An Inverted Dog Nipple (What Every Dog Owner Should Know)

pregnant dog lying on the sofa

Discovering that your dog has inverted nipples can prompt immediate concern.

An inverted nipple in dogs can occur in both males and females, often seen in pregnant or nursing dogs. While usually a cosmetic issue, it can signify health problems in some cases. If your dog has inverted nipples, watch for symptoms like swelling, discharge, or nursing difficulties. These signs, especially in nursing dogs, can indicate infections like mastitis and require immediate veterinary attention.

This guide addresses your concerns, detailing the causes, appropriate care and guidance on when to consult a veterinarian.

What Is An Inverted Dog Nipple?

An inverted nipple in a dog is a nipple that points inward or lies flushed against your dog’s belly.

It is also known as a retracted nipple.

This condition can happen to more than one nipple and cause some discoloration too. .

In a normal state, a dog’s nipples are slightly raised above the surface of the skin, easily visible and felt.

Most dog owners don’t notice this issue on their dogs as their dog nipples are mostly covered up by their fur.

Causes Of Inverted Nipples In Dogs

Here’s a closer look at the factors that can lead to this condition.

1. Genetics

pregnant maltese and puppies

Inverted nipples are either present at birth, or can develop eventually as the puppies mature. 

A study has found that 10%-20% of the human population has this issue from birth or acquired it as they got older.

Although we do not have the exact number for dogs, they too can have it as puppies.

This can be caused by a harmless birth defect or a trait inherited from their parents.

There isn’t a definite list of dog breeds that are more prone to having inverted nipples.

But small dog breeds and breeds that have a likelihood of genetic predispositions, such as bulldogs, are at a higher risk.

2. Trauma

Inverted dog nipples can also be the result of traumatic events.

Physical injuries to a dog’s nipple from accidents, rough play or a fight can cause it to retract or invert.

Surgeries in the mammary region can inadvertently lead to inverted dog nipples, particularly if not executed with care.

Chemical or thermal burns to this area can also cause the skin to contract as it heals, resulting in nipple inversion.

3. Gestation And Lactation

mothe dog nursing puppies

Female dogs are more prone to having inverted nipples when they are pregnant or nursing their puppies.

This is due to the hormonal and physical changes that their bodies are undergoing.

Puppies are very hungry dogs and can be very aggressive in trying to get milk from their mothers.

This can cause trauma to the nipple, potentially damaging the teat or causing inversion

Are Inverted Nipples In Dogs Dangerous?

For most dogs, having an inverted nipple is just a cosmetic issue and usually nothing to worry about.

However, there are a few scenarios whereby inverted nipples can be a health problem for your canine.


This is more common in nursing dogs but male or non-nursing female dogs can also be affected.

If the nipple is inverted as a result of trauma, there is a risk of developing mastitis on the affected teat.

Mastitis occurs when bacteria enter the trauma site (open wound), ascend and eventually cause infection to the mammary gland

This is more common in nursing dogs but male or non-nursing female dogs can also be affected.

Dogs with mastitis will experience some pain and discomfort. Other symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Discoloration (red or purple)
  • Discharge (may contain blood or pus)
  • Cloudy/abnormally thick milk
  • Crusty looking nipple
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Refusing to nurse the puppies

Severe cases of mastitis can be fatal in dogs. If left untreated, the infection may enter the bloodstream, causing sepsis.

It would be best to get your dog to the vet to have the infection taken care of.

Tests for mastitis diagnosis may be done and pain medications and antibiotics will be prescribed.

Inverted Nipples In Nursing Dogs

dog nursing her puppies

Female dogs that are nursing their puppies have a full-time job of making sure that their pups are well-fed.

If a dog has inverted nipples, it reduces the number of available nipples for the puppies to nurse from during lactation

If your female dog who only has six nipples has a litter of six puppies and two out of her six nipples are inverted, only four puppies can feed at one time.

Puppies require constant feeding and if they don’t get enough nutrients, it can dampen their growth and cause other health problems such as dehydration.

This situation can be made worse if some of the stronger pups are ‘nipple guarding’ the best milk-producing nipples.

It is important to work closely with your vet during this period to resolve any nursing problems quickly to ensure both the mother dog and her puppies are safe.

There are a few things that dog owners can do to ensure that all the puppies are well-nursed.

Try To Invert The Nipples

It might be possible to try and expose the inverted nipple by gently pulling at it or compressing the area around it.

Try placing a bigger and stronger pup at the inverted nipple as it might be able to suck hard enough for it to pop out.

Weigh The Puppies Daily

Make it a point to weigh each puppy daily and record the results. This will allow you to know which puppies are underweight and need more feeding time.

Charting their weight gain progress makes it easy to also identify puppies that have been hoarding mommy dog’s nipples.

Rotate The Puppies

When the puppies are suckling on the nipples, keep a close watch for ‘nipple guarding’ behavior.

These puppies will display defensive body language or aggressive behavior like growling when another pup tries to take over the nipple.

Remove these pups once they have been nursed and place the less dominant pups at the nipple to allow them to feed.

This ensures that all puppies are equally fed.

Hand-Feed The Heavier Puppies

One way to manage the puppies is to try and hand feed the larger and heavier pups.

It is not a good idea to not feed them as they still require their daily nourishment.

Hand-feeding the heavier puppies frees up the normal nipples for the weaker or smaller puppies to feed on.

This method works well if the female dog isn’t producing enough milk for the entire litter.

Don’t just feed your puppy any type of milk. Speak to your vet first and get the correct milk formula.

How Do You Clean An Inverted Dog Nipple?

The easiest way to clean inverted nipples is to wipe them clean with a damp cloth or wet wipes.

The most effective way to prevent infection from happening to the inverted nipples is to keep them clean.

And to keep it clean, you will have to clean it regularly.

If your dog never had an issue with its inverted nipples before, it is still good practice to do a visual check once a week to make sure that there isn’t any swelling or discharge.

However, if you know that your dog is prone to mastitis, you should make it a point to clean the inverted nipples.

Cleaning inverted nipples thoroughly isn’t difficult.

The easiest way to clean inverted nipples is to wipe them clean with a damp cloth or wet wipes.

When using wet wipes, make sure to use wet wipes that are pet-friendly.

Do not use wipes that have any fragrance or alcohol in them as those compounds can irritate your dog’s skin.

When cleaning my dog, I will usually use wet wipes meant for pets or a damp soft cloth.

Expose the inverted nipple by pressing down on the sides and cleaning off whatever dirt or grime is stuck there.

After that, be sure to use a dry cloth and dry the area completely. Residual moisture is conducive to bacterial growth.

Your vet might also give your dog a cleaning solution to use if your dog’s nipples get easily infected.

Some dog owners have reported the presence of large blackheads growing on the inverted nipple.

I would strongly recommend that you bring your dog to the vet to have it extracted rather than do it yourself.

Squeezing the blackhead too hard can cause pain and discomfort to your dog.

Furthermore, the nipple is at a higher risk of getting infected if the blackhead isn’t extracted properly.

You can get the vet to show you how to properly remove the blackheads if it resurfaces in your dog.

Managing inverted nipples in dogs involves regular monitoring for any signs of infection or irritation, ensuring your pet’s overall mammary health.

How To Treat Inverted Nippes In Dogs?

dog at vet

Although inverted nipples are typically harmless and do not require treatment, you can have them assessed by a veterinarian if there are visible signs of inflammation or discomfort on your dog.


The vet checks the affected area for any signs of damage or infection and evaluates the dog’s overall health to identify possible causes of the nipple inversion.

Diagnostic Imaging

Ultrasounds or X-rays may be recommended by the vet to rule out serious conditions.

Treatment Options

Depending on the issue’s severity, treatment might range from medication for underlying conditions to surgery for more serious cases.

It’s important to consult a veterinarian for any noticeable changes in your dog’s nipples.

Should I Fix My Dog’s Inverted Nipple?

Discovering that your dog has a case of inverted nipples might raise some concerns for many dog owners but it is usually more of a cosmetic issue than a health concern.

There isn’t any need to fix or treat inverted nipples if they are not infected.


Nipples in dogs are only there to serve one function, which is to produce milk and provide nourishment for hungry puppies.

There isn’t any need to fix or treat inverted nipples in dogs unless it becomes a health concern.

If your dog is prone to mastitis or if the inverted nipple tends to collect a lot of gunk and dirt, make it a point to clean it out regularly to prevent a form of bacterial infection.

Remember that mastitis in dogs can be fatal in severe cases so it isn’t something that you want to sit on if your dog is suffering from this condition.

Otherwise, just treat your dog’s inverted nipple as part and parcel of your dog’s quirkiness.


How Many Nipples Does A Dog Have?

Most dogs typically have an even number of nipples, between 6 to 12. However, an odd number isn’t indicative of a health issue. Vets might estimate litter size based on the number of nipples in pregnant dogs.

Can Inverted Nipples Be Temporary?

Inverted nipples can be temporary if they are caused by swelling, inflammation or trauma. They may revert to their normal position once the underlying cause is resolved.

Do Male Dogs Have Nipples?

Yes, male dogs do have nipples. Male dogs possess nipples as a part of their anatomy. These nipples do not serve any specific purpose related to reproduction or lactation, as they do in female dogs.

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