Black or very dark gums in an old cat can be a sign of cancer, but can also signal dental problems.

The older the cat, the more likely that very dark gums are related to cancer.

“Usually as cats age, starting from age two their gums will begin to darken, and eventually a senior cat may have black gums,” says world-renowned integrative veterinarian Carol Osborne, DVM, at Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic, and creator of PAAWS: Pet Anti-Aging Wellness System for dogs and cats.

“This blackening can be related to plaque and tartar build in your cat’s mouth. The gradual blackening of your cat’s gums is normal.”

Plaque and bacteria can lead to black or dark brown gums. For instance, small food particles can get trapped inside your cat’s gum lines, leading to inflammation and a darkening color.

Over time, the stuck food builds up bacteria, leading to plaque buildup on the teeth. Plaque then interacts with saliva, causing tartar.

This plaque and tartar accumulation, combined with long-enough time lapse, influences the degree of darkening. Obviously, an old cat has had a long time to develop this buildup.

When Can Black Gums in a Cat Mean Cancer?

Dr. Osborne explains, “However if you notice a rapid or sudden discoloration then your should bring your cat to your veterinarian immediately, as sudden changes in gum color can be signs of a more serious problem such as cancer.”

Cancers that can arise in a cat’s mouth include melanoma (very rare), squamous cell carcinoma (most common oral feline cancer) and gingival fibrosarcoma.

Cancer won’t suddenly turn the entire surface area of the gums black or dark, but can cause affected areas to be black or very dark.

Often there are other symptoms such as:

• Sudden change in eating preference

• Sudden change in sleeping position

• Batting at the mouth with a paw

• New-onset drooling

• Bad breath

• Blood from the mouth

• Loose teeth

• Difficulty eating

It’s critical to regularly examine your cat’s gums for blackening. Don’t think that a dental problem can’t be serious.

Though not life-threatening, dental origins of black gums may still be severe enough to require treatment, such as if they’re leading to cracked, browned teeth and bad breath.

For more information on cancer as a possible cause of black gums in your older cat, you can contact Dr. Osborne’s clinic at (866)-372-2765.

Dr. Osborne is a world-renowned integrative veterinarian and a pioneer in anti-aging medicine and longevity research for pets. She holds dog and cat scientific patents.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.