The Painful Truth About Swollen Teats in Dogs: 8 Common Causes

The Painful Truth About Swollen Teats in Dogs: 8 Common Causes

When dogs have swollen teats, it’s usually a sign of pregnancy or hormonal imbalances. Under certain circumstances, it can also indicate an inflammation of the mammary glands, allergies, injuries, cysts, or anemia.

In practice, such swellings occur much more frequently in bitches than in males. This is because male mammary glands have no real function.

Dogs have between 8 and 10 teats on average. However, the values ​​vary between 6 and 12. Here is a brief overview with the most important facts:

Key Factors:Most common causes:
maleAllergies, injuries, cysts, anemia
female dogHormone fluctuations, pregnancy, mastitis, mammary tumor
a teatCysts, injuries, mammary tumors, mastitis
All teatsPregnancy, hormone fluctuations, anemia, allergies

In the following, you will learn about the 8 most common causes of swollen teats, how to recognize them, and what to do in each specific case.

Are you worried or unsure? Then click here to start the live chat with a veterinarian.

1. Mammary Inflammation

If the dog’s mammary gland becomes inflamed, doctors also speak of “mastitis”. Since male dogs also have mammary glands, it can also affect them.

It is most common in bitches who are breastfeeding. Depending on the cause, veterinarians distinguish between two different types:

  • Acute septic mastitis: The cause here is usually a bacterial infestation, which inflames the mammary glands.
  • Galactostasis: Here, the infection is triggered by a blockage in the milk. It can therefore only occur in bitches.

However, the symptoms are the same in both cases. It is most likely to be recognized by severe swelling on the teats and reddening. Other typical symptoms are:

  • Teats are warm
  • Red-blue discoloration
  • Blood in the milk
  • The dog becomes sensitive to touch
  • Sudden fever
  • Dog reacts aggressively
  • Listlessness

In most cases, treatment with antibiotics is sufficient. In the case of engorged milk, it may be necessary to squeeze the teats manually, among other things.

When a dog’s teats become inflamed due to bacterial infestation or engorgement, the teats usually become very swollen. Typically, such an infection can also be recognized by severe reddening and an increased body temperature.

2. Pregnancy

In dogs, pregnancy is called a “pregnancy”. Compared to humans, dogs are also only pregnant for around 62 to 64 days.

Only unneutered bitches can become pregnant. With castration, the ovaries, uterus, and cervix are completely removed.

In most cases it can be recognized by the fact that the bitch suddenly gains weight, the abdomen increases in size and the teats swell. Other signs are:

  • Irritable Behavior
  • Dog tires faster
  • Decreased activity
  • The black crust on teats
  • Strong hunger
  • Milk runs out of the teats
  • Very trusting behavior

From the 20th day of pregnancy, the veterinarian can usually determine pregnancy using hormones. From the 30th day, the puppies are also visible.

Visible weight gain occurs around the 35th day. This means that dogs often have offspring around 1 month after the visible symptoms.

In pregnant bitches, not only does the entire abdomen expand, but the teats also swell considerably. In addition, affected four-legged friends usually get very hungry, move less, and also behave differently than normal.

3. Allergies

According to statistics, up to every fifth dog has to struggle with allergies. If the symptoms only occur in places, then it is called “contact dermatitis”.

Consequently, if the teats come into contact with the relevant allergens, then the symptoms can only appear there. The most common triggers for this are:

  • Fleas
  • Pollen
  • House dust
  • Mold
  • Grasses

You can usually recognize allergic reactions to the teats by the fact that dogs constantly scratch and lick them and the teats swell. Other symptoms are:

  • Scattered hair loss
  • Sudden rash
  • Severe itching
  • Odd smell
  • Dry and cracked skin
  • Inflammation of the skin

Since there is no cure for allergies, you should carry out an allergy test here and then avoid the corresponding allergens. Medication can also help here.

When the dog’s teats come into contact with allergens, swelling and redness can occur. However, the easiest way to tell is that the dog is constantly scratching and biting at the affected area due to the itching.

4. Mammary Tumor

If a tumor forms in the dog’s teat, doctors also speak of a “mammary tumor”. It is one of the most common types of tumors.

It most often affects unneutered bitches from the 9th year of life. Males are comparatively rarely affected. Neutered dogs are generally much less likely to be affected.

In addition, the tumor is malignant in only about half of the cases – in the other cases, it is benign. What is striking here is that not all teats swell, but usually only one.

It can also be recognized by the fact that there is a noticeable bump and the skin around it usually turns purple. Other typical signs are here:

  • Discharge from the teat
  • lethargic behavior
  • Uneven spread
  • Dog loses weight
  • Touch sensitivity
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dog eats less

In most cases, the tumor or even the entire mammary gland is removed for treatment. The earlier the intervention takes place, the better the chances.

When dogs are struggling with breast cancer, the teat also tends to swell and turn red, purple, and blue tones. The behavior of the dog often changes as well, so it generally seems a bit lethargic and also eats less.

5. Hormone Fluctuations

The size of the mammary glands is primarily controlled by the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Two things can cause these hormones to spike:

  • Period

On average, bitches get their first period after 6-15 months. Most of them also get them around 2 times a year – i.e. about every 6 months.

During this time, the dog’s teats also swell considerably due to the increased estrogen and progesterone levels. The same applies to the female genitals.

  • False pregnancy

False pregnancy occurs primarily in unneutered bitches who have had sexual contact but have not completed the process.

Around 3-9 weeks after the period, the same symptoms occur here as with a real pregnancy. Except there are no puppies in the belly.

Here, too, the teats swell considerably, and the dog gains weight and behaves unusually aggressively. But that will go away on its own over time.

During periods of false pregnancy, progesterone, and estrogen levels increase. For this reason, the teats also swell considerably during this time. This can only happen with unneutered bitches. This does not exist with males.

6. Injuries

Injuries can cause water or blood to collect in the tissue. That’s perfectly normal. Typical triggers for teat injuries are:

  • Insect bites
  • Fight with other animals
  • Parasites
  • Splinter injury
  • Open wounds
  • Bite from puppy while breastfeeding
  • Constant friction

If there is an accumulation of blood, the skin usually turns reddish or blue. The color of the skin hardly changes when exposed to water.

What is striking here is that mostly only a single teat is swollen. However, in the case of parasites or friction, all of them can also swell slightly. Other typical symptoms are here:

  • Touch sensitivity
  • Sudden aggressiveness
  • Dog lies unusually
  • Constant licking of teats
  • Dog refuses to breastfeed

If you suspect this, I recommend going to the vet. For evolutionary reasons, dogs always try to suppress existing pain.

When dogs sustain abdominal injuries, this can also lead to swelling of the teats. In most cases, insects or parasites are responsible for this. In addition, there is often redness and itching.

7. Cyst

If a cavity forms in the dog’s body, doctors also speak of a cyst. In most cases, it fills itself with air, water, or other tissue.

Depending on the characteristics, different types are distinguished. The exact cause of this is still unclear. However, known risk factors are:

  • Injuries
  • Congenital anomalies
  • Strong UV radiation
  • Injections
  • Previous Operations
  • Inactive Hair Follicles

Basically, a cyst can form anywhere on the body. The teats are no exception. It can usually be recognized by the following symptoms:

  • Swelling at the teat
  • No touch sensitivity
  • Circular curvature
  • Very sudden appearance

Depending on the cause, such cysts can also resolve on their own. Long-term cysts, on the other hand, are usually surgically removed. Laser treatment can also help in some cases.

If a cavity forms on or under the teat, it can fill with fluid or tissue. It can usually be recognized by the fact that only a single teat suddenly swells, but the dog does not show any signs of pain.

8. Anemia

The blood contains red blood cells, which are responsible for transporting oxygen. If the dog has too few of these, then doctors speak of “anemia”.

In most cases, it is because the dog has lost a lot of blood in an accident. Other typical causes of this are:

  • Poisoning
  • Problems with the kidneys
  • Cushing’s Syndrome
  • Genetics
  • A side effect of medication
  • Viral infections
  • Worm infestation

Swollen teats are more of a later symptom. Before that, it is usually recognizable by severe tiredness and pale gums. Other symptoms are:

  • High heart rate
  • The dog gets tired quickly
  • The chair is dark in color
  • The dog is breathing very fast
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Blood in the urine
  • listlessness

In most cases, the symptoms can be treated very well with the help of medication. You should contact your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

When dogs have too few red blood cells in their blood, this becomes noticeable both visually and in their behavior. It is typical here that the gums become pale, the dog is quickly tired, the teats swell and he suddenly loses weight.

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