Do male dogs have nipples? It is a question worth asking since most of us may never remember seeing nipples on a male dog before. Further, surely male dogs don’t need them, so why would they have them?
Nipples in male dogs offer no advantage or disadvantage to the canine. However, abnormalities like swelling, discharge, and lumps are a concern that we will cover in this post.
Do Male Dogs Have Nipples? What They Look Like
The short answer is that male dogs do have nipples. They serve no purpose but extend from the groin area to the stomach. Both male and female dogs have 8 to 10 nipples, depending on the dog breed. Male nipples are small, rounded bumps that look exactly like a young female dog.
Like human males, male dogs have rudimentary nipples that don’t serve a purpose since they don’t produce milk.
Dog nipples can be the color of the dog’s skin or pigmented from pink to black. Since dogs can have mottled pink and black skin, some nipples may be dark, and others a pale fleshy color. Odd colors like purple to black can be signs of nipple issues which we’ll discuss later.
The nipples are easier to spot on short-haired males, while you may need to part the hair on the abdomen to see them for those with long hair. Male dog nipples feel like small bumps on the skin in two straight parallel lines from the genitals to the torso.
Note: If the “nipples” on your dogs have legs, they’re ticks. It’s easy to confuse ticks and small nipples since they’re both bumpy in nature. A mistake, and you can be pulling on your dog’s nipple instead of a tick, causing them massive pain and discomfort.
Also, be careful not to confuse nipples with skin tags and warts.
Why Does Your Male Dog Have Nipples?
Nipples in male dogs are pointless but are retained thanks to evolution failing to eliminate them over time since nipples don’t hinder survival. Unlike female dogs who need their mammary glands, male dogs have them as a relic of gestation.
During gestation (the time the puppy is developing in the womb), both male and female dogs start developing the same structures, such as mammary glands and nipples, before sex differentiation occurs. Evolution maintained these harmless structures similar to pelvic bones in whales which aren’t necessary for swimming but are harmless.
Another example of an evolutionary relic is the human appendix. This is a bit of our intestine that we have stopped using over the millennia. Still, it exists in our body as something we did once use for digestion.
Sex hormones like estrogen determine whether these structures develop into fully functioning systems or become rudimentary structures. These hormones are also responsible for sex-specific functions like pregnancy, heat, and even period cramps for some dogs during estrus.
Nipple Problems in Male Dogs
Male dogs rarely experience issues with their nipples compared to their female counterparts. Nipples are incompletely developed and aren’t affected by hormones such as estrogen, reducing nipple-related health issues.
However, in the rare instances that your dog has nipple issues, you’ll notice some of these signs:
- one larger nipple
- swollen nipples
Here are a few mammary conditions that male dogs can rarely experience:
Mastitis is more common in female dogs, particularly lactating mothers, due to their puppies’ sucking. Acute septic mastitis occurs when a mammary gland gets infected due to bacteria entering the area through a wound. Swelling is the biggest symptom, along with fever, pain, and weight loss.
The condition is extremely unlikely in male dogs. Normally, swelling in the nipples may result from an abscess present for other reasons, such as an insect bite or scratch.
2. Breast Cancer
A study shows that breast cancer is extremely rare in male dogs, who are about 62 times less likely to develop mammary tumors than females. These unlikely tumors are often benign in males and do not relate to the female sex hormone.
Intact females are at more risk of mammary cancer compared to spayed ones. Responsible breeders determine the number of litters a dog can have and spay promptly once they reach the number.
You’ll notice subcutaneous lumps under the nipples if your dog has mammary cancer. Surgery can treat benign tumors, but those that aren’t benign can be fatal to dogs, especially when left untreated.
3. Enlarged and Darkened Nipples
Some male dogs may have hanging and enlarged nipples due to hyperestrogenism, where they have heightened estrogen levels. The nipples may also appear darkened, and the treatment Is usually neutering for dogs with this rare condition.
Other Causes of Swelling
- Parasites – When parasites burrow into the skin, the nipples can get swollen and discolored.
- Contact dermatitis – where an allergen comes into contact with your dog’s skin around the nipples
- Wounds– Your male dog may have a cut or scratch in the area around the nipples. These wounds can get infected and abscessed, causing them to leak, and require urgent medical attention.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why Doesn’t My Male Dog Have Nipples?
Most male dogs have nipples; if you can’t see them, they’re probably covered by hair in long-coated dogs. However, it’s probably genetic in the rare instances that your male dog doesn’t have nipples. Male dogs without nipples have no disadvantage compared to those with them since they don’t lactate.
Why are my male dog’s nipples hanging?
Male dogs have small nipples, and those with hanging or enlarged nipples may have what Dr. Cheri Johnson calls hyperestrogenism. Here, a male dog has excessive estrogen, causing darkened, enlarged nipples. They may have other issues, like a testicle that hasn’t descended into the scrotum.
Why Are My Male Dog’s Nipples Itchy?
Fungal infections, parasites, or contact dermatitis can cause nipple itchiness. If your dog constantly scratches their belly area, they may need treatment for infections, allergies, or parasites. You can check for allergy symptoms like sneezing and wheezing If the itchiness is allergy related.
Why Are My Dog’s Nipples Red or Black?
Dogs can have red nipples due to inflammation caused by conditions like mastitis. Some dogs have naturally black nipples depending on the breed coloration. It’s best to get your dog checked out by the vet, especially if discoloration comes with other clinical signs like swelling and discharge.
Male dogs maintain rudimentary nipples, which develop as embryonic structures during gestation. Male nipples are pointless because they don’t use them for milk production, unlike female dogs. Male dogs have nipples similar in size and color to that of an unspayed or intact, non-pregnant female dog.
Male dogs are highly unlikely to experience mammary gland issues compared to unspayed female dogs. However, parasites, wounds, and allergies can cause your dog’s nipples to discolor and appear swollen. Mammary cancer is extremely rare in male dogs because of minimal female sex hormones in the body.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.