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Mastitis in Dogs: Everything You Should Know

Mastitis in Dogs: Everything You Should Know

Mastitis can be a serious issue for pregnant dogs and their owners. In this article, our veterinarians at Palmyra provide answers to common questions about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of mastitis in female dogs.

What is mastitis?

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

Mastitis typically occurs after a female dog gives birth as a result of an at-home birth site that has not been effectively sanitized or from weening the newborn puppies too early. There are a few different types of mastitis that a dog can develop.

  1. Acute Mastitis. When the mammary gland swells painfully, potentially leading to the mother's avoidance of feeding the pups or lethargy.
  2. Septic Mastitis. Inflammation of the mammary gland that 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. 

With all of these different types of mastitis, owners of expecting mother dogs may want to know how to identify postpartum mastitis.

What does mastitis look like in dogs?

Mastitis in dogs can have different symptoms, including those that affect the mammary glands and teat. However, these symptoms may or may not indicate further illness in the mother dog. Some types of mastitis can cause changes in the teat color or even the presence of blood in the milk. Here are a few common symptoms of mastitis in dogs:

  • 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 notice any of these symptoms in your postpartum pup, contact your vet immediately.

What are the causes of mastitis in dogs?

To prevent mastitis in pregnant dogs, it's important for owners to be aware of the common causes. Some of these causes are:

  • 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.

Discovering the signs, symptoms, and causes of mastitis in dogs empowers you to seek treatment for your beloved pup. The initial step in diagnosing mastitis involves your veterinarian conducting a thorough physical examination, possibly gathering relevant information about the mother's pregnancy and delivery.

Treatment for mastitis depends on its severity and type, and can involve prescribed antibiotics or even surgery. If the mother is still nursing her puppies, the vet may recommend gently milking the glands until the infection is fully resolved. This milking process also allows for monitoring the teat's swelling, heat, or other conditions. Additionally, providing mild cold compresses can bring some comfort to your dog.

In most cases, mastitis can be effectively treated at home. However, it is essential to consult your vet to ensure the best practices for managing mastitis in your pup.

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.

Want to learn more about how to prevent or treat mastitis? Contact our Palmyra vets today.

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