Knowing your dog’s quirks and body marks is part of being a conscientious and responsible dog owner. That includes knowing everything about your dog, from the consistency of their poop, to food preferences, to the number of nipples they have.
So it’s natural to be concerned if you notice a change in your dog, like realizing, “my dog has an inverted nipple.” But should you be worried? And if so, how much?
What Is An Inverted Nipple on a Dog?
An inverted nipple is exactly how it sounds: instead of facing outward towards you, the nipple turns inwards towards the dog’s stomach (somewhat akin to a navel being an “innie” instead of an “outie”).
It creates a small divot in the dog’s tummy. But, strange as inverted nipples look, there’s nothing inherently wrong with them.
You should only become concerned if the inverted nipple:
- Appears suddenly
- Coincides with other atypical behaviors/symptoms
- Shows signs of redness, swelling, or infection
How Do Dogs Get Inverted Nipples?
Inverted nipples are a normal quirk your dog develops with age. Normally, this happens as your dog over a long time and shouldn’t be a sudden change. You should only be concerned when a mature dog develops an inverted nipple overnight.
Should You Try to Treat Inverted Nipples Yourself or Call a Vet?
While there are things you can do to prevent mastitis, like routinely cleaning the nipple, it’s important to call the vet if you think your dog’s inverted nipple is infected.
There are two types of mastitis. One is ordinary, and one is acute or septic. Septic mastitis is lethal if untreated, but the only way to tell which type of inverted nipple infection your dog has is for the vet to run tests.
A vet can also provide antibiotics, significantly alleviating the discomfort of an infected nipple.
How To Treat Inverted Nipples on a Dog
Is there anything you can do to keep them healthy and reduce the likelihood of inverted nipple infection?
Since inverted nipples attract bacteria, the best thing you can do is keep them clean.
How to Clean Inverted Nipples
Sebum is your main concern when cleaning inverted nipples. The texture is similar to earwax, but whereas earwax keeps bacteria getting into your ears, too much sebum causes inverted nipple infections.
To remove sebum, gently squeeze your dog’s inverted nipple. The sebum should surface, and you can remove it and clean the nipple.
One of the most effective ways to do this is with cotton batting. For extra thoroughness, wipe the nipple with antiseptic wipes.
Vets recommend doing this at least once or twice a month to prevent mastitis. Vital as it is to keep inverted nipples clean, you must remember that trauma, like routinely squeezing the nipple, can cause mastitis.
What Wipes Should I Use to Clean My Dog?
When cleaning inverted nipples, you should use antibacterial wipes. Baby wipes are ideal because they are affordable and readily available.
That said, wipes specifically for dogs also exist and may be preferable. If you choose a pet-oriented wipe, ensure it’s unscented. Sense of smell is integral to canine life, and many dogs find scent-based products disorienting and distressing.
How to Prevent Inverted Nipples in Dogs
Inverted nipples in dogs occur naturally. Sometimes they’re genetic, while other times they develop as your dog matures, like a birthmark.
You can’t prevent them, and unless they develop suddenly, you shouldn’t worry. That said, you can correct them.
Can You Fix a Dog’s Inverted Nipple?
It’s possible to correct a dog’s inverted nipples surgically. This can reduce their chances of conditions like mastitis and makes nursing easier if you plan on breeding the dog.
However, it’s primarily a cosmetic procedure. As long as you keep on top of cleaning your dog’s nipples routinely, they should live happy, healthy lives, despite their inverted nipples.
What Should I Do if My Female Dog Has an Inverted Nipple and Has Trouble Feeding Her Puppies?
Inverted nipples primarily become problematic when an unspayed female is nursing.
That’s because she needs to ensure the puppies in her litter get an equal amount of food. Most litters follow the ”half nipple rule,” meaning there’s usually at least one puppy that can’t get milk from a teat.
But all rules have exceptions, and litter size may be equal to or exceed the available nipples.
So, how do you compensate?
Isolate the Puppy
Start by isolating the puppy that can’t nurse. You must keep the puppy warm, so ensure you have a blanketed box with a heating pad to stimulate the mother’s heat and the littermates’ body heat.
Don’t handle a young puppy too much, so once settled in their box, that’s where they will live unless you are feeding them.
Use Milk Supplement
If your nursing female dog has an inverted nipple, it’s natural to wonder if you can feed any mis-mothered puppies with baby formula.
The answer is no. The levels of fat in baby formula are too high for puppies. Instead, buying a puppy-specific milk supplement like Esbilac or Just Born would be best.
Alternatively, you can create your own supplement by mixing:
- Evaporated milk
- Sterilized water
- Egg yolk (raw, no whites)
- Corn syrup
This mixture lasts 24 hours.
Feeding Non-Nursing Puppies
Once you settle on a formula, the next question is how to feed dogs who can’t access the milk in their mum’s inverted nipple.
You can either purchase bottles tailored specifically to puppies or use a syringe. Both are reliable ways of feeding a puppy, but many find syringe feeding easier.
Initially, you must feed the puppy every two to three hours. However, you can gradually reduce this to four hours as they age. Eventually, you can start mixing in solids.
Possible Complications for Inverted Nipples on Dogs
While inherently harmless, the sunken nature of inverted nipples makes them a natural place for bacteria to accrue. If you don’t keep on top of cleaning your dog’s inverted nipples, this can cause problems.
You are most likely to find mastitis in nursing dogs. But if your spayed dog has inverted nipples, it may suffer from it, too.
Mastitis is a bacterial infection that affects the mammary glands. Normally, dogs develop mastitis when they can’t express adequate milk, and the nipple duct becomes clogged with bacteria.
Because of the nature of inverted nipples, they collect bacteria, and this causes mammary gland inflammation and inverted nipple infection.
Mastitis can affect one or more nipples at a time. Depending on your dog, they may be asymptomatic, meaning their milk may look normal, even when it comes from infected glands.
To help your vet diagnose mastitis or inverted nipple infection, look for:
- Swollen/injured nipples
- Inflamed mammary tissue
- Irregular discharge
In nursing dogs, also look for:
- Refusal to nurse
As discussed, nursing issues are another problem you may encounter in a dog with inverted nipples.
You can help ensure puppies are equally fed by syringe-feedings, as outlined. But that’s not your only option.
You can also rotate the puppies in the litter to ensure they get access to the teats that aren’t transverse.
But puppies are nothing if not stubborn and may reshuffle their position independently. When that happens, another trick is to relocate the biggest puppies to the inverted nipple. Suckling the teat should temporarily correct its position and allow the puppy to get their share of milk.
Finally, many nursing dogs favor one side when lying down. That can prevent their puppies from accessing all available nipples. Since equal feeding is vital for a healthy litter, especially when the mother has an inverted nipple, try repositioning her.
The new position should expose more teats, encouraging feeding, preventing inverted nipple infections, and reducing puppyhood worries about getting enough food.
An inverted nipple on a dog is usually nothing to worry about. It only becomes an issue if it becomes infected. Keeping it clean is the best way to manage this mostly innocuous condition.