What Should My Dogs Nipples Look Like After Giving Birth?

Normal Nipple Appearance Before Pregnancy

Before pregnancy, a female dog’s nipples typically appear small, round, and pinkish in color. The nipples are usually flat or slightly raised from the surrounding skin.

In an unbred dog, the nipples are uniformly sized and evenly spaced along two rows on the abdomen. There are normally 5-10 nipples in each row. The nipples are not swollen, enlarged, or protruding.

The skin around the nipples and mammary glands remains flat. The mammary glands are soft and pliable, rather than firm, swollen, or engorged.

Many female dogs have dark scarring or spots on the nipples from minor abrasions or inflammation. This is normal prior to pregnancy. The nipples do not appear red, inflamed, or irritated in a healthy dog.

According to veterinary experts, the size, appearance, and spacing of nipples can vary considerably between individual dogs. But in general, the nipples appear uniform in an unbred female dog.

Nipple Changes During Pregnancy

One of the most notable signs that a dog is pregnant is changes to her nipples that occur early on in pregnancy. These changes typically begin 2-3 weeks after conception. The nipples will start enlarging and becoming more prominent. The nipples will also begin darkening in color and may take on a dark red or purplish hue compared to their normal pink color. This darkening occurs due to increased blood flow to the mammary glands in preparation for producing milk. According to sources, “Once your dog has nursed puppies, her nipples will be more prominent, longer, and darker. When a mammal is pregnant, their nipple color darkens” (https://a-z-animals.com/blog/normal-dog-nipple-appearance-vs-pregnant/). These nipple changes are completely normal and signal the dog’s body is preparing for nursing puppies after birth.

Nipple Appearance While Nursing

Once puppies are born, a dog’s nipples frequently take on a new appearance as they begin producing milk. According to RexiPets, the nipples will become enlarged and swollen during nursing as they fill with milk. It is not abnormal for the nipples to appear cracked or have some bleeding due to the puppies’ suckling. The momma dog will also have a near constant discharge from the nipples as the puppies feed multiple times per day.

Per Wamiz, the nipples often triple in size during nursing and stay enlarged the entire time the puppies are feeding. They maintain a bright red or pink color as blood flow increases to the nipples. The discharge is typically milk but can sometimes be clear or milky colored. As the puppies wean between 4-6 weeks old, the swelling and discharge will gradually decrease.

It’s important to monitor the nipples for any signs of mastitis like hot, painful, or infected nipples which would require veterinary treatment. Otherwise, cracked and bleeding nipples are normal during nursing and do not require any specific care beyond gentle cleaning.

Nipple Regression After Weaning

After weaning puppies, a mother dog’s nipples will start to shrink and regress back to normal size over the following weeks. According to Pets4Homes, a dam’s nipples will begin to shrink back to size and appear less prominent the more time that passes after weaning the litter, but for some dams, it can take longer for their nipples to recede. The swelling and discharge will also lessen as the puppies nurse less.

Rexipets.com notes that it typically takes 6-10 weeks for a dog’s nipples to fully recede after weaning puppies. This timeline allows enough time for the puppies to fully transition from nursing to solid foods. As the puppies nurse less, the mother dog’s mammary glands will produce less milk, and her nipples will shrink down. Most mother dogs’ nipples will return to a normal appearance within a couple months after weaning.

It’s important to monitor the mother dog’s nipples during regression. According to Quora users, keeping the area clean and dry can help reduce discharge and prevent infection during this transitional period. If nipples appear red, inflamed or leaky, contact your veterinarian to rule out potential mastitis. With proper care and weaning, a mother dog’s nipples should return to normal pretpregnancy appearance a couple months after weaning.

Monitoring for Mastitis

It’s important for dog owners to monitor for signs of mastitis, as it can develop within days after giving birth. The most common symptoms of mastitis include:

  • Redness, pain, and swelling in the mammary glands – This is often the first noticeable sign. The teats or entire breast area may appear inflamed. Gentle pressure on the glands that causes pain indicates mastitis may be present.
  • Fever – An infected mammary gland can lead to fever as the dog’s body tries to fight the infection. Take the dog’s temperature at home if swelling or pain is noticed.
  • Decreased appetite, lethargy – As the infection worsens, the dog may act sick by refusing food and having less energy.
  • Reluctance to nurse – The discomfort of mastitis can cause the mother dog to avoid letting the puppies nurse from affected glands.

According to the vets at VCA Animal Hospitals, mastitis often affects only one or two mammary glands initially but can spread. Close monitoring of the breasts, feeling for increased warmth and watching for signs of illness allows early treatment.

Returning to Normal

After weaning her puppies, your dog’s nipples and mammary glands will start reverting back to their pre-pregnancy appearance. However, this process does take some time. Typically, it takes 6-10 weeks for a dog’s nipples to recede and shrink back after pregnancy (https://rexipets.com/blogs/the-latest/how-long-does-it-take-for-a-female-dogs-nipples-to-recede-after-pregnancy).

The timeframe depends on factors like the size of the litter, how long the dog nursed, and her individual body. Some dogs may take a few weeks, while for others it can take 2-3 months for nipples to return to normal. It’s a gradual process as the mammary glands stop producing milk, swellings recede, and nipples shrink back down.

During this regression period, you may notice your dog’s nipples are enlarged, puffy, or leaking milk occasionally. This is normal and part of the transition. Keep an eye on any nipple discharge, as abnormal discharge could indicate an infection like mastitis. But in most cases, the nipples will slowly retract and go back to their pre-pregnancy size and appearance.

When to See the Vet

It’s important to monitor your dog’s nipples closely after giving birth. Contact your vet promptly if you notice any of the following:

  • Excessive discharge from the nipples that is green, bloody, or foul-smelling. This could indicate infection or mastitis.
  • Hot, painful, swollen, or inflamed nipples or breasts. These are signs of possible mastitis that requires veterinary treatment.
  • Nipple injuries, cracks, bites, or wounds that won’t heal. These may lead to mastitis.
  • Reluctance to nurse some or all of the puppies, which could signal nipple pain or discomfort.
  • Any signs of illness in the mother dog like lethargy, lack of appetite, or fever.

Mastitis is a potentially serious infection of the milk glands that requires prompt veterinary care. Left untreated, it can lead to abscesses, sepsis, and even death. Don’t hesitate to call your vet if you have any concerns about your nursing dog’s nipples or health after whelping.

Most vets recommend a post-whelping visit 24-48 hours after giving birth to check the mother dog and puppies. Even if all appears normal, this visit allows the vet to monitor recovery, check for nipple trauma, and ensure the mother dog’s milk supply is adequate.

Sources:

https://www.wikihow.pet/Take-a-Mother-Dog-to-a-Postnatal-Veterinary-Exam

https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/breeding-for-dog-owners-caring-for-newborn-puppies

Caring for Nipples

It’s important to keep the mother dog’s nipples clean during nursing. Gently wipe them with a warm, damp cloth before and after each nursing session to remove any dirt, feces or drying milk [1]. Don’t use soap or cleansing products, as this can dry out the skin.

Allow the puppies to nurse frequently, as nursing helps stimulate milk production and release. The puppies’ suckling motion helps drain the nipples and prevent engorgement or clogs. Limit nursing sessions to no longer than 45 minutes to avoid overfeeding.

Examine the mother dog’s nipples at least twice daily, checking for any redness, bruising, trauma or signs of infection, like pus. Look for a dark purple or black discoloration, which may indicate bruising and blocked milk flow. Contact your vet if you notice any concerning signs [2].

Supplements and Diet

A mother dog’s nutritional needs increase dramatically when nursing puppies. It’s important to feed a high-quality diet formulated specifically for pregnant and nursing dogs. Look for a food that contains at least 29% protein and 17% fat from animal-based ingredients like chicken, beef, fish, and eggs (AKC).

Some healthy additions to a nursing dog’s diet include:

  • Chicken, beef, fish – Provides high-quality protein for milk production (Dog Food Advisor)
  • Eggs – Excellent source of protein and fat
  • Oatmeal – Provides fiber to aid digestion
  • Yogurt – Probiotics support digestive health
  • Cheese – Adds calcium for strong bones
  • Green vegetables – Packed with vitamins and minerals

Supplements like calcium, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids can also help support milk production and overall health. Always check with your veterinarian before giving any supplements.

Free-choice feeding allows nursing dogs to eat whenever hungry, which may be very frequent while producing milk. Keep fresh water available at all times as well. Providing optimal nutrition will help the mother dog stay healthy while nursing her puppies.

Weaning Tips

Gradually wean puppies off their mother’s milk starting at 3-4 weeks of age when their teeth begin to erupt, which can make nursing uncomfortable for the mother. Begin by separating the puppies from their mother for a few hours at a time. While separated, introduce the puppies to eating gruel or porridge made with puppy milk replacer and warm water. Aim for a 50:50 ratio of milk replacer to water. Do not give cow’s milk as it can cause diarrhea. Offer the gruel in a flat saucer several times a day while continuing to allow the puppies to nurse from their mother. Over the course of a week or two, slowly increase the time the puppies are separated and offer gruel more frequently to get them used to taking all their nourishment from solid food instead of nursing. Make sure fresh water is available at all times in a shallow bowl. By 6-8 weeks of age, puppies should be fully weaned and eating solid puppy food. Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about the weaning process

Sources:
https://www.petmd.com/dog/puppycenter/nutrition/evr_dg_weaning_puppies_from_their_mother
https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/breeding-for-dog-owners-caring-from-birth-to-weaning

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