Mastitis in Dogs: Post-Partum Affection of Female Dogs

Mastitis in Dogs
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Mastitis in dogs occurs in some females after giving birth. This disease can be confused with other serious diseases, such as breast cancer. This is why the diagnosis must be established by a specialist who knows how to examine the female dog in question and to prescribe an appropriate treatment. Among its symptoms are loss of appetite, fever, increased mammary glands, lethargy, anorexia and apathy. Also the infected area is painful, the burning sensation occurs and there is also a white secretion that might leak together with greenish pus and sometimes blood.

The female dog doesn’t stop feeding her puppies and her disease doesn’t affect them unless it is caused by microorganisms like streptococci, coliforms or other dangerous ones. However, there are cases when she refuses to feed her offspring because of pain and other causes. Only the veterinarian can help in this very delicate situation. Usually he or she prescribes antibiotics and an ointment that can be applied locally.

Generalities about mammary infection in dogs

Mastitis is inflammation of the mammary gland, which may be the result of an injury of any kind or a response to a microbial invasion. The infection may be marrow like in the case of tuberculosis or brucellosis, percutaneous or through the teat canal. It seems that the most important barrier against spreading is represented by some parts of the teat canal. The presence of a bacterial population in the nipple’s tank is usually followed by inflammation. The presence of large numbers of bacteria from the teat orifice only sporadically leads to an infection.

Chemical factors from the teat canal contribute to the annihilation of infection. Thus, there are female dogs very susceptible to an infection with Streptococcus agalactiae and female dogs that are resistant to this infection.

Dog with mastitis

Mastitis is considered rare and nonspecific in female dogs. The most important one is the nonspecific acute mastitis, which is common in the early lactation period or in case of pseudo pregnancy. The etiological agents are staphylococci and streptococci; Staphylococci can cause gangrene, but with a tendency to form abscesses, while streptococci tend to produce a diffuse purulent inflammation.

In acute mastitis, the gland is hypertrophied and the skin covering the gland is large and bright. It may only present small amounts of secretion that is gray or reddish and sometimes accompanied by pus. The cases of chronic mastitis cannot be differentiated from another disease called neoplasms unless the vet examines the results of the cytology exam. Mastitis is known to often overlap cystic breast dysplasia and breast neoplasms.

Normally, the female dog has soft and enlarged mammary glands while breastfeeding. If something is wrong with her body, then her mammary glands turn red, hard and painful to touch. In this case one shouldn’t stop the puppies from feeding on her, but she should be taken to the vet in order to receive a proper treatment for her affection.

The specialist will know what to do to immediately relieve her pain and how to reduce the infection completely with the help of medication. However, there are cases when she will not be able to feed her pups anymore, so they will have to be fed with formula.

Symptoms of mastitis in female dogs

Fever, loss of appetite, bad mood, diarrhea and vomiting are some of the symptoms of mastitis. When they appear, the female dog’s breasts harden and swell considerably to the point of causing pain.

The female dog might refuse to feed her puppies because she is in too much pain. That is when one should purchase formula sold by veterinarians or in veterinarian pharmacies or prepare a special formula at home. This consists in a mixture of a glass of cow milk, a cup of cold cream with 12% fat and egg yolk. The vet should approve this formula or recommend a better one, so make sure to ask him or her about it.

Dog in pain

If the infection is located at a single mammary gland, then the female dog may have no symptoms. If the infection spreads to the other mammary glands, then the symptoms become obvious. The female dog’s mammary glands should be checked daily in order to see if they are painful, if they are hard and if her body temperature is higher in that area. Milk from each udder should be checked daily in terms of color and consistency.

Each mammary gland and nipple should be checked at least once a day for redness, hardness, discharge or striations of color. If mastitis develops, the veterinarian should be alerted immediately. If the problem is detected early, milking the affected gland and applying hot compresses can resolve the situation. Sometimes, antibiotics are required.

Causes of mammary infection in dogs

  • Milk stagnation may occur in the mammary gland during breastfeeding or weaning the pups.
  • Some puppies may scratch or hurt their mom during lactation, fact which leads to mastitis.
  • Some female dogs may have an important genetic predisposition to this disease.
  • Certain stressful situations, excessive heat or really cold temperatures are among the other causes of mastitis.
  • Gastrointestinal diseases or genital diseases may trigger mastitis.
  • False pregnancy in female dogs can be also a cause.
  • Other infections or the exposure to chemicals can lead to an infection of the mammary glands.
  • Other factors include poor hygiene, scratches and wounds that were inflicted accidentally.
  • These microorganisms are dangerous as they are banal and their presence in the body of a dog is common, especially in the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract and coat. They can acquire pathogen value when local defenses are down. Other microorganisms may also be identified, such as streptococci, coliforms, Salmonella and so on. All these agents can be found in the breast and in milk.

Diagnosis of mastitis in female dogs

To diagnose mastitis, one simply has to touch the breast of the female dog. She will visibly react if she is in pain and one can notice if it is filled with pus or if the whole area is redder than it is supposed to be or if the nipples are harder than usual. Without further advice, one should not let the puppies feed from her anymore until the toxicological results come back. The female dog may be infected with microorganisms that are also dangerous for her offspring especially if they were just born or are barely opening their eyes.

Treatment for mammary infection in dogs

The drug therapy of mastitis varies depending on the symptoms and the severity of the situation, so you need to talk to your veterinarian. In some cases, the administration of an antibiotic is enough and it could perhaps be accompanied by warm compresses and intravenous fluids. Some veterinarians consider that the affected female dog should not breastfeed or lick its own nipples. Therefore, it would be appropriate to wrap her nipples well and change the bandages regularly.

Mastitis treatment

The female dog should be well fed and in case it is too lethargic to eat, it will be fed artificially by infusion. In addition, it would be best to keep her in a room where she can sit still, because she needs a lot of rest. The vet might also recommend anti-inflammatory and antipyretic drugs, as well as an anesthetic ointment for pain relief. Remember that these are meant as adjuvants and cannot replace the treatment with antibiotics, because those are the ones that kill bacteria.

Unfortunately, if the infection is severe or if it is not detected early, the consequences can be more serious and surgical intervention might be needed in order to extract the mammary glands. If mastitis is not treated in time, milk, blood and pus will all gather in the dog’s mammary glands and make them swell and get really hard. When this happens, the breast bursts. So, pay attention to any change in the appearance of the breasts of your female dog or if she tends to lick this area of ​​her body because it could be the beginning of a mastitis.

Prevention of mastitis in female dogs

Mastitis is an unpredictable disease that occurs usually post-partum or in female dogs with false pregnancies. It could be prevented if all the advices presented below would be followed.

  • As a general prevention advice, make sure your pet follows a proper diet that is balanced and rich in substances needed for breastfeeding. Remember that nutrition is the basis of a healthy animal and that her health depends to you.
  • After your female dog gives birth, make sure to wash her nipples carefully and constantly and to occasionally apply warm compresses on them.
  • Ask your veterinarian if there is any medication you can administer in order to prevent mastitis before your female dog is affected by it. If you do so, then you will be prepared to cure her quickly when it happens.
  • Purchase bandages from the pharmacy and other ointments suited for this affection and stock them in your house.
  • Always keep a clean environment for your female dog; the onset of bacteria can be favored by an unhealthy environment.

In conclusion, what you can do as a dog owner is to pay attention to your female dog’s health and make sure that everything goes according to plan after she gives birth. If you notice any sign of illness, do look into it and visit the vet as soon as possible.

Breast cancer in pets

The life of her puppies is also in stake, so your responsibility is even bigger than usually. Do not be afraid to apply ointments and compressed on your pet’s nipples because it might hurt at the beginning, but it will ease her pain afterwards. Mastitis is very uncommon, but its occurrence is a possibility which you shouldn’t exclude.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

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