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Ask a Vet: Colors can alert owners of pets illness
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Shakespeare told us a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

I have some patients named Rose that smell like nachos. I also have patients with names such as Blue, Red, Brownie and Magenta. I love to see strange pet names, but these point out how important color is.

Some disease processes are overrepresented in animals with certain coat color patterns. It’s hypothesized the genetic sources for these diseases are located on areas of DNA close to the genes that encode hair color. Hence, if you get White Shaker Dog Syndrome, the name usually fits.

Certain color patterns for dachshunds seem to be more associated with vaccine reaction risk. Animals with muted hair coats (they look faded, like a muted calico looking gray instead of black in certain areas) can have patterns of hair loss that aren’t typical for nonmuted pets.

All of these things are genetic risks. Many blue pit bulls never get parvo thanks to responsible vaccination. Most buff cocker spaniels never get autoimmune blood disorders.

But knowing ahead of time if you could have an increased risk is a good idea. Do your research.

Now on to the color that matters in the short term. When you look at your pet, he or she is probably covered in hair. But look where there is no hair, and you may see an emergency.

Healthy gums should be a lovely pink color, not hot pink. If it is, you may have gum disease.

Redness increased above the background means some level of inflammation is present. This is certainly true for the eyes.

But what’s worse than hot pink? Purple. Purple gums and tongue may mean low blood oxygen. If your dog wasn’t born with a purple tongue, you may have an emergency.

White may be just as bad. Pronounced anemia or lack of blood can give white gums. Yellow eyes, ears, gums or skin could mean liver damage or a blood disorder. Familiarize yourself and be vigilant.

If your pet changes color, get to the vet immediately.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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