You’re in the middle of the usual cuddle time with your pooch when you notice something that has never caught your eyes before a small, dark hole in their lower abdomen.
If the said spot has a symmetrical brother on the other side, chances are it’s not a tick or flea, but your dog’s inverted nipple.
Inverted nipples in dogs are not so uncommon, so unless the nipple looks swollen or your dog shows other symptoms, there’s nothing to worry about.
Why do dogs have inverted nipples?
Inverted nipples per se aren’t the consequence or the symptom of a bigger issue, it is a natural occurrence in many dogs as they reach adulthood and they usually do not bear any discomfort for your pet.
However, if your dog shows other recurring symptoms or if their nipples look inflamed, swollen, or otherwise not healthy, you should seek professional advice to rule out more serious conditions.
Intact female dogs with inverted nipples may have problems properly feeding the litter, with the risk that some puppies may end up malnourished or worse. In that case, you should take the proper measures to make sure all the puppies are equally fed.
While inverted nipples are completely normal and not at all painful for your dog, they are easily subjected to infections because sebum tends to accumulate inside over time. If not cleaned regularly, this could provoke harmful consequences for your pet.
As long as you remember to take care of them properly as you do with nails, fur, or any other part of your dog’s body, you can be sure that your pooch will never suffer because of their inverted nipples.
Is it normal for your dog to have inverted nipples?
Dog nipples are usually hidden by the fur, that’s why we don’t usually notice when our dog has inverted nipples, even though it’s more common than we may think.
Not all inverted nipples look the same, some of them may have turned dark or have a strange appearance due to the substance that accumulated inside and around them.
While inverted nipples happen to both male and female dogs, when female dog nipples are inverted is easily noticeable, because when they have puppies it becomes harder to feed them.
Although there’s nothing wrong with them, if you’re concerned or if you think that there is something odd with your dog’s nipples, it is never a bad idea to ask for advice from your veterinarian.
Intact female dogs have fully developed nipples, but it may happen that some of these nipples are inverted. While this is usually not a problem, it becomes a serious issue when having puppies.
Imagine your dog having 8 puppies and only 4 functional nipples. It’s inevitable that some of those puppies won’t be able to properly feed themselves, which could halt their growth and even cause life-threatening situations.
Usually, there’s always at least one bossy puppy in a litter, the one that pushes away their little brothers and sisters when it’s time for food. This way, weaker puppies are always left out and could go through severe malnourishment.
There are a few things you can do to make sure all of your puppies are well-nursed:
– Supervise nursing time to make sure all puppies get access to their mother and rotate them manually if you see that some of them are being left out;
– If the mother seems to always be lying on the same side, unwillingly making protruding nipples inaccessible while showing only the inverted ones, move her carefully to the other side;
– There is actually a way of popping out inverted nipples: if stretching the skin around the nipple isn’t enough to revert its position, you can place the strongest puppy in the litter on that nipple, which should help pull it out at least while feeding.
If neglected, inverted nipples can easily become the target of bacteria, and develop dog nipple infections like mastitis.
Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary glands that produce milk, which is most common in nursing dogs but can affect spayed dogs and male dogs as well.
Mastitis is usually caused by bacterial infection or trauma around the nipple area. If neglected, it can lead to life-threatening situations.
This condition can be divided in:
– Galactostasis: usually affects female dogs in the late stage of pregnancy. Accumulated milk distends the nipple causing pain for the animal, but there is no infection and the dog usually doesn’t show any symptom;
– Acute septic mastitis: this kind of condition is caused by bacteria entering the mammary gland and can be lethal if left untreated.
Dogs affected by mastitis show signs of discomfort or pain, and the condition is also visible in the nipple area. The most common symptoms of mastitis in dogs include:
- Red, swollen, wounded nipples
- Discharge from the teats
- Refusal to nurse puppies
- Weight loss
- Septic shock or abscesses (if untreated)
Treatments for this condition are available, but the prognosis heavily relies on how quickly the dog was diagnosed and how serious the condition has become.
If you notice anything unusual in your nursing dog, get in contact with a veterinarian as soon as possible.
What should you do if your dog has inverted nipples?
When you have a dog with inverted nipples, the only thing you need to do is to keep them clean in order to prevent dirt and bacteria from gathering inside of the small holes.
Puppy nipples may develop into inverted nipples as they reach adulthood and this phenomenon is fairly common, but we don’t hear much about it, which is why many dog parents get worried when they first spot a completely or semi inverted nipple.
This kind of anomaly is usually painless for your pooch and doesn’t represent a health risk, to the point that your veterinarian will probably be quick to dismiss it.
However, if your dog is already a full-grown adult and has suddenly developed inverted nipples, or if the nipple looks red, swollen, or infected, your dog will need a medical examination to rule out a more serious issue.
How to clean inverted nipples?
The substance that usually gets stuck inside dog inverted nipples is sebum, which is very similar to earwax. In order to get it out, you can try squeezing the spot until most of the substance pops out and then clean thoroughly with a cotton swab.
When your dog has inverted nipples, their hygiene becomes a priority. These small spots should be cleaned at least once or twice per month if you want to avoid infections and conditions like mastitis.
The reason why inverted nipples need to be cared for so often is that bacteria are continuously and steadily accumulating inside those pockets, as well as dirt, dust, and everything else your dog may come in contact with.
That’s why learning how to properly clean and care for inverted nipples could save you a lot of money in medical expenses for future dog nipple problems and not to mention, keep your dog healthy.
If you’re wondering why can’t your dogs just clean themselves when they feel dirty, the answer is simple: their tongue is too big to properly clean these small pockets, they can’t reach inside and get the dirt out.
Bathing your dog won’t do any good either, because you’re only cleaning the “surface” and not reaching the spots you need to reach.
How to handle your dog when you clean inverted nipples.
In order to clean their inverted nipples, you need to handle your dog in ways to which they’re probably not used to. That’s why many dogs put up a fight during the cleaning process, making it sometimes difficult to take care of their inverted nipples properly.
To avoid this problem, dogs should get used to being touched and handled everywhere since their puppy days.
It is impossible to know when this kind of training could come in handy and you don’t want to be unable to give your dog the proper treatment because you can’t keep them still long enough.
Unfortunately, there is no renowned solution to this problem and it is not guaranteed that your dog will just get used to it. Nonetheless, you know your dog best so it’s up to you to come up with a personalized solution in order to make your dog sit through this process.
It is very important that you don’t skip a single cleaning session and that you take care of each inverted nipple thoroughly because infections can ignite really easily.