How Many Nipples Do Dogs Have?
[Everything you need to know]

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

As strange as this question sounds, I have been on the receiving end of it from pet owners and non-owners alike. The concerns vary from the difference in breeds, the number of nipples, if male dogs have nipples, how to identify puppies by nipples, what nipples look like, and how to understand if they are swollen! 

This article aims to clarify some of the air regarding the topic.

Do Dogs Have Nipples?

Nipples are biologically raised areas on the surface of mammary tissue in mammals.

In the same way as with other mammals, a dog’s nipples generally develop in the female’s reproductive tract during gestation. The nipples are largely located on the underside of the dog’s belly. The nipples start in the groin area and move up across the belly along the mammary glands.

What Does A Dog’s Nipple Look Like?

Dog nipples should look very similar to small cysts or bumps. They are generally soft and warm to the touch.

It can also seem a little swollen at times, which many dog owners confuse as a bug bite or a pimple. As a trainer, I have faced multiple questions after such confusion, which is nothing to be worried about.

What Is The Color Of A Dog’s Nipple?

The color of the nipple varies from whiteish pink to black, depending on the breed and color of your dog. In the case of unspayed females, the dog’s nipples can change in color during heat, false pregnancy, and when they are lactating. Generally, the nipples should shrink in size a week after the puppies stop feeding.

What Is The Purpose Of A Dog’s Nipple?

Like every other mammal, the purpose of a dog’s nipple is to provide milk to the puppies. The milk that is produced by the mammary glands for the first 3 to 4 weeks of life of the litter until the puppies have weaned, acts as a primary source of nutrients and provides vital antibodies to protect the pups.

New-born puppies can feed up to 20 times a day.

How Many Nipples Does A Female Dog Have?

Female dogs, in general, have 6 to 10 nipples divided into two rows. The numbers may vary a little bit, but that is absolutely normal. There is symmetry in numbers on either side mostly. So again, if not, there is no medical concern.

The number is independent of gender, health, or breed of your dog. For example, when a dog enters pregnancy, the mammary glands around the nipples get swollen and prepare for milk production. In the case of some female dogs, the mammaries remain protruded after having birthed multiple litters. In other cases, they may return to their previous flat state.

The swelling of the nipples in the case of female dogs may occur due to heat cycles. With spayed dogs, nipples can appear enlarged and protruded even without birthing any litter.

How To Differentiate Between A Female And A Male Dog?

Their nipples cannot determine the sex of puppies. Both the genders have nipples, and physical distinction is pretty much impossible until your dog reaches heat or gestation period.

As puppies, genitalia is the only way of confirming the sex of a dog.

Can Nipple Count Predict Litter Size?

This is a myth that is not proven with any scientific expertise. Nipple counts cannot determine litter size. Both smaller and bigger breeds of dogs have similar teats, ranging from 8 to 10 nipples. The size of the breed does determine the size of litter in some ways; smaller breeds birthing smaller litter.

In the case of a pregnant dog, the mammary gland will swell to prepare for the production of milk.

It is good to get an ultrasound around 25 days into the pregnancy or an X-ray around 45 days to guess the litter size best. This also helps in avoiding massive complications during the birth of the litter and being prepared as the pet owner with post-birth requirements.

What To Do If My Dog’s Nipples Appear Swollen?

While checking your dog’s stomach, if the nipples start appearing more swollen than expected, it can be a cause of medical concern. Immediately notify your vet to get it examined.

With enlarged nipples in male and female dogs, the most common health concerns are:

  • Your dog might be pregnant, and mammalian glands are swollen hence.
  • Poor health conditions leading to Mastitis
  • The weaning process results in excessive milk collection, also known as Galactostasis.
  • Skin inflammation around the nipples making them appear enlarged, known as Dermatitis
  • Breast cancer can happen to both male and female dogs
  • A high level of hormones can cause the growth of nipples in female and male dogs- Mammary Hyperplasia.

What Does It Mean When A Male Dog’s Nipples Are Swollen?

It can be some sort of irritation or abrasion to the area, testicular cancer, mastitis, or mammary tumors.

Do A Dog’s Nipples Shrink After Spaying?

This varies from breed to breed. Generally, nipples tend to swell with hormone changes, like when a female dog is in heat.

But the size of the nipple may appear enlarged and protruded after spaying.

Issues That Can Affect Dog's Nipples

Mammary Cancer

Nipple problems can be caused by anything from infections to cancerous tumors. Any kind of tumor can occur on a dog’s nipple, including benign growths called papillomas and malignant cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma.


With non-spayed female dogs, other than breast cancer, another significant medical condition includes Mastitis. It is a bacterial infection of the mammary tissue that usually occurs in pregnant dogs or nursing females. The condition can also be seen when a dog is in heat. This can occur in male dogs and spayed females on infrequent occasions.

One of the common reasons for Mastitis is poor sanitation and hygiene. Trauma can also be a significant cause of this. With poor health conditions, dogs are prone to develop primary and secondary infections. Stray dogs are more likely to get affected by this condition than house pets. Some of the common symptoms of mastitis include lethargy, loss of appetite, and pus leaking inflamed nipples.


Symmetry can help you identify if your dog has ticks. A lot of pet owners confuse ticks with moles, nipples, or skin tags. Nipples generally occur in similar numbers on either side of the stomach. So, keeping a count can help you figure out a tick, which feels like a small bump. You can identify it while running your fingers over your dog’s skin.

Ticks are dark in the shade with eight legs and occur around the head, feet, and neck area of a dog.


Both breast cancer and mastitis are life-threatening complications for dogs. As a dog trainer, my advice will be to keep a constant check on your dog’s nipples and the area around it, especially if he or she is not spayed. If you feel any swollen bumps, strange inflammation, anything feeling squishy or out of place, immediately contact your vet for a check-up.

It is always better to take precautions with your beloved furry buddy.