How To Treat Mastitis In Dogs Not Pregnant

What is Mastitis in Dogs?

Mastitis is inflammation of the mammary glands, or breast tissue, in dogs (Lection et al., 2021). It most commonly occurs in female dogs that are pregnant, nursing, or have recently weaned their puppies. The inflammation is usually caused by a bacterial infection that enters through cracks or openings in the skin of the teats and travels into the mammary glands (VCA Animal Hospitals, 2022).

Common symptoms of mastitis in dogs include (VCA Animal Hospitals, 2022):

  • Swelling, redness, and warmth of the mammary glands
  • Pain or discomfort of the mammary glands
  • Reluctance to nurse puppies
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Mastitis can range from a mild infection with minimal symptoms to a severe, systemic infection. It requires veterinary treatment to prevent complications like abscess formation or progression to sepsis (Lection et al., 2021).

When to See the Vet

Mastitis can range in severity from mild to life-threatening, so it’s important to monitor your dog closely and contact your vet promptly if symptoms arise. According to VCA Hospitals, there are several situations in which you should take your dog to the vet right away:

  • Your dog has a fever over 103°F
  • The mammary glands are hot, painful, or swollen
  • Skin above the mammary glands is red or swollen
  • Your dog is lethargic or acting ill
  • Milk from the glands contains blood or pus

WebMD also recommends seeking emergency vet care if your dog shows signs of sepsis like vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, or collapse. Even if your dog has milder mastitis symptoms, contacting your vet promptly can help prevent the infection from worsening. Let your vet examine your dog and determine the severity so proper treatment can begin right away.

Diagnosing Mastitis

Veterinarians will begin by performing a complete physical examination of the dog’s mammary glands to check for swelling, heat, pain, and discharge. Abnormalities in the mammary glands like lumps, pain, and redness may indicate mastitis.

Veterinarians may also conduct tests like a complete blood count, bacterial culture of the milk, cytology of the milk to look for increased numbers of white blood cells, and ultrasound of the mammary glands. These tests can help identify the type of infection, determine the extent of the infection, and rule out the presence of masses or other underlying causes like cancer.

Cytology in particular is very useful for identifying mastitis early and distinguishing between infectious and non-infectious causes. Bacterial cultures help identify the specific bacteria involved so the most effective antibiotic can be selected.

Treatment Options

The main treatments for mastitis in dogs include:

Antibiotics

Most cases of mastitis are caused by bacterial infections, so antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat the condition. Broad-spectrum antibiotics like amoxicillin-clavulanate (Clavamox) or cephalexin are usually recommended to target both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria [1]. The antibiotics are typically given orally for 2-4 weeks. In severe cases, intravenous antibiotics may be administered initially.

Anti-inflammatories

Steroidal or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like carprofen are often prescribed along with antibiotics to reduce swelling, pain, and inflammation [2]. This helps provide relief as the infection is being treated.

Hot Compresses

Applying hot compresses to the affected mammary glands can help draw out infection and soothe pain and inflammation. This can be done at home several times a day as part of supportive care while antibiotics and anti-inflammatories are being given [3].

Most cases of mastitis can be treated on an outpatient basis with oral medications and hot compresses. More severe cases may require hospitalization and intravenous fluids/antibiotics initially.

[1] https://www.merckvetmanual.com/reproductive-system/reproductive-diseases-of-the-female-small-animal/mastitis-in-small-animals

[2] https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/mastitis-in-dogs

[3] https://www.webmd.com/pets/dogs/what-to-know-about-mastitis-in-dogs

At-Home Care

At home care is an important part of recovery for dogs with mastitis. Some things owners can do at home include:

  • Rest – Ensuring your dog gets plenty of rest is crucial. Restrict exercise and activity during recovery. Provide a quiet, comfortable area for your dog to relax and heal.

  • Apply Warm Compresses – Applying a warm compress or warm towel to the affected breast can help improve blood flow, reduce swelling, and soothe pain and inflammation. Do this several times a day for 5-10 minutes at a time.

  • Massage – Gently massaging the affected breast can help stimulate drainage of fluids and improve overall blood circulation. Always massage in an outward, circular motion. Make sure your hands are clean before massaging.

At-home care under the guidance of your vet can support your dog’s recovery from mastitis. However, follow up vet appointments are crucial to monitor progress.

Prevention

There are several ways to help prevent mastitis in dogs:

Maintain proper hygiene around the mammary glands. Clean the area gently but thoroughly with a soft damp cloth before and after nursing. Avoid using irritating soaps or chemicals.

Examine the breasts regularly for signs of engorgement, trauma, cuts, or infection. Look for swollen or hard spots and ensure the milk is flowing freely.

Make sure the puppies are latching on and nursing from all the mammary glands, not just favoring one side. Even draining of milk can prevent blockages.

Wean the puppies gradually over several weeks. Abrupt weaning often leads to mastitis due to milk buildup.

Separate the mother dog from her puppies in between nursing to allow the breasts to rest. Limit nursing sessions to 10-15 minutes per side.

Ensure the mother dog is eating a high quality diet and getting good nutrition to support lactation. Supplements like fennel may help increase milk flow.

Talk to your vet about using preventative antibiotic therapy if you have had issues with mastitis in prior litters.

Diet and Nutrition

Proper nutrition is important when treating mastitis in dogs. Feeding your dog a well-balanced diet can help support their immune system and promote healing.

Some tips for a healthy, mastitis-fighting diet include:

  • High-quality protein sources like chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs
  • Complex carbohydrates from whole grains like brown rice, oats, and quinoa
  • Nutrient-rich vegetables like leafy greens, carrots, and sweet potatoes
  • Healthy fats from fish oil, olive oil, avocados
  • Probiotics and prebiotics to support gut health
  • Natural anti-inflammatory foods like omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric, ginger

Supplements like vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin D may also help strengthen the immune system. Always check with your veterinarian before starting any supplements.

Avoid overly fatty, salty, or sugary foods which could exacerbate inflammation. Keep your dog hydrated by providing fresh, clean water at all times.

Feed smaller, more frequent meals during mastitis flair ups to reduce stress on the digestive system. Work closely with your vet to monitor your dog’s condition and make adjustments to their diet as needed.

Complications

If mastitis is left untreated, it can lead to some serious complications in dogs. The most common complications include:

Abscesses

Abscesses may form in the infected mammary gland and surrounding tissue if mastitis goes untreated. The pus and bacteria can collect into an enclosed pocket known as an abscess. Abscesses are very painful and can rupture and leak pus. Vets will need to surgically open and drain the abscess. Antibiotics will also be prescribed to treat the infection inside the abscess.

Recurring Infections

Dogs that have had mastitis are prone to developing recurring infections in the affected mammary glands. This is because the tissues remain scarred and damaged. Recurring bouts of mastitis can be frustrating to treat. Long-term antibiotic therapy may be needed to prevent chronic infections from returning.

Prognosis

The prognosis for mastitis in dogs is generally good, with most cases resolving within 2-3 weeks with appropriate treatment according to veterinary experts (https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/mastitis-in-dogs). However, recovery time can vary depending on the severity and underlying cause.

Dogs with mild acute mastitis may recover within 7-10 days, while more severe cases could take 3-4 weeks for full resolution of symptoms. Recurrent or chronic mastitis tends to follow a waxing and waning course, with periods of improvement and flare-ups. Remission may take 4-6 weeks or longer (https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/endocrine/c_dg_mastitis).

Risk factors that can delay recovery or lead to complications include untreated or under-treated infections, poor wound care, metabolic diseases like diabetes, trauma or injury to mammary glands, and inadequate nutrition. Nursing mother dogs are also at higher risk if the mastitis is not properly managed.

With prompt veterinary attention, appropriate treatment, and good at-home care, most dogs make a full recovery from mastitis. However, neglect or delayed treatment can result in serious complications like abscesses, sepsis, or tissue necrosis.

When to Seek Follow-Up Care

It’s important to finish the full course of any prescribed antibiotics to treat mastitis, even once symptoms start improving. Stopping antibiotics early can allow the infection to return (VCA Animal Hospitals). Closely monitor your dog’s symptoms and watch for any recurrence of signs like swelling, pain, or discharge from the mammary glands.

Contact your veterinarian if symptoms don’t seem to be resolving or get worse while on antibiotics. Your vet may need to prescribe a different antibiotic or investigate other underlying issues. Routine follow-up appointments allow your vet to ensure the mastitis is fully resolved.

Keep a close eye on the affected mammary glands for any abnormalities even after treatment is complete. Seek prompt veterinary care if you notice signs of mastitis returning, as recurrent infections can occur. Stay vigilant and monitor your dog’s mammary glands to identify mastitis early and prevent complications.

Scroll to Top