What are Blue Skin and Mucus Membranes?
The mucus membranes of your dog include the inner cheeks and gums. The color should be pink and moist. If you notice that your dog has blue or purple gums or skin, check the bottom of your dog’s feet. If the footpads are the same bluish color, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian right away. Blue skin and mucus membranes, or cyanosis, is caused by a decrease in oxygen. This is usually a result of an underlying condition that affects the production and distribution of hemoglobin. Since this is more of a symptom than an individual disease, the actual condition that is causing the blue skin and mucus membranes has to be found and treated. Unfortunately, the most common cause of cyanosis is lung disease, which is usually advanced by the time your dog shows any of the symptoms.
Blue skin and mucus membranes in a dog characterized by a blue or purplish-red tint seen in the dog’s inner cheeks and gums. This change in color of the mucus membranes is because of a lack of oxygen to the dog’s blood caused by an underlying disorder. Blue skin and mucus membranes are most often concurrent with difficulty breathing and other respiratory distress, such as coughing.
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Symptoms of Blue Skin and Mucus Membranes in Dogs
Because blue skin and mucus membranes is a condition itself, it may be difficult to recognize signs. Some of the symptoms are:
- Loud hawking coughing
- Breathing problems
- Cold skin
- Trouble walking
- Noisy breathing
- Difficult inhalation
- Heart sounds faint or muted
- Blue foot pads
Respiratory system peripheral cyanosis is described as low oxygen in the blood in a certain area of your dog’s body, such as one leg or foot.
Central cyanosis is the low oxygenation of all of the blood in your dog’s entire body, causing difficulty in breathing.
Causes of Blue Skin and Mucus Membranes in Dogs
Respiratory System Peripheral Cyanosis
This is most often caused by a blood clot cutting off the blood flow to a certain part of your dog’s body. Although a young pup can have blue skin in a certain area of the body if he or she has a congenital or inherited heart disease, considered right to left shunting in the heart. With this condition, blood is bypassing your dog’s lungs when circulating, and does not get enough oxygen to oxygenate the entire body. Here are some other causes of peripheral cyanosis:
- Low body temperature (hypothermia) from exposure to cold
- Shock from serious injury
- Traumatic incident
- Lung infection or disease
- Decreased supply of blood to the lungs
- Improper lung function
- Chemical ingestion (medicines, household cleaners)
Cardiovascular System Central Cyanosis
- Congenital heart defect
- Heart malformation (Tetralogy of Fallot)
- Pulmonary artery disease or blockage
- Right ventricle enlargement
- Blood clot
Neuromusculoskeletal System Central Cyanosis
- Brain damage from injury, cancer, spontaneous bleeding, infection
- Paralyzation from a tick bite
- Accidental overmedication of certain medicines
- Ingestion of medication or household chemical
- Spinal swelling or break
Diagnosis of Blue Skin and Mucus Membranes in Dogs
Your veterinarian will do a complete and thorough physical examination and get your dog’s vital signs. The veterinarian will also ask for your dog’s history, symptoms, and when you noticed these symptoms. Several diagnostic tests are necessary as well to determine the cause of the blue skin and mucus membranes:
- Blood gas and chemistry panel
- Electrolyte level check
- Digital radiographs (x-rays) of your dog’s chest and abdomen
- Pulse oximetry check
The veterinarian will do the same tests for central cyanosis as for peripheral cyanosis. He may also decide to do a laryngoscopy and bronchoscopy exam if he suspects there is a lung problem. A needle aspiration may also be used to extract tissue or fluid from the lungs to be tested.
Treatment of Blue Skin and Mucus Membranes in Dogs
Blue skin and mucus membranes are always treated immediately by giving your dog oxygen therapy. The veterinarian may also administer diuretics, steroids, and antibiotics. IV fluids will also be given to help increase your dog’s blood pressure and blood oxygenation. Further treatment will depend on the cause of the blue skin and mucus membranes. If your dog has heart disease of a defect, surgery will be necessary for successful recovery. This is a major surgery that is not without risks, which can be fatal, but without surgery, there is a small chance of survival.
If the problem is from a toxin or medication, your dog will be given further oxygen therapy while administering methylene blue to counteract the chemical. If necessary, your veterinarian may decide to perform a blood transfusion. This procedure has a low risk level since the transfusion is done in the office. Respiratory problem treatment depends on the cause of the problem. If it is an infection, antibiotics will be administered. Diuretics, such as Lasix, will be used for fluid build-up in the lungs. Your veterinarian may also perform a thoracentesis to remove the fluid from the chest cavity.
Recovery of Blue Skin and Mucus Membranes in Dogs
Once the underlying issue is found and treated, your dog should be restored to good health again and be ready to go home. It is important to continue to monitor your dog’s breathing and provide him with plenty of exercise to stay healthy. A healthy diet is also essential to your dog’s future health. Your veterinarian will set an appointment with you to bring your dog in for a check-up in about one or two weeks. Be sure to keep that appointment and follow up with annual check-ups to keep your dog healthy.
Blue Skin and Mucus Membranes Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I took my dog to the lake not realizing that I should have checked the water for possible blue green algae. It wasn’t until we were leaving the park that a sign read to look for signs of the algae before leaving. I am concerned he could have swallowed to much water and may get sick. I bathed him, fed him, and gave him fresh water and he seems his typical self. How long should I be on the lookout for any possible symptoms?
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