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.
- False pregnancy
- 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.
Book First Walk Free!
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.
Female dogs spontaneously produce milk when they have given birth to puppies. This is a normal part of biological parenthood for any female mammal.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Producing Milk Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Ive always rubbed my dog's belly since she was a puppy. She recently just turned one ( nov 20 ) and she started her first heat cycle at around 10 months or so. A while after she started her cycle, her nipples slowly began to swell. I thought that she was just gaining a little weight. I squeezed her nipple and a what im assuming is milk came out. It was a lightly colored bage. Her nipples get larger as you go closer to her bottom. They arent hanging so severely but about 1 or 1/2 inchen from her body. Could me rubbing her belly often be causing her to produce milk? She hasnt been around any male dogs recently and hasnt been around any long enough to attempt breeding. Could a short encounter with an intact male dog during her cycle cause this? She also isnt nesting as if she is about to give birth.
Add a comment to Bella's experience
Was this experience helpful?
I have a Mexican hairless (xoloitsquintly) puppy . she's about a year and a half now . she went through first heat cycle about a month-and-a-half ago close to two months now and ever since her breasts the bottom to have been just a little more plump then usual in the last couple days they've gotten a lot more swollen they're still very soft and Squishy not hard or feel like they have any type of thick liquid in them whatsoever I pressed on them a little earlier to see if milk would come out and we'll looks like a very white very thin liquid comes out which I'm guessing is milk she hasn't had any access too many male dogs other than the two in the house that are fixed is always kept Right By My Side ever since she was in heat though she has been scratching and nibbling at her bottom nipples I was guessing that the irritation is what had caused them to create or produce the milk that's coming out but I'm not really sure I don't know if it's better to try and help her get the milk out or just leave it as is and if this should get my attention enough to take her to the vet but I was leaning towards taking her and thought I would look up something like this thank you for any help you can provide me with it's much appreciated
Milk production may occur for various reasons including pregnancy, false pregnancy, hormonal imbalance, stimulation of the nipples among other causes; it would be best to have your Veterinarian take a look to be on the safe side, but if she is rubbing her belly often it may be a case that she is stimulating milk flow that way but I cannot say for sure. False pregnancy may occur too after a heat cycle but lasts typically ten days and resolves spontaneously. Take Little to her Veterinarian to confirm that nothing more serious is occurring and in the meantime, stop her from rubbing her nipples. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
My chocolate lab is about 8 years old and hasn't had puppies in 6 years. Her ties still hang as of she recently had pups. The other day I squeezed them and out came a milky substance that I surely thought was milk. Is this something I should be concerned about?
Add a comment to Little's experience
Was this experience helpful?
We just got a puppy he is 7 weeks and he tries to nurse on my older dog who is 5 years now she is producing milk is this normal? The owner before us said she never had puppies but her teets are various sizes and lengths.
Milk production may occur due to stimulation of the mammary glands and hormones in the body; normally stopping the stimulation will resolve the milk production. If after stopping the stimulation the milk continues to be produced, visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Add a comment to Rosie's experience
Was this experience helpful?