Mastitis in dogs: Mastitis is an obvious condition that can affect any dog with mammary glands. While the condition is more commonly viewed as a problem that only affects pregnant or lactating bitches, it can occur in any dog, including men. Knowing how to prevent and treat this condition is important for your dog’s health and well being.
What is mastitis in dogs?
Mastitis occurs when the mammary glands, which are located in a dog’s breasts, become inflamed, typically due to a bacterial infection or milk buildup. Bacteria enter the gland through the teat’s opening and cause infection, inflammation, and other problematic symptoms of mastitis. In other cases, bacteria are not involved, and mastitis occurs simply as a result of excessive milk buildup in the mammary gland.
The most common sign of mastitis in a male or female dog is a swollen chest. One or more breasts may be infected and swollen, and this swelling isn’t just limited to nursing or pregnant dogs. If the breasts swell, they can also become inflamed, discolored like a bruise, and even develop ulcers or sores. The teats can also become very inflamed and larger than usual. Some blood or pus may even ooze out of the teat. If you touch your dog’s mammary glands, they may feel hot and painful due to inflammation and infection. Abdominal massages are not wanted by most dogs with mastitis because of the tenderness and pain it causes in their mammary glands.
In early mastitis cases in a breastfeeding dog, you may find that the pups do not gain weight when attempting to breastfeed from a breast with mastitis. You may also find that the milk you produce contains blood or pus, and your dog may be reluctant to breastfeed his puppies if the mastitis worsens. Painful mammary glands only hurt more when puppies start breastfeeding from them, so a breastfeeding dog with mastitis can try to get away from its puppies and not allow them to breastfeed.
If the infection spreads in the mammary gland, a dog can become septic if mastitis is not treated. Vomiting, diarrhea, and even anorexia typically occur in these dogs.
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Signs of mastitis in dogs
- Swollen breasts
- Discolored breasts
- Inflamed or red teats
- Swollen teats
- Ulcerated breasts
- Mammary glands that feel hot
- Blood or pus in the milk
- Blood or pus oozes from the teats
- Painful breasts
- Reluctance to allow care
- Breastfeeding puppies do not gain weight
Causes of mastitis
The most common cause of mastitis is a bacterial invasion of the mammary gland, but it can also be caused simply by too much milk in the gland.
- Trauma: The most common reason for developing mastitis in a dog is trauma to the teat. The trauma of a nursing puppy or other type of injury allows bacteria, such as E. coli, to enter the mammary gland through the teat canal. This leads to bacterial infection.
- Excessive milk buildup: Occasionally, too much milk is produced, which builds up in the mammary gland. This pressure can cause mastitis with no bacterial component.
- Dirty Environments: Trauma is not the only way bacteria can enter the teat canal. If you are simply in a dirty environment, bacteria can cause infection of the mammary gland.
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Diagnosing mastitis in dogs
After a medical history and a full physical exam has been performed, your veterinarian will most likely use the physical findings to diagnose your dog with mastitis, especially if it is a pregnant or lactating bitch. Occasionally a sample of discharge from the teat will be examined under a microscope to see if there are any signs of blood or bacteria. If you have a male dog with mastitis or a bitch who is not pregnant or breastfeeding, more tests may be done to rule out other problems, such as breast cancer.
Treatment and prevention of mastitis in dogs
If your dog is diagnosed with mastitis, oral antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory drugs will most likely be prescribed. Mastitis usually doesn’t require hospitalization unless your dog has become septic or needs to surgically remove severely diseased glands.
If the mastitis is due to excessive milk accumulation, the breast may need to be gently hand-milked to express the excess. A cabbage leaf compress may also be recommended to help with pain and inflammation. This will require putting a bandage around your dog’s body to hold the cabbage leaf in place. However, it should be removed so the puppies can breastfeed. Finally, keeping the mammary glands clean is important not only to treat mastitis but also to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Regular bathing and wiping of breastfeeding dogs’ mammary glands are important in keeping them clean and healthy.