All mammals have nipples, but have you ever wondered how many nipples a dog has? If your pooch is fond of belly rubs, you’ve probably felt small pimple-like bumps. Those are your dog’s nipples!
But what determines how many nipples a dog has? The number of dog nipples depends on the size and the breed. Most dogs on average have from six to 10 nipples on the underside of their bellies. Usually, there are two symmetrical rows of nipples, but some dogs may have an odd number of nipples. This is natural and not a cause for medical concern.
Are you curious to learn more about dog nipples but are uncomfortable discussing nipples with your vet? Worry not because this article is here to help! Keep on reading to find out all you wanted to know (and more) about dog nipples!
What Are Dog Nipples?
All mammals have mammary glands, though some of them don’t have nipples. Dogs, like the majority of mammals, have nipples.
Dog nipples are raised areas on the surface of mammary glands. In both male and female dogs’ nipples look like small, raised bumps that run on the underside of a dog’s belly.
Nipples are more noticeable on short-haired dogs. In long-haired dogs nipples can be covered by fur and are hard to find, especially in male dogs and neutered females.
Dog nipples can vary in color from whitish-pink to black depending on the breed and the color of a dog’s coat.
Interestingly, the nipples and mammary glands of dogs that are spayed at an early age are significantly smaller and less developed than in intact female dogs.
What’s the Purpose of Dog Nipples?
The main role of dog nipples is to secrete/produce milk to feed the nursing puppies. Nipples have exactly the same purpose for all female mammals and that’s to secrete milk that will feed infants.
The milk is the primary source of nourishment for puppies during the first three to four weeks of life until they are weaned to solid food. The milk secreted by dog nipples is full of important antibodies that strengthen the immune system and help puppies grow into strong and healthy dogs.
Though all dogs have nipples, milk production is mostly seen in unspayed female dogs. Female dogs that are spayed early in their lives don’t develop mammary glands like they would if they were intact.
How Do Dog Nipples Work?
Nipples are a signature trait of mammalian species that raise their young on milk. Like people, dogs have nipples that secrete milk from mammary glands.
Dog nipples are a conduit that transfers the milk from the mother’s teat to a suckling puppy. When a dog gets pregnant, the mammary tissue around each nipple will swell in preparation for milk production.
What Do Dog Nipples Feel Like?
Depending on a dog, nipples may feel like small bumps, bug bites, or pimples.
When a female dog is pregnant, the nipples will become swollen and will feel much bigger than usual. In this case, the nipples may also feel softer, spongy, and sometimes even warm to the touch.
Since nipples are essentially small bumps on the skin, it’s not uncommon for novice owners to confuse them for pimples or lumps. There are many instances of concerned owners taking their dogs to the vet for a persistent lump, only to be informed that they’ve stumbled across a normal nipple.
These things happen all the time, so don’t be embarrassed if this happened to you too!
Do Male Dogs Have Nipples?
Though they can’t produce milk, male dogs have nipples too. Male dogs don’t have mammary glands that produce milk so their nipples can’t become swollen.
Interestingly, male and female dogs on average have the same number of nipples. The main difference, however, is that the nipples of male dogs are much smaller and stay that way throughout their lives.
At this point, you are probably wondering why do male dogs have nipples when they are completely useless! The answer to this can be found in the early stages of a puppy’s life – when it’s only an embryo, to be precise.
During the first couple of weeks, male and female embryos follow the same developmental blueprint that includes the forming of nipples. Nipples are one of the first things to develop, way before the genes for male and female genitalia kick in.
As a result, all dogs regardless of their gender are born with nipples. Think of nipples as the standard setting for all dogs, regardless of their genre.
Nipples are a distinguishing feature of mammal species that raise their young on milk. Though nipples don’t serve any purpose in male dogs, they continue to appear as a trait that declares that dogs are mammals.
How Many Nipples Does a Dog Have?
Dogs have two symmetrical rows of nipples that on average contain six to 10 nipples in total.
Some dogs may have fewer than six nipples, while others can have more than 10 nipples. Either way, they are completely normal.
Most often than not, these two rows are matched evenly creating a round number of nipples. Consequently, most dogs will have from three to five nipples in the left row, and three to five nipples in the right row.
However, some dogs can be born with seven or nine nipples in total. While an odd number of nipples is rare, it’s nothing to worry about!
Having an odd number of nipples isn’t associated with any health problem in dogs.
Now that you know that it’s completely normal for male dogs to have nipples too, you are probably wondering how many nipples a male dog has?
The answer to this question is pretty straightforward – male dogs have just as many nipples as female dogs! While male dogs don’t have any practical use of their nipples, they still on average have six to 10 nipples.
Their nipples are typically arranged in two rows running on the underside of their bellies.
While unusual, some male dogs are born with an odd number of nipples. Instead of sporting a round number of nipples they have five, seven, or nine nipples.
Though these pooches lack symmetry, there’s nothing medically wrong with them. Having an odd number of nipples won’t affect your dog’s health in any way.
The number of nipples in mammals tends to match the average size of their litters. Therefore, female dogs on average have from six to 10 nipples.
Having so many nipples allows the nursing female dog to feed all of her offspring at the same time.
Normal litter size for dogs can range from one to 12 puppies with an average being five to six puppies in a litter (source). Considering the size of an average dog litter it’s safe to expect to see from six to 10 nipples on a female dog.
Keep in mind that some female dogs can have fewer or more nipples than the average. If that is the case with your dog there’s nothing to worry about!
Difference Between Male and Female Dog Nipples
Since both male and female puppies are born with nipples and the genre doesn’t have any effect on the number of nipples, you won’t be able to use nipples to tell the sex of your puppy.
Though both male and female dogs have nipples, their nipples aren’t the same. There are a few key differences between male and female dog nipples:
- Size: A male dog’s nipples are usually smaller and flatter than a female dog’s nipples. Since the male dog’s mammary tissue doesn’t produce milk, their nipples don’t become any bigger. In most cases, a male dog’s nipples look like moles. A female dog’s nipples look like small bumps or raised areas.
- Milk production: While both male and female dogs have mammary glands, male dogs can’t produce milk. Unlike female dogs, male dogs can’t secrete milk through their nipples to nurse puppies.
- Swelling: A female dog’s nipples will become swollen during its first heat cycle and during pregnancy. Male dogs, on the other hand, don’t go into heat and can’t become pregnant (source). Therefore, their nipples will remain pretty much the same throughout their lives.
Where Can You Find Dog Nipples?
Though you probably already know where and how to find dog nipples, we’ll still provide an in-depth description for all newbie doggy parents.
You can find dog nipples on the underside of their belly, running in two parallel lines from their chest to their groin. In most cases, these two rows of nipples are situated evenly on the left and right sides of the dog’s body.
While most dogs have a round number of nipples, some pooches are born with an odd number of nipples. In these cases, it’s not uncommon to find that one mismatched nipple on the inside of a dog’s leg or anywhere else along the lines nipples typically grow.
Generally, these lines extend from a dog’s arms to its feet. These lines are the main reason why dog nipples can sometimes be found in strange places.
If you happen to find a pimple-like bump on a weird place, like the inside of your dog’s leg, check the opposite leg for something similar. If your dog has an identical lump symmetrical to the first lump, chances are that you are looking at a nipple.
However, if you don’t find an identical lump on the other leg, take your dog to the vet to check the lump, in case it’s something serious.
Does the Number of Nipples in Dogs Change?
Although the number of nipples can vary from one dog to the next, a dog can’t lose or produce new nipples during its life.
A dog can’t grow a new nipple and the nipples can’t disappear. The number of your dog’s nipples will remain the same from the moment they are born for the rest of their life.
Why are My Dog’s Nipples Swollen?
Enlarged nipples can be a sign of an underlying medical problem. If your dog’s nipples appear tender, swollen, or inflamed contact your veterinarian for instructions on what to do next, or simply take your dog for a checkup.
Your vet will most likely want to examine your dog and run the necessary test based on preliminary findings.
Several health issues can cause a dog’s nipples to become swollen. The most common are:
- Pregnancy: Increase in nipple size is one of the first signs of canine pregnancy. A pregnant dog’s nipples will become pinker and larger in size in preparation to secrete milk to feed the puppies.
- Mastitis: This is an inflammation of mammary glands in dogs. Mastitis usually occurs in female dogs that are nursing their puppies. This is a very painful condition for a dog, and veterinary assistance is needed.
- Dermatitis: If the skin surrounding your dog’s nipples is inflamed due to dermatitis, it may appear like their nipples are enlarged too. If your dog is itching and seems uncomfortable, take them to the vet.
- Mammillary cancer: Unfortunately, dogs too can develop breast cancer. Intact dogs and female dogs that were spayed later in life are at a higher risk of developing mammary cancer. Thus, take your dog for regular checkups so your vet can look for any strange lumps and bumps.
Dogs, on average, have from six to 10 nipples running in two parallel rows located on the underside of their belly. The main function of dog nipples is to secrete milk to feed the puppies until they are weaned to solid food.
While male dogs can’t produce milk or nurse, they too have nipples! The biggest difference between male and female dog nipples is their size. Male dogs have smaller nipples than female dogs, and they are much harder to find.