Dogs are mammals that feed their pups with – you guessed it – nipples! Of course, females need them, but do male dogs have nipples, too? Learn more about the function and the average number of these puppy-feeding parts, plus a few common canine nipple health issues!
What Do Dog Nipples Do?
Most warm-blooded female mammals feed their young with the milk secreted from nipples, and dogs are no different!
A female dog uses her nipples to feed her puppy litters and provide them the nourishment that's critical to help them grow in their first few weeks of life and develop into strong puppy rascals!
Most dogs these days are spayed, so though most female dogs don't develop mammary glands anymore, they still have their nipples developed while in utero.
Why are my dogs' nipples enlarged?
When an unspayed dog enters heat or lactates to produce milk, her mammary glands swell, becoming more pronounced. That's why you'll see pregnant dog nipples enlarge, especially during the last trimester of pregnancy – they're preparing to feed some hungry pups soon!
Nipple colors range from pink to black, depending on your pup's skin color and breed.
How Many Nipples Do Dogs Have?
Female Dog Nipples
The number of nipples a dog has depends on the size of the dog and the breed.
Generally, a female dog has 6-10 nipples along her abdomen that sit in symmetrical pairs on each side of the belly.
Female dogs have puppy litters of 6-8 dogs on average, so of course, they need more nipples than humans! Humans have 2 nipples to feed 1-2 babies, and doggos have enough nipples to provide roughly 1 nipple per pup, which hopefully offers them each an ample milk supply.
Do male dogs have nipples, too?
Like human men, male dogs also have nipples that are more accessory than functional, as they cannot feed either babies or puppies.
Why do male dogs have nipples?
Why bother, then? A mammalian fetus develops its nipples while it is in utero, and for the first few weeks, males and females have an identical genetic blueprint to follow.
Basically, nipples develop before the males' genes "flip on" to develop male sexual organs, so nature gives everybody nipples. And because the nipples are harmless, there's no need to erase them as the development process continues.
How many nipples do male dogs have?
Though there's a difference in nipple function, there is no difference in the total number of nipples in male vs. female dogs.
Male dogs have approximately the same number of nipples as females, as again, they develop before gender genes have flipped on – so most male pups have 6-10 of them, on average.
What do boy dog nipples look like?
Generally, you'll see little nipples in dogs that are male, as they have mammary glands that never mature, unlike a female doggo.
A male pup's nipples are tiny, round, and may be either the same color as your dog's skin or darker than the skin area.
Common Canine Nipple Issues
For the most part, a dog's nipples are harmless, but occasionally, they can cause some health issues.
Breast cancer is an unfortunate reality for dogs, as it is for humans. A hard lump may form within the mammary tissues, so keep an eye on your pup's body and get used to performing all-over body checks for not only breast cancer but any other sudden changes in your dog's body.
Take your pup for regular vet check-ups, which usually include an all-over exam to check for any abnormalities.
Female dogs that are un-spayed or spayed later in life are more likely to develop mammary cancer, as the female reproductive hormones they produce can also cause abnormal growths more easily. Occasionally, males also develop mammary cancer, but it's less likely, as they have less of these female hormones floating around.
There is no cure for malignant or benign mammary tumors in pups. The only way to remove a canine mammary tumor is through surgery, though there is a big chance others may grow. In the case of several mammary tumors, vets often suggest removing the entire mammary chain to prevent future regrowth. After surgery, invest in a ramp like this to help your dog to comfortable spots without hurting their tender tummy area.
We also treat pups with mammary cancer with chemotherapy, though it's much less harsh on the canine body than it is on a human's – a dog won't lose its fur through the treatment, and they may only feel some mild nausea and appetite effects.
Mastitis is a common nipple condition we see in doggos, caused by a bacterial infection in the nipple or mammary glands.
Typically, we see mastitis in female dogs that just birthed a litter of pups or experienced a pseudo or false pregnancy. Sometimes, we see spayed female and male dogs develop this condition too, generally due to unsanitary living conditions, nipple trauma, and infection.
Mastitis can become life-threatening if not adequately treated for both the mama dog and her pups – many dogs with mastitis stop feeding their puppies due to the high levels of pain they experience.
A few common mastitis signs include swollen mammary glands, pus leaks, lack of appetite, and lower levels of energy.
Luckily, mastitis is usually treated easily with an antibiotic prescription and warm compresses for soothing and cleaning purposes. If the situation is severe, many dogs require an IV drip, or the removal of the mammary glands through surgery.
Final Note: Dog Nipples in Unusual Places
If you feel a slight, nipple-like bump in a strange place on your dog's body, it may just be another nipple!
Sometimes, a dog develops an extra nipple in a strange spot, especially the inside of the leg or somewhere else altogether.
Why? Generally, a dog's nipples grow in two lines between their front arms and their feet. Though most nipples land somewhere in the center of that line, others may stray a little further from the line than usual – it's completely safe and normal!
If you notice a strangely-placed nipple, check the opposite side of their tummy in the same place to see if it has a matching nipple partner – if it does, you're likely in the clear. If the nipple has no "twin," get your vet to check it out at your next appointment.
Also, beware of any new lumps that pop up. Nipples are for life, and a dog can't develop new ones.
We hope we've cleared up any confusion about this strange piece of your pup's anatomy!