What Does It Mean When a Dog Has a Black Roof Mouth

what does it mean when a dog has a black roof mouth

Black roof mouth, also known as “black mouth cur syndrome,” is a trait in some dog breeds.

In these breeds, the roof of the mouth has black or dark pigmented spots or patches. This dark pigmentation of the oral mucosa is considered a breed trait in several dogs.  

The term “black roof mouth” comes from the visual appearance of dark coloring on the roof or palate of the dog’s mouth.

When the mouth is opened, the dark spots or patches are visible on an otherwise pink oral cavity. While called black roof mouth, the pigmentation can range from dark brown to black.

The black or dark patches result from microscopic melanin granules within the tissue of the oral mucosa.

This concentrated pigmentation is similar to freckles or beauty marks in humans. However, in dogs, the melanin deposits occur internally on the palate rather than externally on the skin.

The black roof mouth trait occurs in specific dog breeds and mixes. It is considered normal and harmless in these dogs.

There are no health problems associated with superficial black roof mouth pigmentation alone. However, responsible breeding is still essential, especially in certain breeds prone to other genetic conditions.


The black or dark coloring on the roof of a dog’s mouth is caused by pigmentation. Just like people have different skin and hair colors based on genetics, the inside of a dog’s mouth may be black or pink based on pigment.  

There are a few factors that contribute to a dog having a black or dark mouth:

  • Genetics – Certain breeds are predisposed to having black pigment inside the mouth due to their genetic lineage. This is a very common reason for dogs like Collies, Chow Chows, and Shar Peis to have black roofs on their mouth. The pigmentation is passed down genetically in these breeds.
  • Mixed breeding – When dogs of breeds with black mouths are mixed with other breeds, the offspring may inherit the dark pigmentation. For example, a mix between a Chow Chow and a Labrador Retriever may result in puppies with dark roofs of the mouth.
  • Health conditions – In some cases, black pigmentation in a dog’s mouth may indicate an underlying health issue such as Addison’s disease or endocrine disorders. The dark coloring is caused by increased adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). A veterinary examination is required to rule out these conditions.
  • Normal pigmentation – Many healthy dogs have black or dark mouths due to normal genetic pigmentation and breed characteristics. This coloring is considered entirely normal as long as no other symptoms exist.

The extent of pigmentation, location of black spotting, and shade of color can vary greatly from dog to dog based on breeding and genetics.

But in most cases, a dog with a black roof of the mouth is perfectly healthy. Proper veterinary care is still advised to rule out potential issues if accompanied by other symptoms. The dark pigment is primarily attributed to the dog’s natural genetic makeup.

Breeds Prone to Black Roof Mouth

Certain dog breeds are more likely to have black pigmentation on the roofs of their mouths. This trait is prevalent in breeds originating from China, such as:

  • Chow Chow—One of the most well-known black-roof mouth breeds, Chow Chows almost always have black pigment covering the roof of their mouths and tongues, making their mouths appear almost entirely black. This is considered a very distinguishing feature of the breed.
  • Chinese Shar-Peis are also famous for their black mouths, which have black pigmentation across the roof of their mouths and tongues. A solid black mouth is a desirable feature of the breed standard.
  • Beauceron – This French herding breed is prone to having black spotting, freckles, or solid black pigmentation in their mouth. Complete black roofs are permitted according to the breed standard. Beaucerons may also sometimes have black lips.

Other breeds that may exhibit black roof mouths include Keeshond, Belgian Shepherd, German Shepherd, and Schipperke.

However, the condition appears most uniformly in Chow Chows and Chinese Shar-Peis. A black roof of the mouth is a typical trait for these breeds.


A dog with a black roof mouth has a distinctive dark coloring on the roof of the mouth, gums, and lips. This is caused by hyperpigmentation, where melanin deposits cause darker pigmentation.  

The roof of the mouth is charcoal grey or black instead of the usual pink. The gums near the teeth and around the lips also appear dark grey, black, or mottled. When the mouth is closed, the darker lips stand out against the fur. 

The contrast of the black mouth against the tongue can be quite striking when the dog pants or yawns.

The degree of pigmentation varies between breeds – some may have just a few dark spots or patches, while the entire palate can be black in other dogs.

The pigmentation is limited to the mouth and does not affect the coat or eye color. A black roof mouth can appear in dogs with any coat color or fur type.

It does not signify any particular breed. Apart from the distinctive intraoral hues, the dog typically seems normal on the outside.

Health Considerations

A black roof of the mouth is often harmless but can sometimes indicate an underlying health condition. Some associated conditions to be aware of include:

  • Melanin pigmentation: The black coloring is caused by increased melanin pigmentation. This is considered benign and does not negatively impact the dog’s health.
  • Albinism: A lack of pigment in the fur, skin, and eyes may be coupled with increased pigment in the mouth. Albino dogs require diligent sun protection.
  • Chow Chow ancestry: Chow Chows often have black mouths and tongues. These dogs are prone to specific health issues, such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and entropion. 
  • Autoimmune disorders: In rare cases, blackmouth may indicate disorders like Addison’s disease or oral melanosis. Ask your vet about screening tests.
  • Dental issues: Dogs with black mouths may be prone to periodontal disease. Regular tooth brushing, dental chews, and professional cleanings are advised. The dark mouth makes it harder to spot dental problems visually.

Discuss any potential concerns with your veterinarian. Most blackmouth dogs remain healthy, but monitoring for associated conditions is wise.

Alert your vet if you notice any worrisome symptoms arise. With proper care, dogs with black roofs of the mouth can live long, high-quality lives.

Care and Management

Proper care and management are vital for dogs with black roofs of the mouth. This includes regular dental care, grooming, and a healthy diet.

Dental Care

  • Brush your dog’s teeth at least 2-3 times per week using dog-safe toothpaste. Pay extra attention to the back teeth, where plaque buildup often occurs.
  • Schedule annual dental cleanings with your veterinarian to remove tartar and prevent periodontal disease. Dogs with black gums and roofs of the mouth may be more prone to plaque buildup.
  • Provide chew toys and treats to help exercise the jaw muscles and reduce plaque. Look for toys and treats formulated specifically for dental health.


  • Brush your dog’s coat 1-2 times weekly to remove loose hair and distribute skin oils. Be gentle around sensitive areas like the belly, ears, and paws.  
  • Trim nails every 2-3 weeks to prevent overgrowth and splitting. Avoid cutting too short, which can cause pain and bleeding.
  • Check and wipe clean your dog’s ears weekly to prevent infections. Look for excess wax, redness, or foul odors, which may indicate a problem.


  • Feed your dog a high-quality commercial or home-cooked diet appropriate for their age, size, and activity level. 
  • For home-cooked meals, consult your vet to ensure proper nutritional balance.
  • Provide proportion-controlled meals rather than free-feeding to prevent overeating and obesity.
  • Give treats sparingly, limiting to 10% of total daily calories.
  • Ensure a constant supply of fresh water. Clean water dishes regularly.

Proper care in these areas will help keep your black-roof-mouth dog healthy and happy. Consult your veterinarian with any questions or concerns.


Dogs with black roofs of the mouth tend to have similar personalities and temperaments despite the wide variety of breeds they originate from.

These dogs are known for being very affectionate and loyal companions. They form strong bonds with their owners and aim to please them, making them relatively easy to train. 

Black roof mouth dogs are energetic and benefit from daily exercise and playtime. Due to their working dog roots, they appreciate having a job or task on which to focus their intelligence.

Activities like fetch, hiking, agility courses, and learning tricks are ideal outlets for their energy.

While lively and excitable sometimes, these dogs also have an off-switch indoors. They are happy to curl up on the sofa or at your feet after their exercise needs are met.

Early socialization and training can curb any wariness around strangers or other dogs. With a proper introduction, dogs usually get along well with children, other pets, and visitors.

Their protective instincts make them excellent watchdogs that tell you when someone is approaching.

The black roof mouth signifies an intelligent, devoted, enthusiastic canine companion. These dogs thrive when given daily mental and physical stimulation paired with plenty of quality time and affection from their owners. With proper care and training, they make lovely family pets.

Life Expectancy

Many factors influence a dog’s life expectancy, including overall health, breed size, and pedigree.

Dogs with black roof mouths typically have an expected lifespan comparable to other dogs of their breed that do not have this oral pigmentation. 

The black roof of the mouth itself does not directly impact longevity or shorten a dog’s expected life span.

However, some breeds prone to developing black roof mouths may have shorter average lifespans due to their breed size and related health conditions.

For example, Great Danes and Boxers are two larger breeds prone to black-roof mouth. On average, Great Danes live 6-8 years, while Boxers live 8-10 years.

These shorter-than-average lifespans are tied to their larger breed size, not specifically to having a black roof of the mouth.

With good preventative veterinary care, a nutritious diet, exercise, and attentive ownership, dogs with black-roof mouths can live a healthy lifespan.

Many factors influence longevity, but pigmentation does not inherently impact how long a dog lives. The key is providing excellent care tailored to the individual dog’s breed and health needs.

Finding a Black Roof Mouth Dog

For those interested in welcoming one of these unique dogs into their home, here are some tips on finding a black roof mouth dog:


  • Research breeders carefully to find those who prioritize health and temperament over looks. Reputable breeders will screen for genetic issues common in the breed.
  • Ask to meet parent dogs to get a sense of temperament. Avoid breeders who won’t let you meet the parents.
  • A good breeder will interview you to ensure their puppies go to good homes. Be prepared for questions about your lifestyle and experience with dogs.
  • Expect to be put on a waitlist. Reputable breeders often have long waitlists for their puppies. 


  • Check with local shelters and breed-specific rescues to adopt an adult black-roof-mouth dog. Adopting can be rewarding and helps dogs in need find a forever home.
  • Unlike a puppy, an adopted adult dog’s personality will be apparent. Its exercise needs and grooming requirements will also be predictable.
  • Ask shelters about the dog’s history and past behavior. Be honest about what temperament and activity level you can handle.


  • From a breeder, black roof mouth puppies typically cost $500-$2000 depending on the breed, pedigree, and location. 
  • Adopting from a shelter often costs under $500, which includes medical care, spay/neuter, and vaccines.
  • Remember to budget for ongoing costs of food, supplies, vet care, grooming, training, and other expenses of dog ownership.


A black roof mouth in dogs refers to having black pigmentation on the roof of the mouth and gums. This pigmentation is common in several breeds like Chow Chows, Shar-Peis, and Tibetan Mastiffs. While mostly a cosmetic trait, it can be associated with some health considerations.

The black pigment stems from higher levels of eumelanin. It is present from birth and tends to become more noticeable as a dog ages.

Some inherited traits and genes contribute to a dog being predisposed to developing a black-roof mouth.  

The pigmentation is permanent and cannot be altered. It does not cause any discomfort or issues with eating.

However, dogs with excessive pigment may be more prone to mouth tumors. Their dark gums can also mask signs of illness, like pale gums from anemia.  

Proper oral care and regular veterinary dental exams are essential, especially for heavy-pigmented breeds.

Black-roof-mouth dogs can live long, healthy lives with a good home and dental care. Mouth pigmentation does not affect their personality and temperament.

A black roof mouth has a distinctive look but does not negatively impact dogs. Being aware of associated health considerations allows owners to provide the best care.

The breed traits and adorable smiles of black-mouth roof dogs make them excellent companions.

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