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Mastitis in Dogs

Mastitis is a condition that affects the mammary glands of female dogs. This most commonly occurs postpartum, and can be life-threatening if left untreated. Here, our vets in Oceanside share some information about mastitis in female dogs, including what signs to watch for, possible causes, and how it can be treated.

What is mastitis in dogs?

Dogs can, at times, experience a condition known as mastitis. This ailment causes swollen mammary glands in female dogs, which can occur with or lead to infection.

Mastitis typically happens after a female dog gives birth, and is usually a result of an at-home birth site that has not been effectively sanitized, or from weaning 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 a warm sensation, 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 visible 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. 

What does mastitis look like in dogs?

If mastitis occurs in dogs, the symptoms can vary greatly. This is because some symptoms that affect the mammary glands and teat may or may not cause further signs of sickness in the mother herself.

Some of the symptoms that a dog may experience if affected by mastitis are:

  • Swelling of the teat or mammary glands
  • Discoloration of the milk/discharge
  • Blood in the milk/discharge
  • Discoloration of teat
  • Refusal to feed puppies
  • Fever in the mother
  • Depressive behavior
  • Changing blood pressure or heart rate
  • Vomiting

If your dog is displaying any of the symptoms listed above, please contact your vet immediately.

What are the causes of mastitis in dogs?

There are a few common causes of mastitis that owners of pregnant dogs should know to prevent the condition from developing. Some of these causes include:

  • Bacterial or fungal infection of the teat or mammary area in pregnant dogs
  • Loss of newborn puppies resulting in the accumulation of milk
  • Milk clots or backed-up milk
  • Unsanitary whelping box
  • Damp birth site 

How dangerous is mastitis in dogs?

In most cases, mastitis in dogs is resolved without further issues, resulting in an ideal prognosis. When promptly treated, many pet owners report improvement in symptoms after two or three weeks.

When a dog experiences a severe case of mastitis, sometimes resulting in systemic, blood-borne infection, the prognosis may be guarded and it can be life-threatening. A guarded prognosis means the vet cannot accurately deliver a prognosis due to a lack of information and little insight into the potential outcome.

In some situations, it may indicate that there is nothing more that can be done, and further diagnostics or attempts at treatment may cause more harm than good.

No matter what the diagnosis is, your vet will share the information they've compiled and will be there to answer any questions that you may have.

How to Treat Mastitis in Dogs

To treat your dog successfully, your vet will need to diagnose the condition, including which type of mastitis your pup is experiencing. 

When diagnosing mastitis, your veterinarian will perform a full physical exam, and will sometimes collect necessary information on the mother's pregnancy and labor. 

Depending on the severity and type of mastitis your dog contracts, treatment can be in the form of prescribed antibiotics or even surgery.

If the mother is still nursing her newborns, the vet will likely also gently milk the glands until the infection is completely cleared up. Milking the glands will also allow the owner or the vet to check on the level of swelling, body and skin temperature, or other conditions of the teat. Mild cold compresses may also be beneficial to help the dog feel a bit more comfortable.

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.

Is your dog showing any of the signs of mastitis listed above? Contact our Oceanside vets today to schedule an examination.

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