Should I Milk My Dog With Mastitis?

What is Mastitis in Dogs?

Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary glands in female dogs that often occurs during lactation. It is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection, but can also be caused by trauma, medication side effects, and some systemic diseases (VCA Hospitals).

The most common bacteria that cause infectious mastitis in dogs are Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Escherichia coli. These bacteria typically enter through openings in the skin such as wounds or cracks in the teats (PetMD).

Symptoms of mastitis include swelling, pain, and redness in the mammary glands. The affected glands may feel warm and firm. Affected dogs often act lethargic and lose their appetite. Pus or blood may be secreted from nipples. Dogs may develop a fever as well (WebMD).

Mastitis is treated with antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, warm compresses, and gently milking out the affected glands. In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove damaged mammary tissue. Prompt treatment is important to prevent the infection from spreading.

Should You Milk a Dog with Mastitis?

Milking a dog with mastitis is generally not recommended, as it can increase the risk of spreading infection or causing further irritation and inflammation of the mammary glands. However, in certain cases where the mammary glands are extremely engorged, gentle milking may help relieve pressure and discomfort. Here are some key considerations around milking a dog with mastitis:

Potential risks of milking:

  • Can spread infection to other mammary glands
  • Can push bacteria deeper into breast tissue
  • Can cause trauma and irritation to inflamed glands
  • Should not be done if glands feel hard, hot or abscessed
  • Can cause further pain and discomfort for the dog

When milking may be appropriate:

  • With vet guidance and approval
  • To relieve severe pressure and engorgement
  • With very gentle massage and expression
  • When glands feel swollen but not yet abscessed
  • When the dog seems comfortable with the milking

It’s important to consult your vet before attempting to milk a dog with mastitis, as the risks often outweigh the benefits. Improper milking technique can make the condition worse. Most vets recommend letting the natural weaning process run its course or using medication to dry up the glands instead.

Home Remedies for Mastitis

There are some home remedies that can help relieve pain and inflammation associated with mild cases of mastitis in dogs:

Apply cold compresses to the affected mammary glands several times a day. This helps reduce swelling and discomfort. Make sure to use a soft cloth and gently press it onto the area for 5-10 minutes at a time [1].

Give over-the-counter pain medication such as paracetamol or NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) as directed by your veterinarian. This helps manage pain and fever [2].

Gently massage the affected mammary glands. This can help stimulate drainage and blood flow. However, stop immediately if it seems to cause pain or discomfort.

In addition to medication, these simple home remedies can provide relief from mild mastitis symptoms. However, it’s important to monitor your dog closely and contact your veterinarian if symptoms do not improve within 1-2 days.

When to See the Vet

In most cases of mild to moderate mastitis, home treatment may be attempted under the guidance of a veterinarian. However, prompt veterinary care is crucial if the mastitis is severe or not responding to home treatment. Signs that warrant an immediate vet visit include:

  • Severe symptoms like high fever, listlessness, and loss of appetite
  • Persistent infection that does not improve with antibiotics or home remedies
  • Dehydration from profuse milk leakage, vomiting, or diarrhea

The vet will conduct a physical exam and use diagnostic tests like bloodwork, cultures, and ultrasounds to determine the severity and type of infection. Based on the results, the vet may hospitalize the dog for intensive treatment with IV fluids, injectable antibiotics, pain medication, and possibly surgery.

Leaving mastitis unchecked can lead to life-threatening illness in dogs. So at the first signs of abnormal milk production, swelling, pain, or systemic illness, call your vet right away. Prompt treatment gives the best chance of full recovery.

Antibiotics for Mastitis

The most commonly prescribed antibiotics for mastitis in dogs are:

  • Amoxicillin – A broad spectrum antibiotic that is often prescribed for 10-14 days [1]
  • Cephalexin – Another broad spectrum antibiotic usually prescribed for 5-7 days [2]
  • Clavamox – A combination of amoxicillin and clavulanic acid, prescribed for 7-10 days [2]

It’s important to give the antibiotics exactly as prescribed and finish the entire course of treatment, even if symptoms improve. Stopping antibiotics too soon can allow bacteria to persist and mastitis to return.


Aftercare is very important for a dog with mastitis to prevent the infection from getting worse or recurring. Some key things to do for aftercare include:

If milking is necessary, be extremely gentle and sanitize hands and teats before and after. Only milk if instructed by a veterinarian, and follow their guidance on technique. Improper milking can damage teats and spread infection (

Keep the mammary glands and teats clean by gently cleaning with a warm wet cloth and drying thoroughly. Do not use harsh soaps. Preventing dirt or debris buildup will help prevent reinfection.

Follow all antibiotic and pain medication dosage instructions carefully. Completing the full course is essential to fully resolving the infection. Ensure the dog takes the medication properly and on schedule.

Restrict activity and prevent rough play or trauma to the mammary area while recovering. Provide soft bedding. Jumping, running and excessive movement can disturb healing.

Avoid breeding the dog again until fully recovered, theinfection is gone, and the vet gives the all clear. Breeding too soon risks spreading infection and exacerbating inflammation.

Dietary Considerations

Proper hydration and nutrition are important when caring for a dog with mastitis. Make sure your dog has access to fresh, clean water at all times. You may want to add extra water to her food or offer ice cubes if she is not drinking enough on her own. Dehydration can make symptoms worse.

Nursing dogs need extra calories and nutrients like protein, fat and calcium. Feed a high-quality puppy food formulated for growth. You can also give supplements like whey protein and calcium carbonate. Avoid feeding milk, which can upset her stomach. Small, frequent meals are best to keep up her energy and milk supply. According to the AKC, “Mastitis will negatively affect milk production, so optimal nutrition is essential.”

Talk to your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s hydration or nutritional needs while she recovers from mastitis.

Outlook and Prevention

With prompt veterinary treatment, the prognosis for mastitis is generally good, with most dogs making a full recovery within 2-4 weeks. However, if left untreated, mastitis can lead to serious complications like abscesses or sepsis, so it’s important to seek veterinary care as soon as symptoms arise.

There are several risk factors that can increase a dog’s chances of developing mastitis:

  • Recent pregnancy and nursing puppies
  • Injuries to the mammary glands
  • Obesity
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Weakened immune system

Some preventative measures dog owners can take include:

  • Gently expressing milk from the mammary glands if they become overly full
  • Keeping the mammary glands clean and dry
  • Weaning puppies gradually over several weeks
  • Ensuring the dog is in a healthy body condition
  • Disinfecting whelping areas frequently
  • Monitoring the mammary glands for signs of infection

With attentive care and monitoring, many cases of mastitis can be avoided in breeding and nursing dogs. Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for weaning puppies and caring for the mammary glands after pregnancy to lower mastitis risk.

When to Breed Again

It’s important to wait until your dog is fully recovered from mastitis before breeding again. The inflammation and infection associated with mastitis needs time to completely clear up. According to this source, waiting at least one year after an occurrence of mastitis is recommended before breeding again.

Breeding too soon can lead to complications and a higher risk of mastitis recurring. The previously affected mammary glands and milk ducts need adequate time to heal. Residual inflammation or scar tissue could interfere with milk production and flow, setting up the conditions for repeat mastitis.

It’s also a good idea to have your veterinarian examine your dog prior to breeding again after mastitis. They can ensure the mammary glands appear normal and ready for another pregnancy and lactation. Some vets may recommend performing cultures to check for any lingering bacterial infection.

While waiting to breed, focus on your dog’s full recovery. Make sure to finish any prescribed antibiotics and follow up as directed. Feed a high quality diet and keep your dog at an optimal weight. Some sources suggest supplementing with zinc and vitamin C to support mammary health.

Knowing When to Retire a Breeding Dog

Recurrent mastitis infections can be a sign it’s time to retire a breeding dog. According to this breeder forum, some breeders will retire a dam after just one or two bouts of mastitis. Repeated mastitis infections that require multiple rounds of antibiotics and veterinary care can take a toll on the dog’s health and quality of life.

A dog’s age is also a factor when considering retirement from breeding. Most vets recommend retiring breeding dogs around 5-7 years old, as issues like mastitis tend to become more common as the dog ages. Per WagWalking, pregnancy complications and mastitis risks increase after a dam is 5-6 years old. The breed and overall health of the dog should be considered as well. Large breed dogs may need to retire earlier than small breeds.

Breeders should weigh the dog’s quality of life and ability to comfortably nurse future litters without recurrent mastitis or other issues. Retirement is recommended if the dog seems unhappy, stressed or unable to nurse normally. The dog’s comfort and wellbeing should be the top priority when making breeding retirement decisions.

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