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What is Producing Milk?

One would expect their female dog to produce milk after she has had puppies. Female dogs can produce milk that is emitted by their nipples, as any female mammal can. But dogs may even produce milk—or what looks like milk—through their nipples when they are not pregnant and have not recently given birth.

  • Lactating
  • False pregnancy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Mammary gland tumor

Most of the time, milk production will be either a normal and healthy physical function, or at least not dangerous. However, there can be dangerous underlying causes, so a milk-producing dog who is not recently or currently pregnant should be examined by a veterinarian.

Why Producing Milk Occurs in Dogs

Female dogs produce milk, or something with the appearance of milk, for two sets of reasons. Most of the time it is related to real or perceived pregnancy, but it can also be related to various illnesses. 

Lactating

Female dogs spontaneously produce milk when they have given birth to puppies. This is a normal part of biological parenthood for any female mammal. 

False Pregnancy

Female dogs may also produce milk when experiencing a false pregnancy or when another creature attempts to nurse from her. A false pregnancy is a condition where a female dog exhibits various symptoms of pregnancy, such as producing milk and building a nest for her puppies, but is not pregnant. Female dogs can also produce milk when another creature, such as a puppy or kitten, sucks and kneads her mammary area, even though she may not be pregnant or have recently given birth.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism can develop when a dog’s thyroid gland does not function properly, throwing the dog’s hormones out of balance. This causes the dog’s metabolism to slow down, causing symptoms that are typically associated with old age, such as lethargy, weight gain, loss of muscle coordination, and many more. Hypothyroidism usually occurs in medium to large dogs between 4 and 10 years old, and can be caused by lymphocytic thyroiditis, thyroid cancer, improper level of iodine, being born with it (congenital hypothyroidism), or for no clear reason.

Mammary Gland Tumor

Mammary gland tumors are growths in one or more of a female dog’s ten teats. They may or may not be cancerous. Hormones are a clear factor in mammary cancer, as only half of one percent of dogs spayed before their first heat ever develop the disease. Toxins, such as pesticides and household chemicals, may be a risk, but there are no clear and certain non-hormonal causes of mammary gland tumors. In the case of a mammary gland tumor, the white substance produced may look like milk, but it is actually pus.

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What to do if your Dog is Producing Milk

If your dog is pregnant or has recently given birth, she should be producing milk. Leave her to it. Neither are a false pregnancy or spontaneous nursing problematic. They are interesting phenomena, but they do not present a health problem. Discomfort or engorgement of the mammary glands may occur in any of these cases; these may be eased with alternating warm and cold compresses. However, hypothyroidism or mammary gland tumors require immediate medical attention.

Hypothyroidism is the less serious of the two conditions. It cannot be cured, but it can be treated, and a dog with hypothyroidism can live a normal and healthy life. Your dog’s veterinarian will give your dog thyroxine, an oral hormonal replacement, which she will take for the rest of her life. The dosage may need to be adjusted as your dog’s weight and drug tolerance fluctuates. Mammary gland tumors will need to be surgically removed, possibly followed by chemotherapy or, less likely, radiation. Following treatment, the owner should take care to regularly check the dog’s mammary glands for a recurrence of tumors.

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Prevention of Producing Milk

There is no need to prevent a normally lactating female dog from producing milk, even if it is experiencing a false pregnancy or nursing without being pregnant. Hypothyroidism is typically not preventable; however, mammary gland tumors are almost entirely preventable by spaying your female dog before her first heat.

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Cost of Producing Milk

A normally lactating dog does not require any medical treatment, nor does a dog experiencing a false pregnancy or spontaneous milk production for another nursing animal. The average cost of treating hypothyroidism is $1300, while it costs an average of $5500 to treat mammary gland tumors.

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Producing Milk Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Aidi

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Three Years

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Producing Milk

My dog isn’t pregnant but she’s producing milk why?

Aug. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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10 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. There are many hormonal changes that happen when dogs are coming into or going out of a heat cycle, and she may be producing milk because of that. She may also be in a false pregnancy, which can last for 2 months. If you notice that the discharge is bloody or looks infected, or she is lethargic or not feeling well, then it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, but otherwise, this should stop within a week or two. I hope that all goes well for her! c

Aug. 4, 2020

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Pit Bull

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Two Years

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Producing Milk

I noticed tonight my female is producing milk. She is not pregnant. Her last heat was 2-3 months ago.

July 30, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. There can be many hormonal changes in unspayed female dogs, and producing milk is not uncommon. She may be coming into another heat, or she may have a problem with her ovaries. If it continues for more than a week or two, or there is any discharge or she doesn't feel well, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian. They would be able to examine her and see if any treatment is needed. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 30, 2020

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Chihuahua mix

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Two Years

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Liquid From One Nipple

i was rubbing her stomach and noticed something had fell off. it looked like as if her nipple was leaking and dried up on it. however i became curious and softly squeezed her nipples and liquid only came out of the one. she’s only been around one other male dog and he’s fixed so there’s no way she’s pregnant. However i am almost 5 months pregnant i was wondering if maybe that had anything to do with it? she’s became a bit more clingy and prefers to sit or sleep in my lap during the day. When it’s bed time she sleeps directly next to my stomach. just a crazy thought.

July 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. She probably does sense something different about you, but I don't think that she would be lactating because of your pregnancy. She may be going into a heat cycle, and this may pass. If the discharge continues, or it looks infected or red, or bothers her, it would be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine her and make sure that she is okay.

July 28, 2020

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Chihuahua /mutt

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Seven Years

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1 Nipple Full And Producing Milk

Why is her 1 breast full of milk and she's not pregnant

July 19, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Dogs can have strange hormonal changes during a heat cycle, and as they get older things can get a little bit weirder. If this continues, it would probably be best to have foreseen by veterinarian. It may be a short-term problem, and it would be best to monitor to make sure that everything is going okay. I hope all goes well for her.

July 20, 2020

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Pitbull

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Two Years

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Lactating

She isnt pregnant but is lactating. Should I be worried? What should I do? There is even swelling

July 16, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello If your dog is spayed and producing milk, she may have an ovarian remnant. Meaning that when she was spayed, a piece of her ovary was left inside that is producing a hormone that stimulates milk production. If she is not spayed but producing milk, then she may be pregnant. It is recommended that you take her to a veterinarian for an exam. Good luck.

July 16, 2020

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Luna

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Maltipoo

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3 Years

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Swollen Nipples
Slightly Swollen Belly Only At Bottom

is it possible for false pregnancy to occur right before her heat cycle? my dogs nipples are swollen, I slightly squeezed one and a milk like substance came out, she has never been bred and her behavior has not changed. she is 3 & a half years old. Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/symptom/why-is-my-dog-producing-milk

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Daisy

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Pekingese

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5 Years

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Leaking
Leaking No Appit
Leaking No Appetite

My dog has had two litters in the past but it has been well over almost 1 year and a half since her last birthing, and puppies are all gone. Lately I’ve noticed dry crust on her hair that surrounds her teets, not all of them though and she’s only been wanting to eat every two days I feel like when she really gets hungry she just goes and eats but waits a very long time. Not like her. What could this be ?

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Jolene

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Yorkie

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9 Years

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Mild severity

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Lump

I have a female Yorker she is 9 years old. We recently noticed a lump in her stomach and seems like she’s producing milk from one nipple. When we squeeze the liquid out the lump goes down. She as never been pregnant. Her food, water and bathroom is still normal. Should I be concerned?

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Lexi

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mongrel

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4 Months

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Howling
Sucking From Other Young Female Pup

My 6 weeks male puppy(Spike) tries to get milk from my 4 month old female puppy(Lexi) and now, I can see that there's a lot of redness and a little bit swollen from lexi's belly. Is this okay? She still young and I'm little bit worried about it. We got Spike 2 days ago and he is howling, crying if he didnt see us and stops whining if we carry him.... I dont know if this is normal. Spike just got separated from his mom and siblings 2 days ago too.

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Chippy

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Dachshund

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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Allergies

I have a dachshund dog around 3-4 years old and just recently I found out that she's been producing milk and as I can notice with her, she's been suffering some allergies, she also has a lump on her lower stomach I'm so worried about her condition :(

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