Why Are My Cat’s Gums Black? The Surprising Truth Behind This Strange Symptom

Typical Gum Color in Cats

Cats normally have healthy, bubblegum-pink gums. This pink color indicates proper blood flow and oxygenation. A cat’s gums should be firm and moist with no signs of swelling or discharge. The pink hue comes from the blood vessels underneath the thin gums which gives them their rosy appearance.

According to Fuzzy Rescue, healthy cat gums will be smooth, moist, and pink. The pink coloration is a sign of adequate blood circulation and oxygen delivery to the gums and teeth.

As long as your cat’s gums maintain an even bubblegum pink shade, that is a good indicator of overall health. Any drastic changes in gum color, especially to blue, white, or bright red, can signify an underlying medical issue that requires veterinary attention.

Why Are My Cat’s Gums Black?

There are a few potential causes for black gums in cats:

Melanin pigmentation – This benign condition causes black spots on the gums, lips, nose and around the eyes. It’s especially common in orange, silver and light-colored cats as they age. The spots are harmless and no treatment is needed (https://catsinn.com/a-guide-to-cat-oral-health/).

Blood circulation issues – Reduced blood flow can cause the gums to turn from pink to purplish-black. This may indicate an underlying condition such as heart disease, kidney failure or dehydration. Prompt veterinary attention is advised.

Medications – Certain drugs like antibiotics can cause black pigmentation in the gums as a side effect. Check with your vet if you notice this after starting a new medication.

In addition to diseases, trauma or abscesses in the mouth can also lead to gum discoloration. Overall, any sudden color change warrants a trip to the vet for evaluation.

Diseases That Can Cause Black Gums

There are several diseases that can potentially cause blackening of the gums in cats:

Stomatitis: This condition involves inflammation of a cat’s gums and mouth. It can range from mild to severe and cause the gums to turn black in color. Stomatitis is quite painful for cats and makes it difficult to eat. Treatment usually involves extracting teeth, medication, and dietary changes. (https://catsinn.com/a-guide-to-cat-oral-health/)

Fungal infections: Fungal infections in a cat’s mouth can also lead to blackening of the gums. The most common is a yeast infection called candidiasis, which causes thickened, discolored gums along with foul breath. Fungal infections are treated with anti-fungal medication. (https://www.quora.com/Should-I-be-worried-if-my-cats-gums-have-turned-black)

Cancer: Feline oral cancer, especially squamous cell carcinoma, can cause dark pigmentation on the gums and elsewhere in the mouth. This aggressive cancer requires surgery and radiation therapy. Regular dental exams can help catch it early. (https://catsinn.com/a-guide-to-cat-oral-health/)

Liver or kidney disease: Unhealthy gums and mouth ulcers can develop in cats with chronic kidney disease or liver failure. The gums may turn black and ulcers can form. Managing the underlying condition is key. (https://www.quora.com/Should-I-be-worried-if-my-cats-gums-have-turned-black)

When to See the Vet

If you notice your cat’s gums are black, blue, or bright red, it’s important to schedule a veterinary appointment right away. These abnormal gum colors can signify serious underlying health conditions that require prompt veterinary attention.

Black gums in cats are not normal and usually indicate some form of disease, infection, or potentially cancer. Causes can include dental disease, kidney failure, liver disease, blood clotting issues, toxins, and certain medications. Black gums are considered an emergency since they can imply your cat is not getting enough oxygen throughout their body.

Blue gums, referred to as cyanosis, occur when blood is not being oxygenated properly. This is also an emergency situation. Bright red gums can potentially indicate bleeding disorders, inflammation, infection, gingivitis, ingestion of toxins, and some cancers.

It’s crucial to have your vet examine your cat right away if you see abnormal gum color. They can run tests to determine the underlying cause and begin prompt treatment. Waiting can allow conditions to worsen. With rapid veterinary care for black, blue or bright red gums, many cats go on to make a full recovery.

Examining Your Cat’s Gums

You can check your cat’s gum color at home by following these steps:

  1. Sit near your cat and gently lift their upper lip up to expose their upper teeth and gums. Do this slowly and while talking softly to avoid startling them.
  2. Look at the color of the gums just above the upper teeth. Healthy gums should be pink and moist, though the exact shade can vary from coral pink to bubblegum pink.
  3. Check the lower gums as well. Gently press a finger against the lower gums for a few seconds, then release. The gums should briefly turn white where pressed and then quickly return to pink.
  4. Note the overall color of both the upper and lower gums. Pale, white, blue, red, or purple gums can indicate an underlying health issue.
  5. Also check for signs of inflammation like swelling or redness around the gums.

Examining your cat’s gums regularly at home helps you establish their normal gum color. That way you can more easily notice any changes that may need veterinary attention. Be very gentle when lifting your cat’s lips and take cues from their body language if they seem uncomfortable.

According to Vetwest, healthy cat gums can range from bright pink to coral in color. Focus on any major changes in color or signs of poor gum health rather than small variations in hue.

Treatment for Abnormal Gum Color

The treatment for abnormal gum color in cats depends on the underlying cause. Some potential treatments include:

  • Antibiotics or antifungal medications if an infection is causing the change in gum color.
  • Steroids or other medications to reduce inflammation if gingivitis or other inflammatory conditions are present.
  • Dental cleaning and polishing by a veterinarian to remove tartar buildup and improve gum health.
  • Extracting damaged or infected teeth if they are contributing to gum discoloration.
  • Oral rinses or gels if mild discoloration is present.
  • Treating underlying illnesses such as kidney disease that may manifest with gum abnormalities.
  • In severe cases, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or surgery may be necessary for certain oral cancers leading to blackened gums.

The most important thing is to have your veterinarian examine your cat’s mouth and gums to determine the cause. Then an appropriate treatment plan can be developed to resolve the gum discoloration and any related health issues.

Caring for Your Cat’s Gum Health

There are several things cat owners can do at home to care for their cat’s gum health and prevent dental issues:

One of the most effective ways to care for your cat’s gums is by brushing their teeth regularly. This helps remove plaque and tartar buildup that can irritate the gums and cause infections. Brushing just a few times a week can make a big difference in gum health. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and cat-safe toothpaste. Introduce toothbrushing slowly and make it a positive experience with praise and treats. https://www.rspcapetinsurance.org.au/pet-care/cat-care/guide-to-cat-dental-care

Providing chew toys and treats can also help massage gums and scrape away plaque. Look for textured toys and dental treats formulated to clean teeth and freshen breath as cats chew. Rotate different chew toys to keep your cat interested.

Regular vet visits for dental exams and professional cleanings are important for monitoring gum health. Your vet can spot early signs of problems and perform a deep cleaning above and below the gumline. Cleanings every 6-12 months may be recommended, especially for older cats.

With proper at-home care and vet checkups, you can keep your cat’s gums healthy, pink, and plaque-free. Pay attention for any gum swelling, redness, discharge or other abnormalities and call your vet right away. Consistent dental care is key to your cat’s comfort and wellbeing.

Gum Color Variations in Cats

It’s common for gum color to vary quite a bit between different breeds of cats. The color depends on the natural pigmentation and can range from very pale pink to dark black-purple. For example, the gums of a Siamese cat are naturally very pale, whereas a Burmese cat’s gums tend to be very dark.

Some cat breeds also display two-tone gums, with the upper portion of the gum a different color than the lower gum area. This includes breeds like Persians, whose upper gums are often black while the lower gums are pale pink. In general, the darker the pigmentation, the deeper the color will be.

Gum color can also vary within a cat based on location in the mouth. Areas exposed to more sunlight may be lighter in color, while less exposed areas show deeper pigmentation. The depth of pigmentation tends to increase with age as well. The gums of kittens are often quite pale at first.

In addition to natural variations, some health conditions like gum disease, circulatory problems, or melanin deposits can also affect gum coloration. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your own cat’s healthy gum shade.

While there is significant diversity in gum colors, major changes in your cat should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Drastic color changes could signal an underlying health issue.

For more information, see this reference on gum color and cat health: https://www.vetwest.com.au/pet-library/gum-colour-and-your-cats-health/

What Reddit Says About Cat Gum Color

Reddit can provide helpful anecdotes and advice from cat owners who have encountered black gums in their cats.

In one post on r/cat, a Redditor asked for help identifying black spots in their cat’s mouth (source). Commenters identified it as lentigo simplex, a benign condition causing black spots on gums and noses of cats. One commenter mentioned it’s common in orange cats and can become more noticeable with age.

On r/CATHELP, a Redditor asked if their cat’s red inflamed gums were normal (source). The responses indicated healthy cat gums should be light pink and reddened, inflamed gums signify dental issues needing veterinary attention.

The anecdotes provide examples of abnormal gum colors and the advice recommends seeing a vet for conditions like inflammation. This underscores the importance of monitoring gum health and seeking veterinary care if gums seem discolored or irritated.

When Black Gums Are Normal

In certain cat breeds, black gums can be completely normal. Breeds like the Bombay cat have naturally black gums due to melanin pigmentation. This pigmentation is genetic and not a cause for concern. Senior cats may also develop darker gums as they age. This is referred to as lentigo and is a benign condition. While alarming at first glance, black gums in these cases are a natural variation and not a symptom of any underlying disease. According to one veterinarian, “Black gums are normal in many cats: this is often just normal pigmentation and does not require any treatment.”

Sources:

https://blog.catbandit.com/can-cats-gums-be-black-understanding-the-causes-and-treatment-options/

https://www.quora.com/Should-I-be-worried-if-my-cats-gums-have-turned-black

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