What Do Black Spots on Dogs’ Gums Mean?

Question: My dog ​​has a black mole in his mouth that is growing. Should I be worried?

My dog ​​Maverick has a mole in his mouth that gets bigger as he gets older. Should I have it checked?

-Michael

Close-up of a dog's face with its mouth open showing a mysterious black spot on its gums

To respond:

Dear Michael,

Thank you for submitting your question on Maverick! Anytime you notice a change in your pet, I think it’s a good idea to have it checked out by a veterinarian. Flat black spots on the gums of dogs can be normal, but it would be a good idea to confirm that it is a normal spot with your veterinarian, especially since it has grown larger.

Sometimes these flat black spots can grow normally as a dog ages. Sometimes black spots on the gumline can be a sign of something worse. Black spots that are raised or growing in size can be a sign of melanoma, a type of oral cancer, but this is less common, especially in a young dog. I will describe what can potentially cause black spots on a dog’s gums and what you should do about it.

What causes blackheads in a dog’s mouth?

1. Normal pigmentation

Most often, a black spot in a dog’s mouth is caused by normal pigment. Melanin is a natural pigment that can cause areas of the skin, gums, nose, or tongue to appear black. These spots will be flat and usually will not change in size. Sometimes, as a dog ages, these flat black spots can grow larger, but the growth is usually slow. These spots are considered normal, similar to a birthmark or freckles in humans, and may be more common in certain breeds of dogs. The Chow Chow and the Shar Pei are two breeds known for their blackheads in the mouth.

2. Oral melanoma

Oral melanoma is another cause of black spots on a dog’s gumline. It is a type of malignant cancer of the mouth. Usually, melanoma appears as a raised lesion on the gums. Melanoma lesions will continue to grow over time and you may also notice bad breath or odor coming from your dog’s mouth.

3. Dental disease

Dental disease can also darken a dog’s gums. These dark spots can appear on the gumline around an infected tooth or dental disease. Other signs of dental disease include tooth loss, bad breath, and tartar buildup. To maintain healthy teeth, it is advisable to brush your dog’s teeth daily with a specific dog toothpaste and soft bristle toothbrush.

When should I take my dog ​​to the vet for blackheads on the gums?

Anytime you notice a change in your dog, it’s a good idea to speak with a veterinarian. I think it’s especially important to get a black spot on the gums checked if it’s:

  • Grow in size
  • Raised
  • Sore
  • Stinking
  • Cause any other symptoms

Some Final Thoughts

Most often, flat black spots on the gums are normal areas of dark pigment. Usually these spots stay the same size, but sometimes they can grow as your dog ages. Rarely, blackheads can be caused by more serious issues like melanoma or dental disease. Because your dog’s black spot on the gumline has grown bigger, I think it would be a good idea to have it checked out by your vet just to be sure. Good luck with your adorable pup, and thank you so much for submitting your question.

Sincerely,

Addie Reinhard, DVM

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