Sitting and tickling our Cavapoo Rosie’s belly on the sofa the other night, my fingers grazed a pimple like bump. At first I thought it was a bit of dirt but on closer inspection it turned out to be a nipple. This got me thinking, how many nipples do dogs have and just why do they have them at all?
So, how many nipples do dogs have? The number of nipples that your dog has is around 6-10 in total, regardless of their breed, gender or age. Most dogs have two rows of nipples and they tend to come in pairs, although there may be times when the number of teats is not always equal.
If, like me, you are fascinated with biology and want to know more about why your dog needs nipples, where on the body they are located and the health issues that can affect your dog’s teats, then check out our informative blog below…
Why do dogs have nipples?
Your dog’s nipples grow whilst they are in their mummy’s tummy so that they are already fully developed by the time they are born. This is regardless of whether your dog is a male or female.
For all female mammals, the main purpose of nipples are to produce milk in order for them to feed their young. For female dogs (otherwise referred to as bitches), their mammary glands swell up whilst they on heat or when they are lactating.
In order to be able to feed multiple pups at the same time, a female dog has many nipples. How many nipples a dogs has is really quite random, with some having as few as 5-6 teats, whilst other male and female dogs can have as many as 12!
For dogs, such as Rosie, who have already been spayed, their nipples tend to be considerably smaller and lie close to the skin – which is probably why they have gone unnoticed to me all this time.
Where are dog nipples located?
Since our dogs are covered in fur and their nipples small in size, these little bumps can often be quite hard to spot.
However, the next time that your dog is lying on their back, take a peek at their underbelly and you will see two rows of nipples fairly evenly distributed on the left and right hand sides of their body.
Your dog’s nipples should generally start in the groin area, quite low down, and move up the dog’s belly and along two chains of mammary glands.
As a dogs breast tissue usually lies flat against the stomach, the nipples themselves will protrude but only slightly and due to this, owners often mistaken their dog’s nipples for ticks or moles.
Why do male dogs have nipples?
Just like us humans, male dogs are also born with nipples, although they serve no purpose. This is because the nipples grow whilst the dog is developing in the womb, even before the genitalia starts to form.
How many nipples do male dogs have?
Male dogs have just as many nipples as female dogs do. However, because the mammary tissue of a male dog does not produce milk, the area will not become swollen. This means that a male dog’s nipples are usually small and squashed, and for this reason you may not notice them.
The average number of nipples that a male dog has is around 8-10, but a dog may have as many nipples as 12 in total – sometimes of an odd number.
What health issues affect dog nipples?
Extra precautions must be taken if swollen and discolored nipples are observed in dogs, as this may indicate an infection or a life-threatening medical condition.
If you dog has swollen nipples it could indicate:
Mammary cancer is a particular cause for concern, especially with intact, non-spayed females.
Mammary tumors appear as firm, nodular masses which when massaged may feel like small bumps under the skin.
The skin surrounding it may appear blotchy and inflamed whilst the nipples look swollen, red and may emit a local discharge or even bleed.
Mammary tumors can be benign or cancerous, but generally when detected and removed early enough by a veterinarian, do not continue to cause any long term concern.
It is important that you do not assume that your dog is immune from this condition just because they are male, as both male and female dogs can suffer from mammary cancer as well as female dogs that are already spayed (although this is less common).
Mastitis generally occurs in mother dogs who are nursing litters. However, just like mammary cancer, mastitis is non discriminate and can affect all dogs.
Mastitis is characterized by inflammation and pain of the mammary glands, and is caused by a bacterial infection. Symptoms to watch out for include lumpy, painful nipples, puppies that are reluctant to nurse, discolored milk, crying, dehydration and lethargy.
If your dog is experiencing galactostasis (otherwise known as caked breasts), it is harder to diagnose as your female dog will not be showing any signs. With this condition, the mammary glands are not infected but milk has started to accumulate, which can be incredibly painful for your dog.
If any of these symptoms sound or look familiar, then you should take your dog to the vet immediately, as if they are nursing, it can prove fatal for the puppies.
There are also a few different types of mammary lumps, some of which are completely harmless and other which are cancerous. It’s important to get any new lumps checked out by your vet before it causes a problem, or potentially spreads elsewhere in the body.
What to do if your dog has swollen nipples
If your dog experiences swollen nipples, it is essential to seek immediate veterinary assistance.
Usual assessment and treatment includes samples being taken from the affected nipple and fluid checked for any pus and bacteria. Your dog may also undergo a complete blood count to determine the severity of the mastitis.
An ultrasound may be required in order to investigate any potential tumors which may be difficult to spot to the naked eye.
If your dog is experiencing acute septic mastitis, then they are likely to be treated with prescribed antibiotics and compressions, which are applied to the swollen nipples.
If your vet suspects a mammary gland tumor may be present, then they might want to carry out a biopsy to diagnose whether it is benign or malignant. Other tests such as ultrasounds and x-rays can help determine how far the cancer has spread.
Surgery is the most effective form of treatment for a dog with a cancerous tumor, and the lump would need to be removed in order to prevent regrowth. Chemotherapy may also be recommended if the cancer is widespread and in its advanced stages.
How to prevent swollen dog nipples
Prevention is always better than cure, so it is important that you examine your dog’s teats regularly to check they are in good health. Dogs that are pregnant or nursing should have their nipples checked daily.
As mastitis commonly occurs when your dog has puppies it is important to make sure that their pups nails are not sharp and scratchy, as they are likely to claw at their mothers nipple in desperation for milk.
You should also ensure that the area in which your dog is nesting or feeding her puppies is well sanitized and that you have trimmed any hair surrounding your dog’s nipples in order to maintain cleanliness.
To discourage over-usage of the nipples, it is recommended that as a responsible owner you watch over your dog whilst her puppies nurse, and encourage them to feed from all nipples.
Finally, if you do notice that the nipples are starting to look a little sore, place a warm or cold gel compress wrapped in a cloth against them in order to soothe the area.
How much does it cost to treat swollen dog nipples?
The cost of medical conditions such as mastitis or a mammary gland tumor can vary depending on your location, veterinarian’s fees, the severity of your dog’s condition and the treatment required.
Although some conditions may be covered by your pet insurance policy, some may be exempt -especially if they relate to illnesses that occur because your dog is pregnant or has just given birth.
The cost of treating a dog with mastitis ranges anywhere from $300 to $800 or £200- £600 in the UK. Veterinary care for a mammary gland tumor is significantly more expensive due to the intensive and ongoing treatment required to help your dog recover.
Medical care for a mammary gland tumor can range from $900 to as high as $15000, whereas in the UK treatment starts at around £700+.
There are a whole load of questions that people ask when it comes to their dogs nipples. Here are just a few of the most popular!
Do dog nipples go away?
Your dog’s nipples will never disappear, but if you own a female dog then they are likely to be more prominent at certain life stages.
Whilst pregnant or in heat, the nipples will swell and enlarge. And, for a mother dog that is nursing puppies, they will become larger still as they are distended with milk. You may even notice them hanging down as she wanders around.
For nursing dogs this is absolutely normal, but the nipples should start to shrink back to normal size a week or so after the puppies have been weaned.
For female dogs that have been spayed at an early age, the nipples and mammary glands will be smaller and less visible than the nipples of an intact female.
Can the number of dog nipples predict the size of a litter?
The number of nipples your dog has, does not determine how many puppies they are like to have.
Both small and large dogs have similar amounts of teats, however breeds that are little in stature tend to only have a puppy or two, whereas larger breeds often produce more puppies. Our Cavapoo (which is classed as a small-medium size breed of dog) was one of six beautiful pups.
If you suspect that your dog is pregnant, rather than counting their nipples, you should take them to a vet who will perform an x-ray for a more accurate way of predicting the correct number of puppies.
Why do female dog nipples turn black?
Dog nipples comes in all shapes, sizes and colors and can range from whiteish pink through to brown and even black.
Your dog’s nipples tend to darken due to hormonal changes such as pregnancy or when coming into heat, but if you notice abnormal nipple discoloration, then it could be a sign that something in your dog’s body is amiss and veterinarian advice should be sought.
All dogs are born with a number of nipples (roughly between 6-10) and the role that they play for a large number of our canine friends is relatively insignificant – especially for male or female spayed dogs.
For female dogs that experience pregnancy (whether that is phantom or real), and for those mothers that go on to nurse puppies, nipples, however, play a very important role.
But regardless of whether your dog has an even or odd number of nipples and irrespective of whatever color they may be, we should keep a close eye on these little bumps, just incase they turn into sinister lumps.