How Many Nipples Do Dogs Have (Male Vs Female)

Written by Rebecca
Updated: September 21, 2022
Image Credit Svetlana Valoueva/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points

  • Dogs have a range of 6 to 10 nipples.
  • Some dogs have two nipples, some have more than 10.
  • Both male dogs and female dogs have nipples.

Every mammal has nipples, including dogs. But the answer to how many nipples a dog has is not as straightforward as you may think.

After all, humans usually have two nipples, except for rare cases. Based on that, you may be surprised to learn that the number of nipples on your dog will fall into a range.

This means that two dogs can easily have a different number of nipples, even if they are from the same litter.

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The Short Answer

The short answer is that most dogs have 6-10 nipples, but some just have two, and some have more than 10.

Male and Female Dogs Have the Same Number of Nipples

It’s common for people to wonder whether male dogs have nipples. After all, they don’t have to feed their young. Male dogs do indeed have nipples, and this is for the same reason that male humans do.

It comes down to embryonic development. In the first weeks of development, male and female canine embryos follow the same path. This includes developing the nipples.

The genes developing male genitalia don’t activate until long after the nipples have already formed in utero.

This means that whether you are looking at a male or female dog, you should expect them to have nipples. And you should expect there to be about 6 to 10 nipples in total.

Nipples Are for Nursing

As in other mammals, dogs have nipples so they can nurse their young. Your dog’s nipples sit on her mammary tissue. Milk flows from deep mammary tissues to the nipples to provide nutrition for puppies.

Dog nipples are usually large and more pronounced than the small bumps you will find on a fixed female dog. Dog nipples also range in color from pink to a dark black. This coloration will depend on your dog’s breed and markings.

A dog nipple is called a teat and each breast consists of a glandular complex which is covered by skin.

how many nipples do dogs have
A Rhodesian Ridgeback nursing her puppies in the garden. The nipples are primarily for nursing pups and the number of nipples will vary.

olgagorovenko/Shutterstock.com

What Do Dog Nipples Look Like?

Any dog owner should know what their pup’s nipples look like. This lets you confirm whether a bump you see is a nipple or another issue, like a bug bite. To make matters trickier, most dog nipples look like bug bites, pimples, or cysts. They frequently feel like this as well.

Nipples might be the same color as your dog’s skin. They may also be pigmented or black-ish in color. Whether they are pigmented or skin-colored, this is completely normal.

However, when dog nipples are swollen, they will look larger. They may also feel warmer and softer, even squishy.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Nipple and a Tick, Bug Bite, or Something Else

Given that canine nipples can look similar to bug bites and ticks, you may find yourself wondering which it is. The first thing to check is whether there is a symmetrical bump on the other side. If there is, it is probably a nipple. When checking for ticks, you can look for legs or see if the bump is seamlessly connected with your dog’s skin.

Of course, the best way to tell whether it is a nipple or something else is to ask your vet. They get this question more often than you realize, so it is nothing to be embarrassed about.

What About Nipples in Pregnant Dogs?

When your dog is pregnant, she will have enlarged nipples. Expect her nipples to appear pinker in addition to growing in size. It can be very hard to find your dog’s nipples if she isn’t pregnant, but it becomes much easier during pregnancy due to their growth. The nipple growth during pregnancy lets dogs prepare to feed their newborns.

Why Dogs Have So Many Nipples

The explanation for why dogs usually have 6-10 nipples is pretty straightforward. They tend to have fairly sized litters with between two and eight puppies. It makes evolutionary sense for mother dogs to have enough nipples to feed their entire litter. This ensures all of the pups get the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

If you look at other mammals, you’ll see a similar pattern. For example, humans usually only have one kid at a time, sometimes two, so we have two nipples. Horses also only have two foals at a time at the most and just two nipples. By contrast, dogs and cats both have litters and have 6-10 nipples.

What Affects How Many Nipples Dogs Have

Some people may say that your dog’s breed affects the number of nipples, but it usually doesn’t make a difference. Experts don’t think health, age, breed, or gender affects the number of nipples. Remember that even littermates may not have the same number of nipples.

Most Dogs Have Symmetrical Nipples

One interesting point about dog nipples is that they are usually symmetrical. Canine nipples sit in two columns, and there is usually the same number on the left as the right side. The keyword here is “usually.” Some dogs do have an odd number of nipples, and this is not a concern.

Dog Nipples Can Appear in Odd Places

Most canine nipples will appear in the same spot, along one of the two symmetrical lines across your pup’s tummy. Interestingly, these lines actually extend all the way from your dog’s feet to arms. And nipples can occasionally develop in other places as well. If you find what you suspect is a nipple in an odd spot, see if there is another symmetrical one on the other side of your dog’s body. If there isn’t, have your vet take a look at the bump to make sure it isn’t a cause for concern.

Dog Nipple Health: Conditions Affecting the Nipple

how many nipples do dogs have
If your dog has trouble with its nipples, it is best to take it to a vet for professional advice.

Andy Gin/Shutterstock.com

Once you are familiar with the number of nipples dogs have, it’s smart to learn about a few of the potential health issues they may experience. This will help you be a good pet parent, as you can be on the lookout for potential symptoms.

Mammary Cancer

Dogs can develop mammary cancer, which is cancer affecting mammary tissue. This will not always affect the nipples themselves, but it can. The good news about mammary cancer in dogs is that spaying your pup when she is young dramatically reduces the risk. Intact females or female dogs that are spayed later in their life have a higher risk of developing mammary cancer. This is because when your dog goes into heat, her body releases hormones that can lead to abnormal growth.

That being said, even your spayed female dog or your neutered male dog can develop mammary cancer. Just be on the lookout for odd lumps or bumps. Your vet will check for these at your furry friend’s annual checkup.

Mastitis

Mastitis directly affects the nipples, and it can be incredibly serious. If you don’t treat it, your dog may die. That being said, prompt treatment is effective. Common causes of mastitis in dogs include systemic infection, poor sanitary conditions, and trauma caused by the puppies. Look for signs like malnourished puppies or your dog being lethargic, not eating, or having swollen or pus-filled mammary glands.

Treatment for mastitis includes antibiotics and possibly warm compresses. Some dogs need IV fluids for dehydration. In some cases, surgery will be necessary. Treat mastitis right away, as it can lead to septic shock if left untreated.

It is important to note that mastitis can affect any dog, regardless of sex or whether they are fixed. However, mastitis is most common in female dogs who just had puppies or those who experienced pseudo-pregnancy as part of their heat. You can tell your dog had a pseudo-pregnancy if her mammary glands swelled up like they would in a pregnant dog. Some dogs with pseudo-pregnancies also guard toys as if they were puppies.

Galactostatisis

This is when extra milk collects in your dog’s mammary glands when she is weaning her pups.

Dermatitis

This is skin inflammation, and it can affect the area around the nipples just like it can affect any other part of your dog’s body. If your dog has dermatitis, you may think her nipples are enlarged despite that not being the case.

Mammary Hyperplasia

This condition is when your dog has high levels of progesterone. Those hormone levels cause the nipples to grow.

What to Do When Your Dog’s Nipples Are Swollen?

If you notice your dog’s nipples are swollen, you should contact the vet. Don’t panic while you wait for the appointment. It may be nothing, or the issue may be from something that has a very easy treatment.

Before your vet appointment, do your best to avoid touching your dog’s nipples. This can worsen an inflammatory reaction, and it may be painful for your dog. You will also want to look for other symptoms, such as:

  • Discharge
  • Redness
  • Swollen face or limbs
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abnormal aggression
  • Abnormal hiding
  • Fever

Let your vet know if you have noticed anything else unusual about your dog’s behavior or any physical symptoms. This will help your vet diagnose your canine companion more quickly. The diagnosis will also likely depend on whether your dog has gone into heat recently and whether all or just one or two nipples are affected.

Conclusion

Most male and female dogs have 6-10 nipples, although some have more or fewer than this. Dogs need to have so many nipples to feed their puppies. Males have the same number as females because nipples develop early on in gestation.

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About the Author

My name is Rebecca and I've been a Professional Freelancer for almost a decade. I write SEO content and graphic design. When I'm not working, I'm obsessing over cats and pet rats.

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