Itchy nipples can cause your dog discomfort. It can have several causes, ranging from fleas to food allergies. You may be surprised to learn that males and females can have itchy nipples.
Why does my dog have itchy nipples?
Your dog can have itchy nipples for several reasons. Knowing what is causing the problem is the first step to relieving your pet’s itching.
Fleas might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about itchy nipples, but they can be the cause. Fleas like to bite areas with little hair, which is why they are often found around the anus or tail. It’s also common for them to be on the belly. The bites of fleas cause itching, which will cause your dog to scratch. The scratching can cause irritation, which can cause further problems.
Mange is caused by mange mites. Their bites cause hair loss. Over time, patchy hair loss can spread until there’s no hair left, if the mites aren’t treated. They also cause sores and thickening of the skin.
Just like fleas, mange mites can affect the area around the nipples causing itching. Secondary infections are common, because mange often leaves sores.
Dogs can get allergies just as humans can. Some dogs are allergic to chemicals or fragrances, like floor cleaning solution or perfume. Other dogs may be allergic to dust or grass.
It can take up to 48 hours for the rash to develop after your dog has come into contact with the allergen. Areas that are most likely to be affected include the face, chest, abdomen, and anus.
This means the nipples can easily become itchy and irritated from this type of allergic reaction. If you suspect a contact allergy, check your dog for itching or redness on other areas of the body. It will usually develop in the areas with the most frequent exposure.
Food allergies are another common culprit of dog allergies. Itchy skin is a symptom of food allergies. Allergies from your dog’s food can cause itching and rash 6 to 24 hours after they eat it.
Even if your dog has been on the same food for awhile, they can still have food allergies. They can develop at any age, so your dog can become allergic to a food that they were fine eating in the past.
Rash and itching from food allergies often occur on the ears, paws, and stomach, making it a prime cause of itchy nipples.
If your dog has long hair, you may have to feel the skin for the raised bumps of a rash. If your dog has short hair, they should be easy to spot. They may also be easy to see on the stomach, which often has less hair.
Your dog may lick, scratch, or bite the itchy areas, including their nipples. This can cause broken skin and hair loss over time.
Mastitis is most common in dogs that are nursing puppies. It’s a condition that humans are susceptible to as well. It can occur in any dog, even males, because it’s actually an infection in the mammary glands. Yes, male dogs have mammary glands as well!
In nursing mothers, it usually occurs because the ducts in the breast become blocked. This leads to infection. In non-nursing dogs, bacteria enters through the nipple causing an infection.
Symptoms of mastitis, in addition to itchy nipples, include swollen sore nipples, signs of pain, dehydration, and lethargy. In nursing females, discolored or bloody milk and refusal to nurse pups can also occur.
Yeast or Fungal Infection
Just like humans, dogs can get yeast and other fungal infections. Yeast actually lives on the skin in small numbers. Problems occur when the conditions on the skin are favorable for colonies of yeast to grow.
Then your dog ends up with a very uncomfortable itchy rash. It can look similar to an allergic rash, or it can be flat and red, similar to a burn. Over time, your dog may develop hair loss and leathery skin, known as Lichenification, or colloquially as elephant skin.
There are a few conditions that can make your dog more susceptible to yeast rash. If they produce excess oil from their skin, this can lead to yeast rash. Yeast needs a moist environment to grow. Allergies and the resulting skin irritation can also lead to yeast rash.
Because the nipples are a sensitive area, they may be more susceptible to yeast rash. Nursing mothers can also develop the rash due to raw nipples and moisture from their milk.
How Can I Relieve My Dog’s Itching?
How to treat your dog’s itching will depend on the cause. Be careful when applying topical over-the-counter treatments and home remedies, because your dog can lick and ingest them. Many creams and ointments can cause stomach upset, and some can cause serious harm to your dog.
If your dog’s nipples are itchy, but you see no signs of infection, you can try home remedies. Dog skin creams may provide itch relief. Coconut oil can moisturize the nipples and fight yeast infection. Don’t use any human creams on your dog. The biggest concern is that your dog may lick the cream, which can contain harmful substances.
If your dog’s nipples aren’t improving with home treatment, or you see swelling, severe irritation, or broken skin, you’ll need to take your dog to the vet.
Fleas and Mange Treatment
If its fleas causing your dog’s nipple woes, you can treat it at home. You may need both a flea dip and flea prevention medication to get rid of the fleas. If they are in your home, you’ll need to deep clean and apply flea powder to carpets and upholstery. If your dog has broken skin, it’s best to see a vet before you begin treatment, because some products can cause further irritation.
Unfortunately, treating mange is more involved. You’ll need the guidance of your vet. You may be prescribed a weekly bath or cream and oral medication. Ridding your dog of mange can take several weeks, because the mites lay eggs in the skin.
If your dog’s itching is caused by allergies, the first step is to figure out what the allergen is. Blood or allergy tests can reveal contact allergens. For food allergies, your vet may instruct you to eliminate potential allergens from their diet and see if things improve.
If the allergen can be avoided, this is the best treatment. If it can’t be avoided, try to minimize exposure. Your dog may also need allergy medication or a topical cream.
Mastitis is a painful condition that causes the breasts to swell. It’s usually treated by antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. Rarely, surgery may be required to remove the glands. Hospitalization is also rarely required, but may be needed for severe infection.
Fungal infections are treated by antifungal medications. Topical creams are often used. Oral medications may be used in some cases.
Can a female dog’s nipples swell if not pregnant?
Yes, a female dog’s nipples can swell even if they aren’t pregnant. This can happen for many reasons, including hormonal changes and infection.
Mastitis can cause significant swelling of the breasts. In addition to the breasts, the nipples will swell. They may also feel hot to the touch.
Pseudo pregnancy is a condition that causes the dog’s body to act as if it’s pregnant. This usually occurs about a month after the heat cycle, known as estrus.
The dog may have a swollen belly, enlarged nipples, and even lactate. Behavioral changes can also occur. These include depression, restlessness, and nesting. It’s thought that pseudo pregnancy is caused by hormonal imbalance.
The first heat cycle occurs at about 6 months of age, however large breeds may be 18 months or 2 years before they reach their first heat cycle. Dogs will usually go into heat two times a year, or every six months.
The cycle usually lasts for 1-2 weeks. The most obvious sign is vaginal bleeding. Swollen nipples can also occur during the heat cycle. They may also hold their tail up when around a male dog, which they will show a sudden interest in. They may also be moody or show changes in behavior. This is essentially the doggie version of pms.