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Nursing by the Numbers: How Many Nipples Do Dogs Have?

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Dogs have an average of eight to 10 nipples. This is true despite the size of the dog; small breeds have the same average number of nipples as larger breeds. However, there is some variation between individual dogs, and dogs do not always have symmetrical nipples. Some dogs may have as few as six nipples, and some may have an odd number like seven or nine.

A dog’s nipples start in the groin area and move up the belly along two chains of mammary glands. Dog breast tissue usually lies flat against the belly, so only the nipples themselves will protrude. A dog’s nipples may not be visible if she is not pregnant.

When a dog becomes pregnant, the mammary tissue around each nipple will swell and prepare for milk production. Some dogs may continue to have pendulous mammaries after having one or more litters. In others, the mammary tissue will return to its usual flat state.

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In an intact female, the nipples may swell and become tender during the heat cycle. This does not occur in a spayed dog. Additionally, an intact female may have larger and more pronounced nipples than one who has been spayed even if she has never had puppies.

Although a dog’s nipples are most commonly found in the groin and belly region, it’s possible to find them in strange places. A nipple might show up in the dog’s inner thigh or even a front leg. They often look like small bumps that you might mistake for a mole. If the bumps are symmetrical, meaning there’s one in a matching location on the other side, the odds are good that it’s a stray nipple. However, it’s always a good idea to have your veterinarian double check any unusual bumps just to be sure of what they are.

Can You Predict a Dog’s Litter Size by Counting Her Nipples?

It’s a common belief that you can guess how many puppies a dog might have by counting her nipples. However, there is little truth to this old wives’ tale.

The number of nipples on an individual dog varies and can be a bit random. There is no clear correlation between a dog’s size and the number of nipples she has. On average, larger breeds will tend to have more puppies per litter than smaller breeds. The number of puppies a dog has can vary from one litter to the next as well.

The only reliable way to know how many puppies a pregnant dog is carrying is to perform an ultrasound or x-ray. Abdominal palpation by an expert can also yield a reliable guess, but it’s possible to count incorrectly or miss a pup or two through such an external examination.

Do Boy Dogs Have Nipples?

Just like humans, dogs of both genders have nipples. Male dogs have as many nipples on average as their female counterparts. Because the mammary tissue of a male does not produce milk, the area will not become swollen. This means that a male dog’s nipples are usually small and flat, and you may not notice them especially if the dog has fur on his belly. However, the nipples and mammary tissue are still present.

The males of most mammal species have nipples, but there are a few exceptions. Many rodents, including the brown rat and house mouse, do not have nipples. Male horses also do not have nipples. However, these are the exceptions rather than the rule.

How Many Puppies Can a Dog Feed at Once?

Dogs average litters of between two and eight puppies. Smaller breeds tend to have small litters; large breeds usually have more pups. In most cases, a dog will have more nipples than she has puppies, but this is not always the case.

Puppies feed by latching onto a nipple and sucking. They use their paws and snouts to press against the mammary tissue and stimulate lactation. While feeding her pups, a dog may lie on her side, her back, or crouched over the top of the puppies.

Puppies feeding

A dog who has a very large litter may struggle to give her babies proper nutrition as pups may compete for a limited number of available nipples. A good mother might rotate her pups to ensure everyone gets enough to eat, but this does not always happen. It’s sometimes necessary to give the mother dog a helping hand by bottle-feeding puppies from a large litter. Giving some of the puppies to a surrogate mom to nurse can be an option as well in some cases.

In nature, the smaller, weaker or less competitive pups may die due to lack of access to milk. With the help of humans, however, even the runt of a litter can grow up healthy and strong.

Can Dogs Get Breast Cancer?

Any animal with mammary tissue can develop cancer. Mammary tumors are most common in females who are intact or who were spayed later in life. The reason for this is that the hormones associated with estrus (heat) can also exacerbate the growth of cancer cells in the body.

Although mammary tumors are most common in intact females, they can occasionally occur in spayed females and males as well. However, this is a comparatively rare occurrence. Spaying your dog is usually enough to prevent the development of cancer.

Another issue that can arise in an intact female dog is mastitis. This is a bacterial infection of the mammary tissue. It usually occurs during pregnancy or in a nursing female. However, it can also occur when a dog is in heat. In rare occasions, spayed females and male dogs can develop this infection.

Mastitis is most commonly caused by poor sanitation and trauma. Dogs who are in poor health are more prone to developing primary and secondary infections, so mastitis is more commonly found in strays than in pampered pets. Signs of mastitis include inflammation, lethargy, loss of appetite and nipples that are leaking pus.

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Because both mammary cancer and mastitis can be life-threatening, it’s a good idea to keep an idea on your dog’s nipples especially if she is intact. A regular inspection for swollen tissue, strange bumps or anything else that feels out of place is usually enough to spot problems early on. The next time you’re rubbing your dog’s belly, check her nipples to be sure everything appears to be in order. If you spot anything unusual, be sure to speak to your vet.

Last update on 2020-05-30

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