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Mastitis in Dogs

Mastitis is a real concern for pregnant dogs and for those who own them. In this post, our Fairfield, NJ vets answer questions about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of mastitis in female dogs.

What is mastitis?

Mastitis is a condition of swollen mammary glands in female dogs, which can occur with or lead to infection.

Mastitis typically occurs after a female dog gives birth as a result of an unsanitary at-home birth site or premature weaning of the newborn puppies. Mastitis can manifest itself in several ways in a dog.

  1. Acute Mastitis. When the mammary gland swells painfully, potentially leads to the mother's avoidance of feeding the pups or lethargy.
  2. Septic Mastitis. Inflammation of the mammary gland leads to heat, pain, milk discoloration, and potential sickness in the mother.
  3. Non-septic Mastitis: Inflammation of the mammary gland that is not caused by 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 its symptoms.
  5. Gangrenous Mastitis. Blackening of the teat, sometimes accompanied by darker stomach tissue, as well as illness in the mother. 

With all of these different types of mastitis, owners of expecting mother dogs may want to know how to identify postpartum mastitis.

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. As aforementioned, some types of mastitis will lead to discoloration of the teat or even discoloration and blood in the milk. Here are some common symptoms of mastitis in dogs:

  • Swelling of the teat or mammary glands
  • 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?

There are a few common causes of mastitis in canines that owners of pregnant dogs should know in order to prevent the condition from developing. Some of these causes 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 to Treat Mastitis in Dogs

Now that you know the signs, symptoms, and causes of mastitis in dogs, you may want to know how to get your pup treated for it.

To first diagnose mastitis, your veterinarian will perform a full physical exam, and will sometimes collect necessary information on the mother's pregnancy and labor. 

Depending on the severity and type of mastitis your dog has, treatment may include antibiotics or surgery. If the mother is still nursing her newborns, the vet will most likely recommend gently milking the glands until the infection is completely cleared up. Milking the glands also allows the owner or vet to check on the teat's swelling, heat, or other conditions. Mild cold compresses may also be helpful in making the dog feel more at ease.

In general, mastitis is usually fairly treatable at home. Consult your vet for best practices with your pup suffering from mastitis.

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.

Want to learn more about how to prevent or treat mastitis? Contact our Fairfield, NJ vets today.

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