pigment called melanin. This is normal and of no concern. Pigment spots can be present from birth but can also develop as a dog ages. These spots don’t cause the dog any discomfort and will not bleed or ulcerate. They tend to remain the same over a dog’s lifetime. Dogs with dark skin and fur are more likely to have them. In the photo below, we can see that this dog has salmon pink gums, as well as a good amount of normal, dark pigmentation.

Black spots on gums due to hyperpigmentation
Black spots on gums due to hyperpigmentation

As oral pigmentation is genetic, you’ll likely find your pooch’s parents and/or siblings have similar spots inside their mouths.

2. Periodontal disease

Dental disease can present in a range of ways. As well as the more common symptoms such as bad breath and swollen, red gums, we can see black spots and dark build up along the gum line, which would be typical of calculus build up.

Signs of dental disease in a dog
black spots and dark build up along the gum line

Gum disease would usually be something that affects several teeth, rather than being confined to one location. Once gum disease is established, veterinary intervention is needed. This will typically involve a dental cleaning and some anti inflammatories and antibiotics. This may include dental extractions, if the disease has progressed.

Read our article about the best ways to reduce tartar in dogs. After the gum disease has been professionally treated, owners can prevent it by brushing teeth daily and feeding hard kibble. There are also plaque reducing products on the market such as Plaque Off.

3. Oral melanoma

Melanoma is a cancer that can present as dark, black lesions. Indeed, melanoma is the most common malignant tumor we see in canine mouths. These growths tend to be aggressive, and to spread quickly. (Learn about Canine Oral Melanoma on

Melanomas can grow from any part of the mouth as darkened nodules or areas of thickening. They may seem quite small, but are often larger under the surface. For some dogs, there is also swelling around the mouth due to boney involvement.

If an owner spots a lesion they think could potentially be a melanoma, the sooner they have their dog checked over the better. Vets should grade the cancer by taking an FNA or biopsy and they can then determine if it has spread by using imaging tools and sampling local lymph nodes.

Treatment typically consists of surgical removal of the growth, as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy where needed. Read our article about common Bumps or Lumps Found Inside or Around a Dog’s Mouth.

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

Are black spot on your dog’s gum a serious issue?

For the vast majority of our canine companions, black spots on their gums are simply a buildup of pigment, which can be present from birth or can develop as a dog ages. This pigment causes no problems for the pet and requires no treatment.

When dogs have black spots alongside other symptoms such as bad breath and bleeding gums, it is likely they have periodontal disease which requires vet treatment.

Black spots that are raised or growing are a red flag and could be caused by a cancer such as a melanoma. Any new growth in the mouth should be investigated urgently.

When to visit the vet

If you have any concerns about dark lesions in your dog’s mouth or if you feel their gums do not look like they normally do, don’t hesitate to have them booked in for a checkup.

Even if it turns out we are just dealing with normal pigment, your vet will be happy to reassure you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are black spots on dogs’ gums a sign of severe infection?

Black spots can potentially indicate dental disease and a localized infection. When this is the case, there will be other symptoms including gingivitis (gum inflammation) and halitosis (bad breath).

Can a dog develop pigment on their gums when they’re older?

Absolutely. While many dogs are born with pigmentation in their mouth, it is normal for pigment to develop and darken as a dog ages. This happens both in their mouth and on their skin.

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  • Dr. Linda Simon, Veterinarian

    Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS) has 10 years of experience as a veterinarian. She is a veterinary surgeon with a special interest in geriatric patient care, dermatology and endocrinology. She is a member of the British Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. She graduated top of her class from UCD School of Veterinary Medicine in Dublin in 2013. Linda has also worked as a locum vet in a range of clinics, including 24 hour emergency clinics and busy charity clinics.

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