1. Keep the animal calm as excitement and exertion can exacerbate signs.
  2. Cover the animal in a blanket. If very cold, treat as per hypothermia [see section on hypothermia].
  3. Seek veterinary attention immediately.


Pallor refers to pale gums or mucous membranes. In most animals (with the exception of those with pigmented gums) the gums and oral cavity are normally a healthy pink colour, similar to that of humans. This colouration is due to well-oxygenated blood circulating in the vessels.

Pale gums or pallor can indicate serious underlying disease.


Signs depend on the underlying cause, but animals may exhibit:

  • Pale to blue-tinged gums (cyanosis)
  • White gums are typically a sign of life-threatening blood loss.
  • Pale skin, paw pads, tongue, eyes
  • Slow refill (when the gums are blanched by contact the colour takes more than two seconds to return)
  • Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Low body temperature (often indicated by cold extremities)
  • Often affected animals are collapsed


  • Causes of pallor can be categorised as poor perfusion of these areas, or anaemia (low numbers of circulating red blood cells).
  • Causes of poor perfusion include:
    • Shock
    • Hypothermia
    • Pain
    • Cardiovascular disease (for example, congestive heart failure or pericardial effusion, an accumulation of fluid in the sac which surrounds the heart).
  • Causes of anaemia include:
    • Haemorrhage (loss of blood externally or internally)
    • Red blood cell destruction by an underlying disease process (such as infection, immune mediated disease or a toxin)


Veterinary care depends on the underlying cause. Your veterinarian may provide additional oxygen to your pet and recommend diagnostic tests including blood and urine tests, x-rays and ultrasound. Intravenous fluids may be administered and blood or plasma transfusions may be required.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause.


Macintire DK, Drobatz KJ, Haskins SC and Saxon WD (2006) Manual of small animal emergency and critical care medicine. Oxford: Blackwell.