Many dog owners are surprised when they rub on their pet’s belly and feel small raised bumps. For many owners they can be alarmed and think that these raised edges are indicative of a health problem, but this isn’t the case. These little knots are not harmful to your pet; they’re actually nipples which all dogs, female and male will have.
But just how many nipples should you be counting on your female dog?
How many nipples do female dogs have? Most female dogs will have an average of 8 nipples, ranging between as low as 6 to as many as 12. However, some female dogs will have an odd number of nipples on rare occasions.
I am going to explain why female dogs tend to have an even number of nipples. We’ll also talk about a few common health issues dogs can experience with nipples, such as cancer or mastitis.
What are your female dog’s nipples like?
Your female dog’s nipples are soft bulgy pieces of flesh that make it easy for a puppy (or human) to put their mouth around and suck without using a lot of force. Occasionally they can be mistaken for ticks or skin abrasions given their size and shape.
During pregnancy a female dog nipples will swell up, with her breasts sagging below the belly. After the litter is born, these glands fill with milk.
When a female dog is not pregnant, the mammary glands will go back to an average size, and the nipples will lay almost flush against the skin. You may feel them when you rub your dog’s belly, but you rarely see them.
However, some female dogs retain saggy, puffy mammary glands, and fat nipples after having more than one litter of puppies. You should not be alarmed, as this can be a natural part of aging. It’s normal for things to get a bit stretched out after a lot of use.
The mammary glands can also swell up during heat, which is a dog’s time of fertilization. If you’re planning to breed your dog or trying to prevent impregnation, you’ll want to keep a close watch on your female during times of heat.
For spayed females or dogs fixed so they cannot get pregnant, the nipples will stay small and nearly flush to the skin throughout their lives.
Why do dogs have nipples?
Dogs and some other mammals such as cats, have multiple rows of nipples because they have large litter of babies. You will rarely see a dog that has less than four puppies at one time.
When there’s a bunch of babies, there needs to be a way to feed all of them. As a pet parent, you can estimate how many puppies your mother dog will have in a litter by counting how many nipples she has.
A nipple aims to produce milk and give something for an infant to latch onto during nursing (feeding). In dogs, nipple color can range from black to pink, based on the dog’s color and breed.
Do male dogs have nipples?
You may think that because nipples are a feeding tool for puppies that only female dogs will have nipples. After all, male dogs cannot produce puppies.
But just like male humans have nipples, even though they cannot produce milk to feed children, male dogs will also have multiple nipples on their belly.
So why do males have nipples if they won’t use them?
During the first few weeks, while the embryo is forming in the mother’s uterus, it produces multiple body parts, including nipples. Over time, the gender genetic portion will start to produce the appropriate gender genitalia to make the puppies male or female.
How many nipples do dogs have?
Both male and female dogs have nipples on the bottom of their bellies. When you rub along a dog’s stomach, you can feel small bumps.
Some people get alarmed at feeling these anomalies for the first time. But they are actually not an odd occurrence but a normal body part that you find on all dogs, including males and females.
The number of nipples a dog has will depend on the breed. But there are usually symmetrical even numbers between 6 and 10. Occasionally, you may notice that your pet has an odd number of nipples.
You may even notice nipples somewhere other than your dog’s stomach. This isn’t actually that unusual. Some male and female dogs can have nipples on the insides of their legs.
If you notice a raised bump, check the opposite leg to see if there’s a matching mark. If there is, it means these are your dog’s nipples.
Dogs can have anywhere from six to ten nipples running along the belly’s underside, two to a row.
Female dogs have multiple nipples
All dogs are born with nipples, regardless of if they are male or female. Female dogs can have between six and ten nipples, depending on the dog’s breed and size.
Most often, the mammary glands are on the belly. But in some cases, they can appear on the legs or other odd places as well. Dogs usually have an even amount, but they can have an odd number too.
Health concerns for dog’s nipples
If dogs have breasts, it’s normal to wonder if they can also get breast cancer. Sadly, even dogs can suffer from cancer of the mammary tissues.
Your dog should get regular check-ups by a veterinarian, who will feel the glands for any abnormalities. It would be best if you also watched for any strange lumps or bumps that come up.
Mammary cancer frequently affects female dogs with intact glands or those of females who have been spayed later in life rather than as a puppy. The hormones that cause the mammary glands to grow during heat can also cause abnormal mammary growth, leading to cancer.
In some cases, male dogs can end up with mammary gland cancer, although it’s exceedingly rare to see this happen.
Another common condition that can affect dogs’ nipples is mastitis, a bacterial infection that can lead to life-threatening conditions if left untreated. This dangerous condition is most prevalent in female dogs who just had puppies or had a pseudo-pregnancy during her heat.
A pseudo-pregnancy is when a dog’s body responds as if pregnant, including swollen mammary glands. This happens towards the end of the heat, and you may notice signs of your female dog acting protective like she’s guarding puppies she does not have.
Spayed females and male dogs can also contract mastitis. This condition is caused due to poor sanctuary conditions, trauma to the nipples (such as sucking), and infection.
Signs of infection include swollen mammary glands, which may or may not be leaking pus, and your dog having a lack of appetite, not eating, and acting lethargic.
For nursing mothers, they may stop feeding her puppies. The puppies may appear malnourished and underfed.
Treatment of canine mastitis
If you suspect your dog may have mastitis, the first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with a veterinarian. Treatment of mastitis will consist of a prescription for antibiotics. The vet may also recommend warm compresses to the affected nipples. And you should routinely milk your pet to keep milk ducts cleared.
Your vet may recommend that your dog receive intravenous fluid therapy if they are suffering from dehydration or shock in severe cases.
There may be instances where the mammary gland gets abscessed and may require removing the glands through surgical procedures.
If your dog is nursing puppies, you might have to take over the feedings until the mother is better, or they can wean to regular food.
Mastitis is a manageable condition to treat if caught early enough and usually does not require surgery or severe treatment options.
All dogs, male and female, are born with multiple nipples. How many nipples your female dog has will vary from six to twelve, depending on the breed.
Most dogs will have flat, almost smooth nipples. But females in heat, pregnant, or nursing may have larger nipples that excrete milk.