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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 secreted 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. Causes include:

  • Lactation post whelping
  • 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 sinister 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. 

Lactation

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. This would have been essential when dogs lived in the wild in the case of orphaned pups.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism occurs when the circulating level of thyroid hormone (T4) is too low. This causes the dog’s metabolism to slow down, resulting in 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 eight to 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 factor, 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 typically 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 medicated 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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Written by hannah hollinger

Veterinary reviewed by: Linda S.

Published: 06/19/2017, edited: 04/15/2021

Producing Milk Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Maltese

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Three Years

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Producing Breastmilk

My dog’s nipples are secreting breastmilk even though she hasn’t been around any male dogs and has never been bread or had puppies.

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in my reply, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. She may be going through a heat cycle, and hormonal changes can cause things like this to occur. If she continues to have secretions, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 19, 2020

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Lactating

My dog is lactating but I do not believe she is pregnant how can I make sure she is not pregnant or why is she lactating

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. She may be pregnant, and an ultrasound would help you to find that information out. She may be having hormonal changes that are causing her to lactate. If you are not sure, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 23, 2020

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Leaking Milk But Have Not Had Puppies

my dad pitbull back breast were leaking milk and she have not had any puppies. I know my dad has been taking her to like a dog sitter. We have been noticing her nipples looking big then the milk last night.

Sept. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. Hormonal changes can cause this sort of behavior. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 23, 2020

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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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11 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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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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chika

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i have a fpuppy n she is sucking on my female dog trying to get milk from her will this give my dog cancer coz the pup is sucking from her they r 2 different breeds i was lied to bout the age of the pup she is now bout 6 weeks i am getting her healthy n everything but she is sucking from my female dog

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Luna

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Drowsiness
Vomiting
Lactating
Affection

I have a pitbull she's around 1 year old and a rotty he's 10 months old. Now recently my pitty has enlarged nipples and buldges underneath her nipples. Is she producing milk? Or would it be tumors? I couldn't imagine tumors because only 4 of 7 seven nipples are this way. It wouldn't be hypothyroidism because she is too young. I'm wondering or not if this is a false pregnancy or not? She's been sleepy and really affectionate during the day and constantly wants on the couch or our bed. Now is she trying to nest? She has an increase in appetite. She used to eat 2 cups of food throughout the day. Now she eats around 4 cups. Two in the morning two at night. She is pretty slim and healthy and i haven't noticed her tummy get bigger. She was in heat about 2-3 months ago. Our rotty would have been around 6-7 months. Can rottys mature that early? I caught them in the act of mating a couple times but i hope i stopped it in time. We wouldn't be able to keep an eye on them all the time because we live in a house with a big yard. My pitty also has been vomiting not too frequently but randomly. I haven't noticed frequent urination. If she is pregnant. What do i have to do at the time of birth to keep the puppies healthy? Is she going to die because she is pregnant too young? If it is a false pregnancy what would bring that on? Nothing has tried to suckle her. I need some advice an clarity. Any information helps.

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