Many dog owners sitting down for a quick belly-rubbing session with their pooch are baffled to discover scabs or crusts on or around their pet’s nipples.
What’s wrong with my dog?
Is it something serious?
There are many reasons why a dog might have scabs on their nipples.
Some of them are really no cause for alarm and you’ll find many vets quickly dismissing any concerns, but, on the other hand, those black scabs might indicate a serious problem.
Let’s have a look at the most common causes that can lead to scabs and crusts forming on a dog’s nipples.
What you will learn from this article
- What is mastitis?
- Phantom pregnancy in dogs
- Six causes of black gunk or dried blood around nipples?
- Yeast infection
- Infected inverted nipples
- Allergies and itching
- Skin irritations caused by a harness
- Mammary gland cancer
- How to relieve a dog’s itchy skin?
- Closing thoughts
What is mastitis?
For female dogs, most problems involving the nipples appear in the postpartum period.
If your dog has recently given birth, she might have mastitis, an inflammation of the teats usually caused by an accumulation of milk in the mammary glands or by a fungal or bacterial infection.
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The most common signs of mastitis include:
- Swollen or inflamed mammary glands
- Discolored nipples
- Pain and discomfort
- Open wounds and scabs
The dog’s teats can become inflamed after the death of one or more puppies, which leads to less demand for milk.
At the same time, the mammary glands can become swollen if the puppies are removed prematurely from their mother.
Another common problem is puppies biting at their mother’s teats.
It’s not that the puppies are aggressive, they’re simply immature or they fight among themselves to get to the milk and involuntarily bite her teats.
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The smallest wound can easily get infected, which explains both the scabs and the smelly discharge from a festering wound.
Escherichia coli (E. coli), Staphylococci, and β-hemolytic Streptococci are the most common bacteria involved in mastitis.
Mastitis requires immediate medical treatment, usually involving antibiotics.
In severe cases, the dog might need to be hospitalized to receive intravenous fluids and drugs.
Also, in some cases, the vet might recommend surgery to remove necrotic tissue.
Also, the puppies should not be allowed to nurse from the affected teats as they might get infected, too.
The owners should bottle-feed the puppies while the mother recuperates.
Phantom pregnancy in dogs
False pregnancies can also lead to mammary glands discharge, which makes the nipples prone to infections.
Typically, false pregnancy symptoms occur a few weeks after a heat cycle.
Even if the dog is not pregnant, the body behaves as if it were.
First of all, you might notice your dog manifesting typical nesting behavior.
As the body produces high levels of progesterone, the mammary glands will become enlarged and you might notice a whitish discharge. As the swollen teats will cause a bit of discomfort, the dog might scratch her nipples or lick those she can reach, which can lead to open wounds and infection.
In most cases, phantom pregnancy symptoms subside in two or three weeks and there’s no need for treatment.
However, you should check your dog’s nipples for signs of mastitis.
Expressing the milk is not recommended as this will only lead to the production of even more milk.
The vet might prescribe diuretics to help reduce milk production.
Six causes of black gunk or dried blood around nipples?
While problems with a nursing bitch are to be expected, many dog owners are very concerned when they discover ‘black gunk’ or even dried blood around their spayed or male pets.
This is a very common problem in dogs and here are some of the main causes.
If your dog has recurrent yeast infections, it’s possible that this will affect one or more of the nipples. Yeast infections are caused by a fungus that proliferates in moist and hot areas of the body, especially skin folds. Yeast infections are usually associated with oily hair and skin, and they cause intense itchiness.
If your dog has got a yeast infection in or around a nipple, all that scratching will cause crusts and scabs.
Look for signs of yeast infection anywhere else on the dog’s body, such as:
- Sticky yellow or green discharge from open sores
- Greasy coat and oily skin
- Crusty flaky skin
- Musty odor
- Thickened ‘elephant’ skin
- Recurrent ear infections
The first line of treatment for yeast infections is using a special antifungal shampoo and making sure the product stays on the fur for at least ten minutes. Also, the vet might recommend antifungal oral medication if the dog has extensive skin issues.
Infected inverted nipples
A dog having inverted nipples is quite common and normally they shouldn’t cause him any problems at all. In dogs with long hair, the nipples are usually hidden by the fur and the owner might never even notice if they’re inverted. However, flat or inward-pointing nipples are an ideal ground for dirt accumulation. Also, the dog’s inverted nipples might get caked in sebum, the waxy substance produced by the sebaceous glands. In most cases, inverted nipples don’t bother a dog one bit, but if your pet scratches at them he might get crusts.
The best thing to do is give the dog a bath and gently clean the dirt around the nipples. If there are any signs of infection, apply an antibiotic gel.
Allergies and itching
Sometimes, the crusts you see on your dog’s nipples are caused by intensive scratching, if your pet has some type of allergy. Dogs can be allergic to food, pollen, dust, mold, insect bites or chemicals used around the house. Skin rashes or insect bite wounds can be extremely annoying, making the dog scratch furiously. Since the nipple area is very sensitive, it can easily lead to infections and scabbing.
In such cases, you should try to identify the allergen that’s causing your dog such misery and try to remove it from his environment. As for the wounds themselves, an antibiotic gel will probably get rid of the infection. Also, the dog might need soothing baths to relieve irritation and some calming ointment.
If the dog has sustained some type of injury to the nipple, it can easily get infected by bacteria or fungi entering the milk ducts. An abscess is characterized by swelling and inflammation and pus leaking from the nipple. An abscess might appear around a wound caused by a puncture or scratch with a foreign body, such as a thorn or a twig. When the puncture wound closes it might trap bacteria inside, which leads to inflammation and a smelly discharge. This discharge is not black, but it may appear so as it gets coated in dirt.
If you suspect your dog has an abscess, you should give him a warm bath trying to clean the nipple as gently as possible. Once the puncture sign is visible simply apply an antibiotic gel and the problem should resolve itself in a couple of days.
Skin irritations caused by a harness
Sometimes, a dog owner might detect nipple problems soon after getting a new harness for their dog. If the nipples affected are in the upper part of the body it’s possible that the dog suffered a skin irritation caused by the harness rubbing against his skin. Obviously, if the dog feels some kind of discomfort he will try to lick or scratch himself once the harness is removed, which can only make matters worse.
Try taking him out without a harness for a few days or use their old one, while treating the nipple wound with a topical cream.
Mammary gland cancer
Mammary tumors are more common in intact female dogs. Male dogs or females spayed before their first or second heat cycle have a very low risk of developing such tumors.
Mammary gland tumors can appear next or inside the nipple, and they are usually firm and nodular. A tumor might cause the nipple to swell and the skin might ulcerate and bleed, which obviously leads to crusting. The affected area might feel warm and you might notice a nipple discharge.
However, you should not fly into a panic if you suspect your dog has a mammary gland tumor, as roughly 50% of them are benign and can easily be treated.
Have your dog checked out as soon as you discover a suspicious lump in the nipple. Even malignant tumors can be treated if they’re caught early, before they get a chance to metastasize.
How to relieve a dog’s itchy skin?
Many of the problems that result in crusty nipples are caused by some sort of skin irritation. The fastest way to relieve itchiness is to apply a hydrocortisone cream. These are not approved for veterinary use, but applied once or twice in a small quantity they won’t cause any harm. It’s preferable to only use such creams on those nipples the dog cannot reach to lick.
If the dog has an allergy or a yeast infection it’s best to use an apple cider vinegar solution. This contains 50% ACV and 50% water and can be sprayed over the affected area.
An oatmeal bath is also good to soothe the skin. Just grind a handful or two of plain oatmeal into a fine powder and pour it in your dog’s warm bathwater.
If your dog has a wound around the nipple area you can apply a little coconut oil, which has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Coconut oil is effective for allergies, yeast infections or insect bites.
When a dog has scabs or crusts in or around the nipples, they might be caused by an infection. Mastitis, which is common in nursing dogs, can lead to inflammation and ulceration of the teats. Also, puppies might be biting on their mother’s nipples, causing small lacerations which are prone to infection.
Another common cause of black stuff accumulating around the nipple is abnormal sebum production, which can attract dirt leading to the formation of a dry dark looking mass.
Yeast infections can also cause ulcerations which present themselves as scabs.
Try cleaning the affected nipple, preferably during a bath, and apply an antibiotic gel on the affected area. If you don’t see any improvement in a couple of days, best take the dog to the vet to rule out more serious problems.
Why does my dog have sores on her nipples? ›
Mastitis is a term used to describe inflammation of a mammary gland (breast). In most cases, mastitis is caused by a bacterial infection. Trauma to the nipple or teat canal can allow bacteria to enter, traveling up into the mammary gland and creating a bacterial infection.What is this scab looking thing on my dog? ›
Crusty scabs that appear on dogs are sometimes referred to as hotspots, and they are certainly a type of crusty scab or skin lesion on canines — but not the only kind. Hotspots are usually localized areas of red, inflamed, and infected skin. They can be extremely itchy for most dogs, but some dogs won't itch at all.What can I put on my dog's irritated nipples? ›
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.How do you clean a dog's nipples? ›
Often though you'll have to clean with light oil instead you can also consider using hydrogenWhat does mastitis look like? ›
Mastitis usually only affects 1 breast, and symptoms often come on quickly. They include: a swollen area on your breast that may feel hot and painful to touch – the area may become red but this can be harder to see if you have darker skin. a wedge-shaped breast lump or a hard area on your breast.What does a mammary tumor look like on a dog? ›
It could appear as a hard or soft lump in the mammary gland area. At first, it will be covered with skin and hair. If advanced it could burst and look like an abscess . It is important for every owner of a female dog check out mammary area for lumps regularly since this is a frequently occurring cancer in canines.Should you pick scabs off dogs? ›
You don't want to peel or pick the scab off, but softening the hard scab will help keep the surrounding skin from drying and becoming itchy. Use an anti-itch and antibiotic spray on the scab once the tissue is moist and soft. Apply a topical ointment to the scabbed surface.Why does my dog have crusty scabs? ›
Widespread scabs are often caused by underlying allergies or a dog skin infection. Allergies to fleas, food proteins or environmental allergens (such as pollen) can lead to widespread skin inflammation. When the skin becomes inflamed and damaged, scabs often develop.Why are my female dogs nipples itchy? ›
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.What are the signs of mastitis in dogs? ›
- Decreased milk production.
- Change in milk appearance: blood or pus; thick, cloudy consistency.
- Blood or pus oozing from the nipples.
- Ulceration of affected breast(s)
- Firm, warm, visibly swollen, red or purple, and painful breasts.
Do dogs get itchy nipples? ›
If you are seeing wounds or there is a nipple that is scratched and bloody, it may indicate that your dog is having an issue such as an allergy that is causing itching. Bacterial infections can also cause your dog to itch more. Scratching to the point of bleeding is not normal and should be addressed by your vet.Why is there black stuff on my dogs nipples? ›
Dogs have black dots on their nipples for a few different reasons. One reason is that the dog may have dirt or other debris on its paws and then licks its nipple, leaving behind a speck of dirt. Another possibility is that the dog has canine acne, which can be treated by bathing it more often.What are the black things on my dog's nipples? ›
As dogs have difficulty grooming their nipples (due to the fur that usually hides them), the pores around them are more prone to becoming dirty and develop blackheads as a result. In lactating female dogs, black spots can develop due to dried up and clogged milk pores.Why is there brown stuff coming out of my dogs nipples? ›
If your dog has a dark brown or reddish liquid leaking from their nipple, but it is not fresh, it may be due to the presence of a tumor. This can occur in one or several of the dog's breasts. Both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors can cause lumps to occur.What does an infected breast look like? ›
Nipple discharge (may contain pus) Swelling, tenderness, and warmth in breast tissue. Skin redness, most often in wedge shape. Tender or enlarged lymph nodes in armpit on the same side.What does breast cellulitis look like? ›
This condition usually affects the lower half of the breast where sweat and bacteria tend to build up. The skin becomes red, warm, and inflamed, and the rash tends to spread throughout the area. You also can develop flu-like symptoms such as a fever and chills.Can mastitis heal itself? ›
The infection should clear up within 10 days but may last as long as three weeks. Mastitis sometimes goes away without medical treatment. To reduce pain and inflammation, you can: Apply warm, moist compresses to the affected breast every few hours or take a warm shower.At what age do dogs get mammary tumors? ›
Learn More About Mammary Tumors and Breast Cancer in Dogs
The median age on presentation is 10 - 11 years. Dogs fed a high-fat diet or overweight at one year of age are at increased risk of developing mammary gland tumors. Appropriate early treatment, even if the tumor is malignant, is often curative.
In female dogs, 50% of mammary tumors are benign and 50% are malignant. However, few of the malignant mammary tumors are fatal.What is female dog Pyometra? ›
Pyometra is a secondary infection that occurs as a result of hormonal changes in the female's reproductive tract. Following estrus (heat), the hormone progesterone remains elevated for up to two months and causes the lining of the uterus to thicken in preparation for pregnancy.
What does folliculitis look like on dogs? ›
Swelling, redness, itching, pustules (pimples) and hair loss are the most common symptoms, but the following may also be in evidence: Papules (reddish swellings on the skin) Hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin) Epidermal collarettes (circular areas of hair loss with crusting or scaling around their borders)What does dog eczema look like? ›
Skin affected by eczema will most commonly look red and swollen, rashy, with hair loss (alopecia) and skin lesions or blisters. These are often referred to as hot spots. Some or all of these symptoms may be visible, with varying degrees of severity.What does seborrhea look like on a dog? ›
Symptoms of Seborrhea in Dogs
Very dry, dull coat. Dandruff. Greasy, oily skin that smells bad. Crusted, plaque-like (rough and scaly) skin lesions.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, keeping your wounds moist helps your skin heal and speeds your recovery. A dry wound quickly forms a scab and slows your ability to heal. Moistening your scabs or wounds can also stop your wound from getting bigger and prevent itchiness and scarring.Do flea bites leave scabs on dogs? ›
What's more, flea infestations can lead to scabbing and dangerous pet health issues, like infections. If your dog has scabs from fleas, you're in the right place.Can I put coconut oil on my dog? ›
Coconut oil can add moisture to your dog's skin and prevent flaking. It also helps freshen up a dog's coat if used with a light touch. To use it topically, simply rub a very small amount onto your hands and then gently pat the coat, run your fingers through the fur, and massage a little down onto the skin.Is pyoderma in dogs contagious? ›
It is normal to have some bacteria on the skin—but it is not normal when it turns into an infection. Usually, pyoderma is caused by a health issue such as a staph infection. This means that pyoderma itself is not contagious—your dog can't catch it from another dog.What does ringworm look like on dogs? ›
What does ringworm look like in dogs? Ringworm can manifest itself in dogs in a variety of ways, most commonly as patches of hair loss with a crusty coating or (rarely) as asymptomatic. Ringworm patches in some dogs look like a grey, scaly patch, while others look like a scarlet lesion.Can dogs get mastitis if not pregnant? ›
Although uncommon, mastitis can occur in female dogs who are not pregnant but have false pregnancies. Mastitis is generally classified as acute (quick onset) or chronic (slow onset) and may affect one or multiple mammary glands.What are the black spots around my dogs nipples? ›
As dogs have difficulty grooming their nipples (due to the fur that usually hides them), the pores around them are more prone to becoming dirty and develop blackheads as a result. In lactating female dogs, black spots can develop due to dried up and clogged milk pores.
Why are my dogs nipples popping out? ›
The mammary glands swell up on female dogs during heat or when they are lactating. Dog nipples are usually larger and more pronounced than the small bumps you find on spayed females.Why is there black stuff around my dogs nipples? ›
Oil, dirt, bacteria, sweat, dead skin, and ingrown hair can stick in the skin's pores, forming a dark brown or black sludge in the pore. They usually disappear on their own or can disappear with more bathing. You should never try to pop these on a dog's sensitive skin the way you might human skin.What is dog phantom pregnancy? ›
False pregnancy, phantom pregnancy, pseudo-pregnancy or pseudocyesis are all terms that refer to a display of maternal (mothering) behavior combined with the physical signs of pregnancy following estrus ("heat") in an unspayed female dog that is not actually pregnant.What are the signs of false pregnancy in dogs? ›
- Mammary development.
- Enlarged belly.
- Loss of appetite.
- Being protective of small inanimate objects.
Mastitis in dogs is not as common as in other species, such as cattle, but if left unchecked, the condition can lead to life-threatening consequences. To ensure the health of nursing dogs, breeders should be aware of the signs and management options.Does my dog have yeast? ›
Redness and swelling are the first signs of a yeast infection, but a dog's symptoms can progress to swelling, warmth, and pain in the infected area. Odor. Another common sign of yeast infection is a distinct smell, which will likely be your first indicator that your dog has this condition.How do I get rid of blackheads on my nipples? ›
- Wash area regularly. Wash the area twice each day with a mild soap.
- Wash oily hair. If you have long hair that reaches your chest, it could be contributing to pimples. ...
- Rinse off sweat. ...
- Avoid the sun. ...
- Use oil-free sunscreen. ...
- Try tea tree oil. ...
- Topical zinc. ...
- Birth control.
Flea eggs are microscopic, white, and oval-shaped. Adult fleas, on the other hand, can easily be seen with the naked eye, and are dark brown or black, and can crawl or jump. Flea dirt looks like black specks on the skin and fur of your dog.What should dog nipples look like? ›
A nursing mother will have more pronounced nipples than a female without a littler or a male dog, but in general, nipples are small, round bumps that appear in a line from your dog's sheath up his stomach. Nipples can be pigmented or the color of your dog's skin –- both are considered normal.Do female dogs nipples change after heat cycle? ›
As a rule, a dog's nipples and mammary glands don't change in size during the heat cycle. However, you can often see a significant enlargement in your dog's nipples and breasts when the heat cycle is almost over, and the progesterone levels are at their peak.
Why is my dog's nipples getting bigger but not pregnant? ›
Swollen nipples in dogs is a common sign seen in mastitis. Mastitis occurs when there is an infection of the mammary glands. Mastitis can occur in female dogs who are in the process of nursing. In mastitis, the dog's mammary glands become swollen and painful.What causes bacteria skin infections in dogs? ›
Bacterial skin infection occurs when the skin's surface has been broken, the skin has become injured due to chronic exposure to moisture, the normal skin bacteria have been altered or changed, the blood flow to the skin has become impaired, or the immune system has been suppressed.How do you clean inverted dog nipples? ›
With that said, if your dog naturally has inverted nipples, it is important to clean them on a daily basis with a damp cloth in or baby wipes in order to prevent the risk of infection. Keeping the area clean will help to lessen the sebum build-up and stop dirt and debris from being collected.