Dogs breastfeed their puppies, just as human breastfeed their babies. That means they need ‘mammary glands’ or, as we know them, nipples - to secrete milk to their litter. If your pooch is pregnant, you might be wondering what will happen to her body. Here is everything you need to know about pregnant dog nipples
All mammals breastfeed - and that’s exactly why they (and we) have nipples. A mother’s milk can help to ward off infection and help children grow stronger. It’s an amazing process, isn’t it?
And it’s no different for your dog. Once your pup gives birth to her litter, she will breastfeed them - which provides all the nutrition they need. Plus, as your pooch breastfeeds her little ones, she’ll naturally transfer antibodies to them, reducing the risk of disease and other illnesses.
Do all dogs have nipples?
If you’ve got a male dog, you might wonder if it’s normal for them to have nipples. But just think about it - human men have nipples, too!
During the first several weeks of development of an embryo, both males and female follow the same blueprint - which includes the development of nipples. But, they don’t serve the same purpose as female or pregnant dog nipples do.
“Your dog will have a set of nipples running down each side of her body from the chest to the belly. Dogs evolved so many nipples to make sure all the pups in their litters - and they can have from one to more than twelve - get fed,” explains Matthew Hoffman, author of Dogs: The Ultimate Care Guide: Good Health, Loving Care, Maximum Longevity.
Continuing, he says: “In male dogs neutered females, the nipples remain quite small. They develop into breast tissue only during pregnancy and milk production”
Pregnant dog nipples - what happens?
Wondering if your dog is pregnant? One of the most obvious signs has got to be pregnant dog nipples. A female dog’s nipples are usually rather small, though they may be more noticeable than a male or spayed female’s nipples.
However, when a dog becomes pregnant, her nipples will naturally grow in size and the areolas become more raised and noticeable. As well as this, it’s likely that the nipples will turn darker or pinker than they would normally, due to the increased blood flow to the area.
You’ll generally begin to notice these changes around 2-4 weeks after breeding. Don’t worry, these changes are completely normal - your pup’s body is just preparing for milk production!
Later on in the pregnancy, it’s normal for a dog’s nipples to leak milk occasionally, too.
Other symptoms of pregnancy in dogs
If you’ve noticed the symptoms of pregnant dog nipples but still aren’t completely sure if your pooch is pregnant, you should look out for the following early signs of pregnancy in dogs:
Change in appetite
You might notice your dog isn’t eating as much as normal or struggling to finish her whole meal. This is a common early sign of pregnancy and it is all down to the hormonal fluctuations going on in her body.
If she is pregnant and doesn’t eat so much, don’t panic - it’s normal and her appetite will pick back up at some point. However, if she doesn’t eat for a few days, give your vet a call to see what’s going on.
Noticed your pup napping a lot? An increase in tiredness or general lethargy is another sign of pregnancy in dogs. There’s a lot going on that little body of hers, so it’s totally fine if she needs to rest more than usual. You might have to decrease the number or length of walks accordingly.
Changes in behaviour
You love your dog, so you’ll love this symptom of dog pregnancy! Dogs often become clingy and needy whilst they’re pregnant, seeking lots of attention and cuddles with their family. If that’s what she wants, give it to her - it’ll help her keep calm and happy before her pups arrive.
On the flipside, some dog’s may act withdrawn and distant during pregnancy. This is totally normal too - it’s all down to the crazy hormonal changes going on in her body. Don’t worry, your pup will be back to her normal self before you know it.
Later signs of pregnancy
As your dog’s pregnancy progresses, you’ll notice she’s gained weight and her abdomen has become bigger - that’s those little pups growing! If you touch her belly, you might even feel movement from those little ones. Get those tissues ready - it’s magical.
You’ll know that labour is imminent when your pup begins to exhibit nesting behaviours. This normally happens around a day or two before the birth. She may become restless, agitated and start to gather pillows, blankets and papers in an area of your home. Hopefully, you’ll have already prepared a whelping area for her.
And lastly, as we mentioned earlier, pregnant dog nipples might leak as the birth gets closer. If you notice a few splatters on the floor or some leakage, it’s nothing to worry about.
Pregnant dog nipples - it’s nursing time!
By now, some time will have passed - the puppies are here and your dog has a lot on her plate. Having puppies can be stressful for your pooch and nursing can carry some issues of its own.
While your pup is naturally able to care for her puppies alone, there are a few things you can do to make things easier for her.
Make a sanctuary
The whelping box you created should be like a sanctuary for your dog whilst she’s nursing. Keep the area quiet and secluded, with plenty of cosy blankets and towels, and keep unfamiliar visitors away until the puppies are older. Simple, reducing stress in this way will make the process a lot easier for her.
Keep Mum well fed
While your pup is nursing her puppies and producing milk, she’ll need tons of energy to keep her going. You should be feeding her much more food than normal, and ensuring the food is of the highest quality. It’s best to chat with your vet about the individual diet needs of your pregnant and nursing dog, as it varies widely from breed to breed.
Keep an eye on her nipples
With several puppies sucking on them, it’s no surprise that pregnant dog nipples can become inflamed, sore and painful when nursing.
There are a few ways to make the process a little easier on her, such as putting an old t-shirt over her between feedings. It might sound silly, but making her nipples unavailable for the puppies for a few hours each day, means Mum has some time to recover.
There are also a number of antibiotic creams and balms available to ease pregnant dog nipples. Ask your vet for these before the birth as a precautionary measure. You should check her nipples regularly for any signs of cracking, redness, bleeding or discharge. If these symptoms are present, your pooch may have developed an infection called mastitis. It’s a very painful condition which needs treatment immediately - so get to the vet, pronto.
We couldn't end this article without saying congratulations to you and your brave dog. Dog pregnancy is tiring for the both of you, and you've done so well to be blessed with a litter of happy, healthy puppies.