A bitch whelping a litter of puppies can develop an infection or abscess within a mammary gland and can become very ill in a short space of time. Bacteria enters the mammary gland and can be fatal if not treated quickly. This can also happen when a female experiences a false pregnancy.

When pregnant, a dog’s body starts going through changes and milk production begins so she can nourish her pups when they are born. The puppies sometimes will scratch the mother’s nipples or the nipples can become cracked. This can allow a bacterial infection to begin in the milk ducts.  Dogs, females and males, can develop mastitis when not pregnant or nursing pups. If this is the case, your dog will need to see your veterinarian immediately.

Mastitis that is occurring in a dog that is not nursing puppies can be caused by cancer of the mammary glands and needs urgent attention.

If you suspect that your dog has mastitis, your veterinarian will palpate the teats and may take a sample of the milk in the affected teat. The milk will then be examined under a microscope for the presence of pus and bacteria. A CBC, or complete blood count, will also be performed to determine the severity of the infection.  Your veterinarian may also recommend an ultrasound of the affected teat to locate any abscesses or tumors.

Some breeders have had success with a compress of cabbage leaves together with a short course of antibiotics if caught early enough. It is best to let the puppies continue to feed off the bitch for as long as practicable as they will draw off the milk, as long as it is not infected.

A thyroid profile may also be performed to rule out hypothyroidism.

A combination of treatments will most likely be prescribed by your veterinarian. Treatments can include aggressive antibiotics along with warm compresses applied to the affected teat. The infected teat will need to have the milk expressed to alleviate some of the pain and help prevent an abscess from forming. Puppies should not be allowed to nurse from the affected teat. The puppies may need to be supplemented with formula while the female is recovering from acute septic mastitis. Just remember that milk production will stop after three days if puppies do not nurse. 

In the case of Galactostasis, your veterinarian may require that your dog’s water be withheld for 6-10 hours as well as food being withheld for up to 24 hours. Diuretics may also be prescribed as well as limited food intake.  Your dog may try to stimulate the teats by licking in the event of a false pregnancy. This can make it worse and your veterinarian may prescribe a hormonal therapy or a mild sedative to stop the behavior.

In the event of galactostasis mastitis, your dog is not at immediate risk but should still be examined by your veterinarian. Once hormone levels have become normal once again, the condition should go away. Acute septic mastitis will require immediate and aggressive treatment to ensure a full recovery. Your veterinarian will set a treatment plan and all follow up visits to make sure the infection is gone.