One of the first signs we look for that a breeding has taken the size of the breasts to increase. Generally before you even see a belly begin to form you will see swollen breasts beginning to fill with milk for the arriving pups. From the time the breasts begin to swell until the puppies have been successfully whelped it is very important to keep a close eye on your females breast health and condition. Mastitis can occur very quickly and is very aggressive! What is mastitis? Mastitis is an infection of the milk ducts. This condition mainly affects females after delivery, but it can occur rarely in pseudopregnant lactating females as well. Mastitis contains E-coli and other bacteria sent traveling through your dogs blood stream and can be potentially life threatening if left untreated.
Mastitis can happen from a number of different causes so it is very important to pay close attention to your nursing moms breast condition. Mastitis can form from a blocked milk duct, a tear in the tissue around the nipple( possibly from an overaggressive nurser), or even an over engorgement of the breast. Bacteria can even enter from the pores around the breast and cause Mastitis.
How can you tell if you are looking at mastitis or just normal swelling of the breast due to pregnancy? An infected breast is very obvious to the naked , even untrained eye. A normal nursing breast will be large, milk filled soft to the touch and body temperature consistent. An infected breast will be hard to the touch, often very, very, hot to the touch and could be severely discolored or lumpy. Other overall symptoms can include lethargy, loss of appetite, puppy neglect, fever and dehydration.
Breast infection; Mastitis needs to be handled immediately and appropriately to avoid breast loss. Lack of treatment can lead to Gangrene mastitis. Which will cause the skin to turn black, die and basically erupt like a volcano, leaving a large hole in the breast that will drain pus and blood. This can ultimately result in total loss of the breast. Left untreated, mastitis can cause your dog to go into septic shock which could result in death. This is a matter that must be handled by a vet and promptly to avoid serious risk or even death.
Mastitis will present with a high fever since it is an infection. The treatment for mastitis is an antibiotic regiment, usually prescribed is Clavamox and dosage is based on females size and weight. In addition the your antibiotic regime, warm compress , with water and vinegar of the infected breasts several times a day for 5-10 minutes per application well help soothe the breast tissue ands bring the infection to a head for easier consumption back into the body, while the antibiotics fight the infection. Gentle massages of the breast to help break up the infection from the hard lump its compressed into will also help the healing process.
While under treatment for infection, you should not allow puppies to nurse off the mother. Infection can pass onto puppies if they happen to suck and ingest some of the bacteria present in the mother. Often times the infection area may come to a head and leak and the puppies could easily ingest and become ill. The puppies small fragile immunes systems have no antibodies to fight infection and could result in serious illness or death.
Since your female is full of milk and no puppies to relieve the pressure, you will need to milk your dog to avoid the infected breast getting worse, or other breasts to become infected from clogging and backing up of the ducts. Mastitis will heal faster if you are expressing the milk from the infected breast. Some vets may prescribe Oxytocin to dry up the milk which will help expedite the healing but will also ensure you on bottle feeding for the remainder of the whelping.
As with all infections, a keen eye, and prompt treatment are the key to success. You should see your dog returning to normal in about a week if treatment is successful. With proper treatment breast health should be restored to normal and you should have no long lasting medical issues . All normal nursing functionality should be present on your next breeding. Please do not feel as though you did something wrong and let your down if your dog develops mastitis, its common and often times unavoidable since it happen so easily and quickly. The sign you are a good breeder is caring for your dog properly and ensuring their return good health.