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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.

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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.

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

Bella and ebony
Shitzu
6 Years
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

I have two bitch shiztue that I had mated 64 days ago. They both are leaking milk and nesting but they don’t seem to have puppies in there stomach that I can feel anyway. They have both put weight on and one has had litter before but not the other one. Does this mean a false pregnancy.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2513 Recommendations
Whilst 63 days is the term pregnancy in dogs, it may be up to 67 days; symptoms of false pregnancy normally occur much earlier at around 42 days of a ‘pregnancy’. Without examining them I cannot determine whether or not they are pregnant or are having a false pregnancy, if they haven’t whelped by Monday I would recommend popping into your Veterinarian for an examination and getting an ultrasound done. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Henny
Labrador Retriever
3 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Mammary Gland Enlargement
Mammary Gland Swelling
Mammary Gland Discharge

Medication Used

trifexus

My 4 year old AKC Black Lab had a false pregnancy 3 or 4 heat cycles ago. Ever since people always ask if she just had puppies because her teats have never recovered from the swelling. She had her heat a little less than two months ago and recently displaying some new behavior- nipping at the two older dogs and “humping” the air. My mother said her teats look even bigger, so I gave them a squeeze. Sure enough, the back four (of 13) are producing milk. Well, I would think it was milk. The last time I took her to the vet, she said it was only the 3rd time in 25 years as a practicing DVM that she had seen a false pregnancy. Everything I read online says it’s not that uncommon.
Is it common for an intact bitch who has not had pups but has had a false pregnancy to have another false pregnancy?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1098 Recommendations
If a dog has had one false pregnancy, they obviously have some hormonal imbalances, and it would make sense to me that they may have another. It is also possible for them to develop a uterine infection that may be a problem. Since I cannot see her, it would be a good idea to have her examined by your veterinarian to make sure that everything is okay with her.

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NONE
None
6 Years
Fair condition
1 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

SPAYING

I have a friend that had her dog spayed. few years later her dog had been stolen. we think we found her dog but the person that has her says she is feeding her pups. said it couldn't be her because she had puppies. i want to know if years down the road can she be put with puppies or kittens and start giving milk. I really wanted to know if this dog could have had spaying reversed. the person that has her hs there own vet. and might be dog selling company.
THANK YOU
ALICIA WRIGHT

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1098 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. A dog spay is not a reversible procedure, no. When we spay dogs, we remove the uterus and ovaries, so there is no way for them to get pregnant, or to have puppies.

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Moana
Labrador Retriever
1 Year
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

I have two female dogs, one who recently gave birth to 7 puppies. A few weeks, later my other female dog tries to nurse the puppies though she hasn't yet given birth or is currently pregnant. She is only 1 year old. I am concerned about her behavior because she keeps on nursing the puppies even when I keep her away from them. Is this bad or just natural? What should I do?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1098 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. If Moana isn't pregnant or in heat, she shouldn't be able to produce milk for the puppies. It is probably just a maternal behavior and not worrisome, but it is important to make sure that the puppies are actually nursing from the dog that gave birth to them.

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Rosie
Boxer
5 Years
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Producing Milk

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.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2513 Recommendations

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

my dog is 10 years old almost 11 we recently found a puppy and now my dog is producing milk

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Bella
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
1 year
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Producing milk
Swollen nipples

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.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2513 Recommendations
Regular rubbing on the nipples along with hormonal changes may cause milk to be produced; it can occur in any species including humans; once you stop stimulating the teats by rubbing them the milk should stop over time. However, other causes including ovarian cysts and other disorders may also be attributable. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Little
Xoloitzquitly
16 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Irritation
Itching
Swelling
Sleepy

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

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2513 Recommendations

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?

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