Can I soothe my nursing dog's nipples?

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A loving pet owner can be struck by anxiety when their dog is nursing puppies. Ensuring the puppies survive is one thing, but the task of nursing those puppies is extremely wearing on your dog’s health. You will see her go from tubby to emaciated, from playful to sluggish.

It is difficult to watch your best friend put through physical stress. While resisting the temptation to intervene in other ways, pet owners should keep a close eye on the dog's weary mummy.


Red or hardened and cracked nipples are a common part of a dog’s woes when she is nursing. This should not be cause for alarm. If swelling and soreness is limited to the nipple, leave well alone. However, if a sore patch appears on the breast about two inches away from the teat, the dog could have developed mastitis. Mastitis can be a serious condition and requires prompt action.


Mastitis is an infection of the milk gland, which is situated at the base of the breast where it hangs from the body. If the soreness is in the breast, the breast will sweel larger than the others and become red. If this happens, contact your vet immediately. If left, the sore will swell, burst and destroy the breast. The best treatment for this is antibiotics. Also, if you have a massager, prevent lumps from forming by massaging the breast as often as possible. Some dog breeders recommend a flannel soaked in hot water and vinegar pressed against the breast. In short, if the problems are caused by mastitis, it is better to treat the breast and not the teat.


Preventing puppies from suckling on a sore teat can only make matters worse. Your dog will produce milk in all her breasts and the pressure of milk building up is more discomforting for the dog than any pain she may experience during suckling. If the dog is expressing pus from a nipple, she can still suckle as long as she is on antibiotics. The pus will not harm the puppy as long as you make sure that it is not the same puppy suckling on the infected nipple every time. If you are not able to monitor which puppy suckles an infected nipple, you will have to seal it off with duct tape, the removal of which will be even more painful for your dog.


It is not a good idea to put your own creams and lotions on your dog’s sore teats while she is nursing. The puppies will end up ingesting that cream and it may be harmful to them. If your vet gives you a specific dog-friendly cream, then go ahead and apply that. However, the consensus among vets is to leave well alone.