Mastitis in Dogs

Mastitis is a serious condition that is the cause of infections in pregnant dogs or dogs that have recently had puppies. In this post, our Wake Forest vets share some information about mastitis in dogs, what it is caused by and what can be done to treat it and get your dog feeling well again.

Mastitis in Dogs: What is it?

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

This infection most commonly occurs due to an ineffectively sanitized birthing area or if the puppies have been taken and weaned too early. Did you know that there is more than one type of mastitis in dogs? They are:

  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 their symptoms.
  5. Gangrenous Mastitis. Blackening of the teat, sometimes accompanied by darker stomach tissue, as well as illness in the mother. 

Because there are so many different types of mastitis you may benefit from knowing the different signs of this infection to watch for.

What does mastitis look like in dogs? What are the signs?

There are no single specific symptoms of mastitis in dogs but there is a number of potential symptoms that may or may not affect your dog herself. As aforementioned, some types of mastitis will lead to discoloration of the teat or even discoloration and blood in the milk. Some of the most commonly seen symptoms of mastitis include:

  • 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 begin to notice any of the above symptoms, contact your vet immediately.

What are some reasons that dogs may develop mastitis?

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 have a little information on what mastitis is in dogs and how it happens we can talk about how it can be treated.

Your vet will discuss how your dog's labor and delivery went and perform a full examination of your dog. 

Depending on the severity and type of mastitis your dog contracts, treatment can be in the form of prescribed antibiotics or even surgery. If the mother is still nursing her newborns, the vet will likely also require gently milking the glands until the infection is completely cleared up. Milking the glands will also afford the owner or the vet an opportunity to check on the level of swelling, heat or other conditions of the teat. Mild cold compresses may also be beneficial to help the dog feel a bit more comfortable.

You should be able to fully treat mastitis in the comfort of your own home with the direction of a veterinarian.

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.

Would you like to learn more about the prevention or treatment of mastitis in dogs? Contact our Wake Forest vets today.