The mystery of nipples in male dogs


Are you puzzled and baffled by the nipples present in a male dog’s abdomen? It’s one of those nature’s mysteries intended to be that way. Male and female dog species are different. Their characteristics and physical attributes are different. As a matter of fact, most mammals, even cats, pigs and primates like monkeys, apes, lemurs, and humans have them

This brings us to doubt that most pet owners and caretakers possess, if there are nipples present in a male dog, then how many nipples do dogs have, especially the men and what is the function of these body parts?

How many nipples do dogs have?.​

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Whether a male or a female, nipples are body parts that are present along the abdomen from the chest to the groin. The number probably depends on the dog’s size and gender. For smaller dog species, the average number is eight or less, and for bigger dog breeds the number of nipples could be ten or more.

These numbers are just averages and not an exact number because there are always some variations in the numbers from dog to dog.​

The functionality of nipples:

These body parts that start on the chest and run down the entire torso length, exist for reproductive and lactation purposes in female dogs. Whereas, in a male dog, the use of the presence of these body parts is not precisely known. These don’t serve any lactation purpose in the male dogs.

​What then is the need for the presence of nipples in a male dog, if they really don’t have a purpose?


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The most common answer given by dog experts and vets is that mammary glands which are present in both the male and female embryos during fetal development are not distinguishable at the time of birth.

However, when the dogs begin to grow, the distinguishing characteristics of male and female canines set in with the onset of the production of sex hormones in their bodies.

The nipples in the female dogs develop secretion or lactation function to produce milk at the time of giving birth to young ones. These body parts produce the milk needed for nourishing the young people. So, the function and purpose of these body parts are determined only in the later stages of a dog’s development.

Whereas in a male dog these are just body parts present in a rudimentary state. It helps to understand here that nipples in both the male and female dogs begin to develop at embryo stage even before the gender or sex of the fetus is determined.

In a female dog, these nipples are not functional at the time of their birth. The puppies or the younger ones belonging to both the genders do not have much of distinguishing features at the time of their birth and in their very early days. As they tend to grow, the sex hormones trigger the development of these parts in a female dog’s body.​

So, it does not really matter how many nipples do dogs have, especially the male breeds. The presence of nipples in male dogs could be because nature did not remove or weed them out in the later stages of development.

So, the presence of nipples in male dogs does not present any natural advantage or even disadvantage to the male dog breed

Different names for nipples present in various parts of the body:​

Nipples are classified and named depending on their location in a dog’s body. The two that are found in the chest area of a dog are known as cranial thoracic nipples. The subsequent two are referred to as the caudal thoracic nipples.

The nipples that are present in the abdominal area of dogs have their own names too. The first two in the abdominal area following the cranial thoracic nipples are called the cranial abdominal nipples, and the set of two which follow these and present in the abdomen area are known as the caudal abdominal nipples. Finally, there are the last two near the legs referred to as the inguinal nipples.​

Mammary glands:​

Nipples are normal mammary glands and are different from sweat glands. Sweat glands produce sweat, whereas, nipples are also glands, but they are intended for lactation purposes and providing nourishment.

Nipples in a male dog – facts you need to know and the troubles you may have to look out for:​

  • The nipples in a male dog don’t have any apparent purpose. So, dog owners may not pay attention to them. However, these glands are indicators of health in your canine.
  • If there is a sudden increase in the size of these glands in a male dog, this could be an indication of cancer.
  • Testicular cancer can occur to any male dog, neutered or not. Though, the occurrence is said to be less with the neutered variety, than the non-neutered ones.
  • It is best to consult your dog’s veterinarian, if you see an abnormal swelling. A medical professional can then prescribe the line of treatment.
  • If the male dog is non-neutered, castration is usually suggested as a mode of treatment for testicular cancer.
  • In the case of a dog that has been neutered, then chemotherapy is the usual course of action taken.
  • The calming news about this type of cancer occurrences in a male dog is that it does not usually spread to other parts of the body. So, once treatment begins, you can be mostly ensured of your pet’s recovery to good health.
  • Hold on, a swelling of the nipples in a male dog does not always indicate testicular cancer. It could mean other possibilities that your pooch may be suffering from pain in the abdominal area.
  • A swelling of these glands in a male dog could also be a pointer towards anemia and symmetrical hair loss.
  • Another important fact is that the color of the nipples present in a male dog tends to change over a specified period.
  • The change in color is indicative of an advancement in the age in a male dog. While, change in color of the nipples in a female dog could also mean a bacterial infection.

Mistaking the dog’s nipples for ticks:

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Dog owners and pet caretakers need to understand and verify whether the nipples present in the male dog are exactly what they are checking. Sometimes, there is a possibility of misunderstanding a tick for a nipple.

To understand whether they are actually checking these glands in their male dogs, pet owners need to look for the position of the bump. If the bump is partially buried in the flesh, then it indicates the presence of a tick.​

If the bump is fully attached to the flesh, then it is either a nipple or a mole too. With experience, you may be able to identify these glands correctly in your male dog. Or you could always take the help of your vet initially.

Ticks require warmth, moisture, and nourishment to survive in your dog’s body. Ticks flourish in dogs which are brought up in suburban and rural environments. Tall grasses and wood based localities are more likely to attract clicks. Very often, nipples present in the underside of a dog’s body is mistaken for a tick. And there are several cases where owners have accidentally harmed their dog’s nipples mistaking it for a tick.

Therefore, it is entirely necessary to exercise precaution and equip yourself with knowledge before you go in for tick removal procedures on your own. Consult and get guidance from a veterinarian before you commence such pet care activities to avoid inflicting injury and trauma to your pet.

Nipple discharge in dogs – Indicators:​

The primary purpose of the presence of nipples is to secrete milk. Dog owners usually feel alarmed to see release in nipples when their dogs are not lactating. Discharge in nipples is usually present in female dogs that are intact and not spayed.

However, it is not uncommon for male dogs and spayed female dogs to develop these conditions.

It is common for female dogs to start lactating when they are nearing the end of their pregnancy term.

An important indication of discharge and change in color of these mammary glands in lactating and non-lactating female dogs is the presence of bacterial infection also known as Mastitis.

Mastitis may be the result of unsanitary and unhygienic conditions. There have been no reports of occurrences of mastitis in male dogs.

Mastitis is a bacterial infection of the lactating glands, and the common symptoms include lethargy, swollen, firm, and painful nipples and a general loss of appetite among others.

Pet owners need to be aware of “false pregnancy” or do pregnancy indications in female dogs. Such occurrences may also cause a temporary discharge in the mammary glands.​

In both male and female dogs, an abscess could cause a release in the nipples. In such cases, the injury posed by the intrusion of a foreign object, for example, a stick or a stone or thorn, in your dog’s body may cause abscess and lead to bacterial infection. The symptoms of such a bacterial infection are the abnormal and sudden local swelling of the nipples, which may have discharge or not.

Another problem is the occurrence of mammary gland cancer in non-spayed dogs. These are more commonly affected than their spayed counterparts. Events of mammary gland cancer are extremely rare in male dogs. An indication of disease is that the affected glands no longer produce milk.​

Most mammary tumors are present in the inguinal glands close to the legs. Research studies reveal that nearly half of the occurrences of tumors are benign. The non-benign tumors are the ones that require treatment. Differentiation between malignant and benign condition will be achieved with an examination and culture of the mother dog’s milk.

It can generally be inferred that nipple discharge in dogs is not an uncommon occurrence. They may occur because of several factors. Most conditions can easily be treated while others may require some time.

A consultation with the veterinarian, under these circumstances, is needed and beneficial to alleviate your doubts and improve your understanding of your pet’s physiological attributes.

An important point to be considered here is that the choice of a good veterinarian for your beloved pet is of utmost importance to his/ her health. Choose a vet who makes you and your dog comfortable. When it comes to dealing with your pet’s anatomy, health care, and treatment of illnesses, it is essential to choose a vet who has knowledge and experience. Connect with other dog owners and caregivers to scout for one who can diagnose correctly and answer your concerns patiently and honestly without overly trying to please or someone who isn’t rude.

General care and good hygiene and decent sanitation conditions will keep most gland and other health problems of your pets at bay.


It is important to understand your dog’s anatomy and physiology before you jump to conclusions. It is a well-known fact now that the nipples present in the male dogs do not have any particular function. Whereas, theses glands are present for lactation purposes in their female counterparts.

A change in the color and size of these organs may not necessarily be for an alarming cause. However, it is best to exercise precaution. A sudden swelling of nipples in male dogs can best be understood when it is brought to the attention of your pet’s veterinarian.

All tumors and swelling of the nipples do not indicate cancer. Most of them are benign and can be treated easily.

It is best to ensure maximum hygiene and proper sanitation to keep most bacterial infections at bay. Do not ignore an abscess or the piercing of a sharp object into your dog’s skin. Treat it immediately, to prevent further pain and trouble.

It is best to have a thorough knowledge of ticks before you try to remove them on your own, without the help of a vet. Lastly be aware and keenly observe your dog’s behavior patterns to see if he/ she has pain or illness.

The tips mentioned above will help you deal with any nipple issues that your dog may face. It is not just about how many nipples do dogs have; it is about their proper care to help your pets enjoy a healthy happy life.​

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