Can Mastitis In Dogs Burst?

Table of Contents

What is Mastitis in Dogs?

Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary glands in female dogs that can occur with or without infection (source). It most commonly affects female dogs that are nursing puppies, but can also occur in dogs who are not lactating or pregnant.

There are two main causes of mastitis in dogs:

  • Bacterial infection – The most common cause where bacteria enters the teat and infects the mammary tissue (source). Common bacteria include Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and E. coli.
  • Physical trauma – Damage to the mammary tissue from bruising, cuts, or scratches. This allows bacteria on the skin’s surface to enter and cause infection.

Common symptoms of mastitis in dogs include:

  • Swelling, redness, and warmth of the mammary gland
  • Pain or discomfort of the mammary gland
  • Discharge from the nipples – can be milky, bloody, or purulent
  • Fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite
  • Difficulty nursing puppies

Can Mastitis in Dogs Burst?

Mastitis that goes untreated can progress to form an abscess in the mammary gland which may then burst and start draining pus [(])[(]. As mastitis worsens, the infected mammary gland becomes swollen, hard, and painful. The skin around the gland can become red and warm to the touch. In severe cases, the infected gland may develop a bluish color as the tissue dies. If left untreated, the abscess will eventually burst open and pus will drain from the mammary gland.

A burst abscess can provide some relief of pressure that has built up in the infected gland. However, it also allows bacteria to spread from the abscess into the surrounding tissue, bloodstream, and to other organs. This significantly increases the risk of sepsis, a life-threatening condition caused by the body’s response to a serious infection [(].

Other potential complications if mastitis is allowed to progress to a ruptured abscess include:

– Wound infections at the rupture site
– Spread of infection to other mammary glands
– Permanent damage and scarring of mammary tissue
– Recurring mastitis infections
– Gangrene and necrosis (death) of mammary tissue
– Chronic draining wound

Therefore, it is extremely important to seek prompt veterinary treatment for mastitis rather than waiting for an abscess to burst on its own. Aggressive treatment is required to stop the infection and prevent further complications.

Diagnosing Mastitis in Dogs

If a dog displays symptoms of mastitis, the veterinarian will perform a physical exam and run tests to confirm the diagnosis. The physical exam allows the vet to visually inspect the mammary glands for abnormalities. They will look for swelling, heat, pain, and discharge from the nipples. The veterinarian will palpate the mammary glands to feel for masses or fluid-filled areas which could indicate an infection.

To confirm the diagnosis, the vet may run several tests including:

These diagnostic tests along with a physical exam allow the veterinarian to confirm mastitis and determine the best course of treatment.

Treating Mastitis in Dogs

Treatment for mastitis in dogs usually involves a combination of antibiotics, draining any abscesses, pain medication, and other supportive care. Some key aspects of treatment include:

Antibiotics: Broad-spectrum antibiotics like amoxicillin are commonly prescribed to fight the bacterial infection causing the mastitis. Antibiotics may be given orally or by injection depending on the severity of the case. Antibiotics are typically given for 2-4 weeks (

Draining Abscesses: If abscesses or pockets of pus have formed in the mammary glands, the veterinarian may need to drain them. This is done by inserting a needle into the abscess to draw out the infected material. Draining abscesses helps remove the infection and reduces pain and swelling (

Pain Medication: Mastitis is extremely painful, so pain medication like NSAIDs or opiates may be prescribed. This helps keep the dog comfortable during treatment (

Other Supportive Care: Warm compresses, nutritional support, fluid therapy, and wound care may be part of the treatment plan. Good nursing care and monitoring helps support the dog’s recovery.

Home Care for Dogs with Mastitis

There are some things you can do at home to help care for a dog with mastitis and manage their pain and discomfort:

Keep the area clean. Gently clean the infected mammary gland(s) and nipple area with a warm, damp cloth. Do not scrub hard as this can further irritate the skin. Pat dry after cleaning. You can apply an antiseptic spray or ointment recommended by your veterinarian to help prevent infection.

Apply warm compresses. Soak a clean washcloth in warm water, wring out excess water, and apply to the affected mammary gland(s) for 5-10 minutes several times a day. This can help reduce swelling, pain, and inflammation. Be sure to use a comfortably warm, not hot, temperature [1].

Ensure the dog nurses puppies. If the mastitis occurs in a nursing dog, it is important she continues nursing to help drain the mammary glands and prevent further infection. The puppies will need to be treated too to prevent reinfection. Contact your vet if the dog refuses to nurse.

Give pain medication. Your vet may prescribe a dog-safe anti-inflammatory medication to help manage pain and swelling. Give this medication as directed.

Limit activity. Give the dog a quiet place to rest and avoid strenuous exercise until the mastitis has cleared up.

While home care can help, it’s important to follow up with your vet to ensure the mastitis is properly treated with antibiotics. Contact your vet if symptoms worsen or do not improve within a few days.

Preventing Mastitis in Dogs

There are several steps dog owners can take to help prevent mastitis in lactating female dogs:

Provide a clean and comfortable nursing area. Make sure bedding is changed out frequently to avoid bacterial growth. The nursing area should be warm, dry, and free of drafts.

Check the mammary glands frequently. Look for signs of engorgement, heat, redness, pain or hardness which could indicate early mastitis. Gentle massage can help express milk and prevent clogs.

Keep the breasts clean. Gently clean the mammary area after each nursing with warm water. Avoid using soaps or cleansers which could irritate the sensitive skin.

Allow the puppies to nurse often. Frequent nursing helps empty the breasts and prevent milk stasis which allows bacteria to grow.

Make sure puppies are latching on properly so the breasts are emptied. Consider assisting puppies too weak to nurse effectively.

Provide good nutrition. Feed a high quality diet and make sure the mother dog is eating and drinking normally after whelping.

Reduce stress. Mastitis risk increases with fatigue, poor sanitation, malnutrition, and stress. Help the mother dog remain calm and cared for.

Talk to your veterinarian about canine mastitis prevention. They can advise you on proper nursing technique, milk expression, weaning, and recognizing early symptoms.

While mastitis is common in lactating dogs, taking proper precautions and closely monitoring the mammary glands can help prevent many cases or catch it early.

Prognosis for Mastitis in Dogs

With prompt veterinary treatment, the prognosis for mastitis in dogs is generally good. Most dogs with mastitis respond well to antibiotic therapy and fully recover within 2-3 weeks (VCA Animal Hospitals). However, severe or advanced cases of mastitis can develop complications that may impact the prognosis.

Potential complications from mastitis include the spread of infection, abscess formation, tissue necrosis, and gangrene. These complications can be very serious and even life-threatening if left untreated. Dogs with signs of systemic illness, such as fever, lethargy, or loss of appetite, require immediate veterinary care as the infection may have spread to the bloodstream.

It is crucial to follow up with your veterinarian as recommended to monitor response to treatment. Report any worsening of symptoms or lack of improvement quickly. Dogs who do not respond to initial antibiotic treatment may need further diagnostics and a change in medication (WebMD). With close veterinary supervision and owner compliance, most dogs with mastitis can make a full recovery.

Mastitis in Dogs vs. Humans

There are some key similarities and differences between mastitis in dogs and mastitis in human mothers:


  • Both occur when bacteria enters the mammary glands, leading to infection and inflammation.
  • Symptoms in both dogs and humans include swelling, redness, pain, and pus/discharge from nipples.
  • It requires prompt veterinary/medical treatment with antibiotics and supportive care.
  • Mastitis can occur during lactation or unrelated to pregnancy/nursing.


  • Mastitis is more common in human mothers than dogs.
  • Dogs can get mastitis unrelated to pregnancy/lactation, while it is rare in human mothers.
  • Dogs may sometimes need surgical drainage or mastectomy, which is very rare in human medicine.
  • Antibiotic regimens may differ between species.
  • Milk culture and sensitivity is recommended in dogs but not humans.

While there are some variances, mastitis has core similarities in pathological process and treatment principles across species. Close communication with a veterinarian is key to effectively managing mastitis in dogs.


When to See a Veterinarian

If your dog is showing any signs of mastitis, it’s important to have them evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Here are some signs that require urgent veterinary attention:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy or lack of appetite
  • Visible swelling, redness, or warmth in the mammary glands
  • Skin ulceration or oozing from nipples
  • Difficulty nursing puppies

Getting prompt veterinary attention is crucial, as mastitis can quickly become a medical emergency. Left untreated, it can lead to sepsis, tissue necrosis, and gangrene. Immediate veterinary care with IV fluids, antibiotics, and other supportive therapies can stop the progression of more severe cases.

Even if symptoms seem mild, it’s still a good idea to have your dog evaluated within 24 hours. Early treatment of mastitis leads to better outcomes. Your vet will examine your dog, run tests if needed, and prescribe appropriate medications.

Routine vet visits are also recommended after initial mastitis treatment. Your vet will want to monitor your dog’s recovery and make sure the infection is fully cleared. Follow all medication and care instructions carefully during the recovery period. Alert your vet if symptoms reappear or worsen, as further treatment may be required.

While home treatment may help mild cases, veterinary oversight is vital for mastitis. Don’t hesitate to call your vet if you notice any signs of mastitis in your nursing dog. Prompt treatment can help prevent serious complications in both mom and pups.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some commonly asked questions about mastitis in dogs:

What causes mastitis in dogs?

The most common cause of mastitis in dogs is a bacterial infection. Staphylococcus pseudintermedius and Escherichia coli are two types of bacteria that frequently cause mastitis. The bacteria enter the teat and mammary gland through cracks or injuries in the skin. Mastitis can also sometimes be caused by other types of infection like fungal infections. Source

How is mastitis in dogs treated?

Treatment usually involves antibiotic therapy to kill the infection causing bacteria. Anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed to reduce swelling, pain, and fever. Some severe cases may require draining the abscess or surgically removing affected mammary glands. Good nursing care and warm compresses can help as well. Source

How can mastitis in dogs be prevented?

Keeping the skin around the teats clean and dry can help prevent cracks that allow bacteria to enter. Avoiding trauma to the mammary glands through rough play or injury can also lower risk. Careful monitoring for signs of infection post-whelping allows early treatment. Some breeding facilities give prophylactic antibiotics, though overuse can breed resistance. Source

What is the prognosis for dogs with mastitis?

With prompt veterinary treatment, the prognosis is generally good. However, severe or advanced cases of mastitis can potentially be life threatening. Seeking treatment in the early stages is important. Recurrence is possible even after treatment, so continued monitoring and care is essential. Severe cases may require surgery or result in total loss of mammary function. Source

Scroll to Top