Black Gums in Cats. What It Means and What To Do

Recognizing the Symptom

Healthy cat gums are typically light pink in color. The ideal shade is one that is neither too bright nor too pale. Some variation in gum color is normal among cats (https://www.vetwest.com.au/pet-library/gum-colour-and-your-cats-health/).

However, if your cat’s gums appear black or very dark in color, this indicates a serious medical issue. Black gums signify that blood is not circulating properly to the gums and surrounding tissue (https://blog.petwellbeing.com/do-my-cats-gums-look-normal-heres-how-to-tell).

Other concerning symptoms to watch for along with black gums include lethargy, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, rapid breathing, and collapse. These require urgent veterinary care.

Potential Causes

There are several potential causes that could lead to a cat having black gums:

Shock or low blood pressure can reduce blood circulation and oxygen, causing gums to turn dark or blackish. Common causes include trauma, blood loss, dehydration, or certain medications. Prompt veterinary care is crucial (Cats Inn).

Circulatory disorders like heart disease or blood clots can impair blood flow and oxygen to gums and other tissues. Cardiac issues should be evaluated by a vet as soon as possible.

Significant blood loss or anemia reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, which can make gums appear dark or blackish. Potential causes include injury, parasites, clotting disorders, or immune disorders, all requiring prompt veterinary care (Quora).

Exposure to certain toxins or poisons can also cause blackened gums. Toxins may come from plants, chemicals, or medications. Poison control or emergency vet care is needed immediately.

First Aid

If you notice your cat’s gums are black, it’s important to provide first aid while you determine the underlying cause and seek veterinary care. Here are some initial steps you can take:

Warmth – Low body temperature can reduce blood circulation, leading to black gums. Gently wrap your cat in a blanket to help increase blood flow and warm its body. Focus on warming the paws and ears.

Hydration – Dehydration can also contribute to poor circulation. Offer your cat fresh water frequently. You can also try offering low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth to encourage fluid intake.

Check for other symptoms – Look for signs like lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea. Note the color of any discharge as well.

Comfort – Speak gently and pet your cat to help lower stress levels while you monitor its condition.

Black gums warrant an emergency vet visit, but providing initial warmth, hydration, and comfort can help until you can be seen.

Emergency Vet Visit

Black gums are a medical emergency and require immediate veterinary attention (source). If a cat’s gums suddenly turn black or dark purple, do not wait to see if they improve. Take the cat to an emergency vet clinic right away, even in the middle of the night (source). A veterinarian needs to determine the underlying cause and start treatment immediately.

Possible reasons for black gums include internal bleeding, severe anemia, shock, and poisoning. Without rapid treatment, the cat is at high risk of organ damage or death (source). The veterinarian will likely hospitalize the cat for supportive care like IV fluids and oxygen. Specific treatment depends on the diagnosis but may involve a blood transfusion or medications.

Do not attempt home remedies if a cat has black gums. This is a crisis requiring professional veterinary assessment and care. Every minute counts, so emergency transportation is recommended if needed. With aggressive treatment, many cats can recover fully if brought for care promptly when black gums are first noticed.

Diagnostic Tests

If a veterinarian suspects your cat’s black gums are a sign of an underlying issue, they will likely perform several diagnostic tests. These may include:

These tests allow the vet to pinpoint the underlying cause of the black gums and guide appropriate treatment.

Treatments

If your cat is diagnosed with a condition causing its black gums, the vet may recommend various treatments depending on the underlying cause. Some common treatments include:

IV fluids – Fluids given intravenously can help restore blood volume and increase blood pressure in cats with conditions like anemia or shock. This helps stabilize the cat and improves oxygen delivery.

Blood transfusion – In severe anemia cases, a blood transfusion from a donor cat may be necessary to rapidly increase red blood cell levels. This quickly improves the transport of oxygen in the blood.

Oxygen therapy – Oxygen given through a face mask, cage, or nasal cannula can be used to treat respiratory distress. This increases oxygen saturation in the blood when the cat is having trouble breathing.

Medications – Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, immune system modulators, pain relievers, and other medications may be prescribed depending on the condition. These help resolve infections, reduce inflammation, modulate the immune response, and manage pain.

Underlying Conditions

There are several underlying health conditions that can cause black gums in cats:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition where the number of red blood cells or hemoglobin is abnormally low. This reduces the ability for blood to carry oxygen throughout the body. Anemia can make a cat’s gums appear pale, gray, or black (Source: https://www.quora.com/Should-I-be-worried-if-my-cats-gums-have-turned-black). There are several potential causes of anemia including blood loss, destruction of red blood cells, or inadequate production of new red blood cells. Diagnostic tests like a complete blood count can check for anemia. Treatment depends on the underlying cause but may include supplements, medications, blood transfusions, or dietary changes.

Cancer

Oral cancer, especially squamous cell carcinoma, can cause black spots or discoloration on a cat’s gums and mouth. Tumors in the mouth often lead to ulcers, bleeding, pain, and bad breath (Source: https://blog.catbandit.com/can-cats-gums-be-black-understanding-the-causes-and-treatment-options/). Biopsies are needed to confirm cancer. Treatments include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or medication to control pain and infection. Addressing it quickly is important, as oral cancer tends to be aggressive in cats.

Circulatory Disorders

Problems with blood circulation can also cause black gums. Heart disease, low blood pressure, blood clots, or vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels) reduces blood flow to the gums, causing them to darken or appear bruised. Diagnostic imaging, bloodwork, and other veterinary exams help identify the underlying circulatory issue. Managing the condition involves medications, dietary changes, or sometimes surgery.

Prevention

There are some steps cat owners can take to help prevent their cat’s gums from turning black:

Avoid toxins: Keep your cat away from toxins like antifreeze, pesticides, and toxic plants that could cause gum problems if ingested. Store chemicals and medications securely out of your cat’s reach.1

Proper parasite control: Use monthly flea, tick and heartworm prevention medications as prescribed by your veterinarian. Parasites like heartworms can cause serious gum disease.2

Monitor for signs of illness: Check your cat’s gums, mouth and teeth regularly for any abnormalities. Seek veterinary care if you notice signs of gum disease like red, swollen or bleeding gums, bad breath, loose teeth or other oral issues.3

Outlook

The prognosis for a cat with black gums depends on the underlying cause. In many cases, black gums are treatable if prompt veterinary care is provided. However, some of the potential causes can be very serious.

For feline stomatitis or gingivitis, the prognosis is good if inflammation is treated early before it progresses. With medications, pain management, and sometimes dental extractions, most cats respond well. The condition often goes into remission, especially if caught before it becomes severe.

Melanomas and oral cancer tend to have poorer prognoses, as they may metastasize or spread quickly. Aggressive treatment like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy may prolong life, but average survival time is less than a year. However, cats can live comfortably for many months with proper care.

Bacterial, viral or fungal infections have a good prognosis if treated promptly with medications. The gums should return to a healthy pink color once the infection clears.

Overall, black gums should never be ignored. At the first sign, take your cat to the vet for an exam. With appropriate treatment guided by the underlying cause, many cats with black gums recover well and can live happily for years.

When to Seek Help

If you notice your cat’s gums turning black or dark in color, it’s important to have them examined by a veterinarian right away. This symptom may indicate a serious underlying issue that needs prompt medical attention. Some key points on when to seek emergency vet care for black cat gums:

  • See a vet immediately if your cat’s gums are black, purple, blue or gray in color. These dark gum colors signify a lack of blood circulation or oxygen.
  • Seek emergency care if the gums are cold to the touch, which can mean shock or circulatory failure.
  • Rapid gum color change over hours or days also warrants an urgent vet visit to diagnose the cause.
  • In addition to gum discoloration, lethargy, collapse, breathing trouble or other concerning symptoms require emergency vet assessment.
  • Don’t wait to see if the black gums improve on their own. Prompt vet examination and treatment is essential.

Dark discolored gums indicate a serious health problem, so don’t hesitate to get veterinary help. Call your vet or an emergency animal hospital right away if your cat has black, purple, blue or gray gums. Fast action can be crucial for your cat’s recovery and survival.

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