A nursing mother dog with puppies.

Let’s Talk About Dog Nipples

How many nipples do dogs have? Do male dogs have nipples, too? What is mastitis in dogs? We answer everything you ever wanted to know (and more!) about dog nipples.
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Picture this: You’re scratching your dog’s belly. Then your fingers run along something small and bumpy. If you’re like me, you have to dig through a layer of dog fur to figure out what it is. Eventually, you find a weird, fleshy, mole-like bump and realize: Hey, that’s a nipple! This can lead you to a whole number of questions, like, Why does my dog have nipples? Do male dogs have nipples, too? How many nipples do dogs have? Let’s check out some facts about dog nipples right here:

First, What Do Dog Nipples Do?

A nursing puppy.
There’s more to dog nipples than nursing puppies. Photography by kukiatB/Thinkstock.

For female mammals (including humans), nipples secrete/produce milk to feed infants. That’s the same role nipples play for female dogs and their puppies, says Nataya Chayasriwong, associate veterinarian at Country Oaks Pet Hospital in Sacramento, California. But, as Dr. Chayasriwong points out, the typical dog owner won’t ever see that.

“We don’t really see milk production in our dogs nowadays since most of our animals are spayed,” Dr. Chayasriwong explains. “So, they don’t develop the mammary glands like they would if they were intact.”

The mammary glands swell up on female dogs during heat or when they are lactating. Dog nipples are usually larger and more pronounced than the small bumps you find on spayed females.

Dog nipples range in color from pink to black, depending on your dog’s breed and coloration.

How Many Nipples Do Dogs Have?

The number of dog nipples depends on the breed, Dr. Chayasriwong says. “It can range from 6 to 10 on average,” she explains. “Most dogs are symmetrical, meaning they have an even number of nipples on both sides. Sometimes there are an odd number of nipples, though.”

But why so many dog nipples? It’s because they have large litters with about two to eight puppies. All those puppies need feeding, hence plenty of nipples for them choose from. Dr. Chayasriwong explains that you can actually tell how many babies a particular mammal has based on their nipples.

“Cats have large litters, so they have around 6 to 10 nipples on average,” she says. “Humans usually only have one or two babies at a time, so they only have two nipples. Horses have two nipples, since they, at most, have two foals.”

The more you know!

Do Male Dogs Have Nipples, Too?

Yup! You might have noticed that the human men in your life have nipples — they have them for the same reason dogs do. As Live Science reports, “During the first several weeks, male and female embryos follow the same blueprint, which includes the development of nipples.” This is before the genes that develop male genitalia switch on; by then, as Live Science puts it, “those nipples aren’t going anywhere.”

What Issues Affect Dog Nipples? Dog Mammary Cancer

Now that you know more about dog nipples, let’s look at what problems or issues affect them.

“The mammary tissues can develop cancers,” Dr. Chayasriwong says. “That’s why it’s really important for people to bring in dogs regularly so we can check for any weird bumps or lumps. Problems in mammary glands are more likely to appear in female dogs who are intact, or female dogs who were spayed later in life.”

This is because the hormones during heat that cause dog mammary glands to grow can cause abnormal growth, which may lead to cancer. “On rare occasions, you’ll see mammary gland cancers in male dogs, too,” Dr. Chayasriwong adds.

Another Issue That Affects Dog Nipples? Mastitis in Dogs

Another issue that affects dog nipples is a bacterial infection called mastitis. Mastitis in dogs can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Mastitis is often seen in intact female dogs who either just had puppies or had a pseudo-pregnancy during heat. (Basically, a female dog at the end of her heat acts like she has puppies, with her mammary glands swelling as a result. She may also do things like guard her toys like they are her puppies.)

It isn’t just limited to intact female dogs, though. Spayed females and even male dogs can develop mastitis as well.

The Merck Veterinary Manual reports that mastitis can affect dog nipples due to “poor sanitary conditions, trauma inflicted by offspring and systemic infection.” Signs of the infection include swollen mammary glands that may or may not be leaking pus, and your dog appearing lethargic and/or not eating. If your dog does have puppies, she may not be feeding them and the puppies may appear malnourished.

Mastitis in Dogs Treatment

If you suspect your dog has mastitis, he or she needs to get to the veterinarian right away. Left untreated, mastitis can lead to septic shock and kill your dog. Once your veterinarian confirms mastitis as the diagnosis, she will prescribe antibiotics for your dog. She may also have you apply warm compresses to the affected dog nipples, and regularly milk them out to clear out the ducts.

In serious cases, your dog may need intravenous fluid therapy to treat shock or dehydration. If the mammary gland is abscessed or just can’t be saved, surgery is required to remove it. If there are puppies involved, they may need treatment too if they are malnourished and dehydrated. You might find yourself feeding them until mom is better.

You’re in luck, though: Mastitis in dogs is easily treatable if caught early. Most dogs make a full recovery.

And Here’s a Weird Thing About Dog Nipples …

You might find dog nipples in unusual places. Like the inside of your dog’s legs.

Why would dog nipples grow there? “There are lines nipples typically follow during development of the placenta,” Dr. Chayasriwong explains. “Typically, the lines extend from their arms to their feet. Those lines are why nipples are where they are on a dog’s [body], but sometimes there’s a stray one that develops in a weird place.”

If you do find a fleshy bump on the inside of your dog’s leg (or other odd place), check the opposite leg for anything similar. Dr. Chayasriwong says if there is an identical bump symmetrical to the first bump, chances are it’s a nipple. If you don’t, have your veterinarian check the bump over just in case it’s something serious.

Thumbnail: Photography by GlobalP/Thinkstock.

This piece was originally published in 2017.

Read more about dog health on Dogster.com:

57 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Dog Nipples”

  1. Pingback: What happens when you scratch the belly of your dog?

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  3. My 5 month Jack Russell x maltese only has 4 nipples one being much smaller then the other 3 I cant seem to see any others. I wondering if she is still developing or if I should take her to the vet.

  4. Malinda Trapanese

    My female Pomsky has NO nipples. My daughter pointer it out & I was sure she was wrong until I & every other family member checked (no one could believe it till they looked themselves, lol) Not even the tiniest bump! She was spayed very early, before her first heat. But shouldn’t there be some sign? An areola? Something? Is this common?

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  6. Hi, this is a great read.

    I find the bit on growing extra nipples on different areas of the body besides the chest very informative.

    Also, another thing we should watch out for with the nipples of our dogs, especially in males is the change in size. Changes in size may indicate a more serious disease with male dogs like male testicular cancer.

    In any case, I have a similar article here which I hope you’ll find to be an interesting read about dogs and their nipples: https://goldenretrieverlove.com/how-many-nipples-do-dogs-have/

  7. My dog have 4 nipples on the left side and 5 on the right side, I was concern about that, but with this article, I’m relieved.

  8. My nephew’s Chihuahua dog is 10 years old and is pregnant but she also has bruising on her sides what does that mean? What should we do?

  9. Pingback: Let’s Talk About Dog Nipples – dogcaz.com

  10. Kristi Hartman

    Hi there,
    Thanks for the article. I have a mother and daughter American Eskimo pair. They both have tiny dark dots around their nipples that I can gently remove like a blackhead with a little effort. Is this simply dirt that has entered the milk ducts around their nipples? It is hard and blackish like sand. It does not come out when i give them a bath, but only with gentle scraping and extracting.

  11. Hi! Hoping for a response but I’m not too worried about it- my FEMALE dog doesn’t have nipples. I’ve checked her legs and everywhere else the internet has told me to check. I’m not sure if I should be concerned or not.

  12. Ummm…Yeah. So, my female labradoodle is missing a nipple. Where did it go? (I would really like to know what happened to it.) (So would she.)

    Thanks!

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  14. Lillian Ockerby McGarvey

    I have inherited my mother’s Bichon Frise ‘Molly’ who is 10 yrs old and had 2 litters. I have noticed on 2 of her nipples are tiny black dots. I have gently scratched some off to see if they are flea dirt/dirt or mites but don’t really know if it’s normal to have these marks. She has recently been scratching too but can’t see any fleas and is regularly treated at the vets. Please help.

  15. my Miniature dachshund has 8 nipples but only 6 look useful. When she has pups is it possible that only 6 will be filled with milk or would the other two come into action? I’m not concerned about it at all so please don’t tell me to ask my vet about it. It’s a general nipple question which is why I’m asking you.

    1. Hi there Cat,

      We suggest contacting your vet because your vet knows your dog’s health personally and can better answer your question since every dog is different.

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  17. my pittbull is pregnant and her top two nipples are turned inward. will they come out as the newborn puppies nurse? or do I need to be concerned that she is cause an infection if she lactates while they are poked in?

    1. Were the inverted nipples a problem? My pregnant lab has 2 inverted top nipples and I am concerned. She is due any day.

  18. I hv a sybireian huskey he is a yr and a half old. I have searched and searched him for nipples and I hv yet to find any on him. Why is this?

  19. Hi I have a question. I have had my Shichon from the time she was 4 months old and her belly was hairless and we have noticed that she did not have nipples. I found this to be strange and I thought it’s because maybe she was a hybrid not a breed. I have had her for 5 months. She just turned 9 months a few days ago and tonight when I was rubbing her belly for the umpteenth thousandth time I found two small nipples – very tiny but there. Why did it take so long for her to develop nipples? We were waiting for her to go through her first heat and be healed from it before getting her fixed in a couple of months. Could these nipples have developed because she is finally having her first heat?

  20. linda a ritter

    I am not sure how old my puppy and and she has her first nipple , I was wondering about how old puppies are when they start getting nipples , thanks linda

    1. Michaela Conlon

      Hi there Linda — thanks for reaching out!

      Our article talks about dog’s developing nipples while inside the womb:

      As Live Science reports, “During the first several weeks, male and female embryos follow the same blueprint, which includes the development of nipples.” This is before the genes that develop male genitalia switch on; by then, as Live Science puts it, “those nipples aren’t going anywhere.”

  21. Noluthando Lerato Matshego

    Hi my dog is on heat. I know for a fact she has never been in any contact with a male dog but I can see her nipples growing is this Normal? Or should I be worried?

    1. Michaela Conlon

      Hi there,

      Thanks for reaching out! We suggest bringing your dog to the vet to find out more specific information about your dog’s nipples and their growth.

  22. I once had a panic attack as I was convinced my male whippet had skin cancer. I rushed him to the vet who took one look the bump and said, “It’s a nipple.” He didn’t even charge me for the visit! I knew male dogs have nipples, but I just looked at this one and decided it looked more like a cancer…it’s good for a laugh now, but at the time I was really worried.

  23. Israel Chavez

    My dogs nipple is weird when squeeze it on the inside its like a ball i don’t know if its milk I want to know if she is pregnant she is one

    1. belvoir admin

      Hi Israel,

      Please contact a vet ASAP with this question. You can read up on dog pregnancy here:
      https://www.dogster.com/dog-health-care/how-long-are-dogs-pregnant-dog-health-pregnancy

  24. My dog literally scratched he nipple off 2 yrs ago. My vet said no worries. Now she has a black big area around the nipple w/ a scratchy feel to it, kind of rough I guess. Please tell me that doesn’t sound like cancer. I so worried.

    1. belvoir admin

      Hi Amy,
      We suggest discussing this with your vet again, and here are some articles on canine cancer:
      https://www.dogster.com/dog-health-care/canine-cancer-treatments-what-to-do
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-cancer-treatment
      https://www.dogster.com/dog-health-care/alternative-dog-cancer-treatments
      https://www.dogster.com/dog-health-care/are-all-dog-tumors-cancerous

  25. I am concerned that a pit bull puppy I know already has full breast as well as nipples that are swollen. Has been that way since early in age. Still a puppy

  26. My dog gave birth last year. Her nipples still aren’t completely back down yet. I’m concerned that the new harness I bought her might irritate the nipples, but I might just be being paranoid. Thoughts?

  27. My 5 year old boxers nipples look like she is nursing but she isnt.Why would she look like she has milk and is swollen

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