How Do You Tell The Difference Between Pregnant Dog Nipples And Normal Dog Nipples?

Knowing how to tell the difference between pregnant dog nipples and normal dog nipples is important for pet owners. As your dog’s pregnancy progresses, her nipples will undergo noticeable changes in size, shape, and color. Being able to identify these nipple changes can help you confirm if your dog is pregnant, determine how far along she is in her pregnancy, and monitor her health. This article will cover the typical progression of nipple changes at each stage of dog pregnancy, differences between pregnant and normal dog nipples, and when to seek veterinary advice. Understanding the nipple changes associated with dog pregnancy will prepare you to provide your dog with the best possible care.

What Do Normal Dog Nipples Look Like?

Normal non-pregnant dog nipples are usually small, with a diameter of less than 1⁄4 inch. They often blend in with the surrounding skin and fur color, so they may be hard to see. The number of nipples can vary, but female dogs typically have 8-10 nipples in two rows on their belly. Male dogs have nipples too (usually 4-6), but they are less prominent.

In terms of color, non-pregnant dog nipples tend to be pinkish, black, or match the dog’s skin tone. Some breeds have black spots on the skin around the nipples. The nipples remain flat and soft to the touch. There is no swelling, enlargement, or protrusion before pregnancy. Texture-wise, the area feels smooth.

Here are some pictures of normal dog nipples for reference:

Nipple Changes Early in Pregnancy

One of the earliest signs of pregnancy in dogs is changes to the nipples and mammary glands. This typically happens around 2-3 weeks after conception. According to, the nipples will begin to enlarge and “pink up” during early pregnancy as the mammary glands prepare for milk production.

The areolas (the circular area around each nipple) will also start to thicken and become more noticeable. The nipples themselves will protrude out more compared to the relatively flat appearance of normal nipples. These early pregnancy nipple changes are preparing the mammary glands to produce milk later on to feed the puppies after birth.

It’s important to closely monitor nipple changes in your dog during the early stages of pregnancy. Subtle enlargement and reddening of the nipples is one of the most reliable symptoms of early pregnancy in dogs, usually noticed a few weeks before other signs like weight gain or a swollen abdomen become obvious.

Nipple Changes Mid-Pregnancy

Between weeks 4 and 7 of pregnancy, the dog’s nipples will continue to enlarge and become more prominent as her mammary glands prepare for milk production. According to the article on RexiPets, the nipples will be noticeably larger and darker in pigment during this time. They may also begin secreting a fluid or become erect as the hormones stimulate them in preparation for nursing puppies.

The nipples will enlarge further and protrude more. As noted in the South Seattle Veterinary Hospital article, the nipples nearest the hind legs often show the most dramatic changes. Fluid secretions from the nipples are normal in mid-pregnancy as the mammary glands begin producing colostrum. This clear or milky fluid provides antibodies to help the newborn puppies fight infection.

If the nipples are swollen, warm, or red, consult a veterinarian, as this could indicate mastitis or a uterine infection. But enlarged, protruding nipples actively secreting fluid are a normal sign of mid-term pregnancy in dogs as their bodies prepare for nursing.

Nipple Changes Late Pregnancy

In the final weeks of pregnancy, typically around 6-8 weeks, a dog’s nipples will become very enlarged and dark. The areola, or the circular area around the nipple, will darken considerably and expand in diameter. The nipples themselves will protrude outward and become erect.

According to Rexipets, the darkening of the areolas and nipples occurs due to the increased blood flow to the mammary glands in preparation for producing milk. The darkened pigment helps the newborn puppies locate the nipples to nurse once born.

In addition to significant enlargement and darkening, pregnant dog nipples may also leak a milky fluid during the final week of pregnancy as the mammary glands prepare to lactate. Dog owners will notice the nipples becoming larger, more distended and pronounced each day as the due date approaches.

Nipple Changes After Pregnancy

After a female dog gives birth and finishes nursing her puppies, her nipples will start to return to normal, but may not go completely back to their pre-pregnancy state.

The nipples will begin shrinking within 1-2 weeks after the puppies have been weaned, which is usually around 6-10 weeks after giving birth according to this source. The nipples will continue to shrink and recede over the next several weeks.

However, they often remain slightly enlarged and the pigment may remain darker compared to before pregnancy. According to this source, the nipples may never fully return to their pre-pregnant size and color.

It’s important not to try to push or force the nipples back to normal, as this can cause pain and injury. With time, the swelling and enlarged size will gradually subside.


Pseudopregnancy, also known as a false pregnancy, is a common condition that can occur in intact female dogs. During a false pregnancy, the dog exhibits signs and symptoms of a normal pregnancy but is not actually pregnant. One of the key signs of pseudopregnancy is changes in the dog’s nipples and mammary glands.

According to VCA Hospitals, the mammary glands will enlarge evenly during a false pregnancy, similar to a real pregnancy. The nipples become enlarged and swollen and may even secrete milk. This is because the dog’s body still reacts to hormonal changes even without an actual pregnancy occurring.

It’s important to note that while the mammary glands enlarge symmetrically during pseudopregnancy, they may enlarge unevenly during a real pregnancy as each gland prepares to nourish developing puppies. According to PetMD, the presence of milk secretions from the nipples can help confirm a diagnosis of false pregnancy.

To differentiate between real pregnancy and pseudopregnancy nipples, look for symmetrical changes in all mammary glands rather than in specific glands. The presence of milk and the timing of changes relative to the dog’s heat cycle can also help determine if it’s a real or false pregnancy. Monitoring for other signs of pregnancy like abdominal enlargement and fetal movement can also be useful.

If you notice nipple or mammary gland changes in your dog, consult your veterinarian to determine if it’s a false pregnancy or something else. Treatment may be needed to help resolve the symptoms of a false pregnancy.

Health Issues

Pregnant dogs can experience various health issues related to their mammary glands and nipples during gestation. One of the most common is mastitis, which is an inflammation of the mammary glands. Mastitis is often caused by bacterial infection and results in red, swollen, and painful nipples and mammary glands (Wamiz, 2023).

According to Rexipets (2023), signs of mastitis in pregnant dogs include hot, red, swollen nipples, abnormal nipple discharge, lethargy, fever, and loss of appetite. It usually occurs 2-3 weeks after conception when hormonal changes make the mammary glands prepare for milk production and more prone to infection.

Mastitis can be dangerous for both the mother dog and her puppies if left untreated. It is important to take the dog to the vet right away if mastitis is suspected, as antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications will likely be prescribed. The veterinarian may also recommend warm compresses on the affected nipples to encourage drainage and relive pain and swelling (South Seattle Vet, 2023).

Other issues like bruising, trauma, or abscesses of the nipples can also arise during dog pregnancy. Nipple or mammary tumors may also be discovered after nipples enlarge. Any abnormalities, discharge, swelling, or pain should prompt a vet visit to rule out serious issues that require prompt treatment.

When to See the Vet

If you notice any abnormal changes in your dog’s nipples during pregnancy, it’s important to contact your veterinarian. Some signs that may indicate an underlying health issue include:

Abnormal nipple discharge – Any unusual fluid coming from the nipples could signal an infection like mastitis. Look out for blood, pus, or milky discharge.

Nipple pain – Your dog may whine, lick excessively, or bite at her nipples if they become painful. This could occur with mastitis, trauma, or other problems.

Severely swollen nipples – Mild swelling and enlargement is normal during pregnancy and nursing. But sudden, severe swelling could mean a serious issue.

Nipple injury – Cuts, bites, burns, or other wounds on the nipples require prompt veterinary attention to prevent infection.

Lopsided or uneven nipples – If some nipples grow larger than others or appear abnormal, have your vet examine your dog.

Any time you have concerns about changes in your pregnant dog’s nipples, schedule a veterinary visit right away. Early treatment increases the chances of a full recovery. Your vet can determine if medication, surgery, or other interventions may be needed. With prompt care, most nipple issues in pregnant dogs can be successfully managed.


The main differences between normal dog nipples and pregnant dog nipples include changes in size, color, and texture as pregnancy progresses. Normal dog nipples remain relatively small and uniform in size whereas pregnant dog nipples enlarge and become more pigmented. By late pregnancy, the nipples are swollen, enlarged, and may leak milk. After pregnancy, the nipples shrink but usually remain larger than before. While these signs can indicate pregnancy, some medical conditions like pseudopregnancy can cause similar nipple changes. So it’s recommended to have a vet examine your dog if you suspect pregnancy.

In summary, monitor your dog’s nipples for swelling, enlargement, darkening in color, and leaking milk as signs of possible pregnancy. But keep in mind other factors can cause nipple changes too. When in doubt, check with your veterinarian.

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