How to Check Your Dog or Cat's Blood Circulation

Color of Skin & Gums / Capillary Refill Test

Because skin tone is difficult to see through all the fur, veterinarians use the color of the mucus membranes, like the ‘whites’ of the eyes and the gums above the teeth to gauge a pet’s health.  For gums, the normal color is pink - anything else calls for immediate veterinary attention or first-aid care.

If your pet has pigmented gums, try to find a non-pigmented pink spot on his gums or lips to use as a test area.  If you can’t find a pink spot there, you will need to go south to the vulva or prepuce (the fold of skin on the end of the penis).

Gum Color:

The following is a guide to what the color of your pet’s gums can mean:


Gum Color Chart for Dogs and Cats

Capillary Refill Test:

Capillaries are tiny blood vessels that give the gums their normal pink color.  You can test the condition of your pet’s blood circulation by doing a capillary refill test.  Here’s how:

  • Lift your pet’s upper lip and press your finger against a non-pigmented pink spot.  This temporarily stops the blood flow to that area.
  • Quickly remove your finger and you will see a white mark on the gum where your finger was.  Count how many seconds it takes for the pink color to return to that white spot – that is the capillary refill time.


The following is a guide to assess your pet’s condition using the capillary refill test:

Chart of Capillary Refill Times for Dogs and Cats