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A Pet Parent's Guide to Mastitis in Dogs

Mastitis is a serious condition seen in pregnant and nursing dogs that requires treatment by a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Read on for information about the symptoms, causes and treatment of mastitis in female dogs.

What is mastitis?

Mastitis is a condition characterized by swollen mammary glands in female dogs, that can lead to painful infections.

Mastitis often occurs if a female dog gives birth to puppies in a location that has not been thoroughly sanitized, although weening the newborn puppies too early also seems to be a risk factor.

There are a few different types of mastitis that a dog can develop.

  1. Acute Mastitis. A swollen mammary gland in dogs, potentially leading to the mother's avoidance of feeding the pups or lethargy.
  2. Septic Mastitis. Inflammation of the mammary gland that results in heat, pain, milk discoloration and potential sickness in the mother.
  3. Non-septic Mastitis: Inflammation of the mammary gland caused by factors other than bacterial infection.
  4. Chronic Mastitis: Swelling of the mammary gland that lasts long-term. This type of mastitis is not as visibly obvious as other types as it does not share their symptoms.
  5. Gangrenous Mastitis. Blackening of the teat, sometimes accompanied by darker stomach tissue, as well as illness in the mother. 

What does mastitis look like in dogs?

The symptoms of mastitis in dogs can vary, as some symptoms affecting the mammary glands and teat may or may not cause further signs of sickness in the mother herself. Some types of mastitis will lead to discoloration of the teat or even discoloration and blood in the milk. Other common symptoms associated with mastitis in dogs include:

  • Swollen mammary gland or teat
  • Discoloration of milk/discharge
  • Refusal to feed puppies
  • Fever in the mother
  • Depressive behavior
  • Changing blood pressure or heart rate
  • Vomiting

If you notice any of these symptoms in your postpartum pup, contact your vet immediately.

What are the causes of mastitis in dogs?

Several factors can increase the risk of a dog developing mastitis, many of which are difficult for pet parents to control. However, providing diligent care and keeping a very close eye on the health of pregnant or nursing mother, may help to prevent the condition from becoming severe, if mastitis begins to develop.

Causes of mastitis in dogs include:

  • Bacterial or fungal infection of the teat or mammary area in pregnant dogs
  • Loss of newborn puppies
  • Milk clots or backed-up milk
  • Unsanitary whelping box
  • Damp birth site 

How do vets treat mastitis in dogs?

To diagnose mastitis, your veterinarian will perform a full physical exam. They will also take a detailed medical history and collect as much information as possible about the mother's pregnancy and labor. 

Depending on the severity and type of mastitis your dog contracts, treatment may include prescribed antibiotics or even surgery. If the mother is still nursing her newborns, the vet may also recommend gently milking the glands until the infection is completely cleared up. Milking the glands will give the owner and/or vet an opportunity to check on the level of swelling and monitor the overall condition of the teat. Mild cold compresses may also be beneficial to help the dog feel a bit more comfortable.

Mastitis is typically treatable at home. Be sure to take your dog in to see the vet as soon as any symptoms appear. The earlier treatment can begin the better for your dog.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Concerned about the health of your pregnant or nursing dog? Northgate Veterinary Clinic is here to help. Contact our Seattle vets right away, to book an examination for your beloved pup. 

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