If you have been giving Fido a good old-fashioned belly rub and looked down, you may have noticed that there are some changes in coloration around their nipples.
You would not be blamed for thinking, why are my dog’s nipples turning black?
This article gives you all the information you need to know about nipple health in dogs – what is normal, and when to be concerned.
Dog Nipple Health: General Health Information
It is normal for a dog’s nipples to range in color from pink to black, depending on their breed. Most dogs have 6 to 10 nipples, with an even number that are symmetrical.
Both male and female dogs have nipples, and if a female dog is lactating (producing milk to feed her puppies) then you will notice them much more because they become swollen. If your dog is desexed then you won’t notice this because she won’t go on heat.
Why Are There Black Dots On My Dog’s Nipples?
If your dog’s nipples have developed black spots then usually there is nothing to worry about. Vets consider this a kind of dog acne. It can happen to male and female dogs. More about that shortly.
Another reason why your dog’s previously pink nipples are turning black may be a simple case of them lying in the dirt. Nipples secrete a waxy substance to keep them supple. If your dog spends lots of time outdoors, particularly lying in the dust, then the dirt gets trapped by the wax and you end up with black dots. Again, this is normal and nothing to worry about.
Some dogs have black skin (like the Chow Chow, the Chinese Crested Dog, the Norwegian Elkhound, and the Mexican Hairless Dog), in which case you are unlikely to notice this accumulation of waxy dirt or the appearance of acne. The amount of Eumelanin (a type of pigment) in your dog’s skin will determine how dark their skin is – the more eumelanin, the darker their skin.
Another reason why dogs get black spots near their nipples is because of a build-up of natural oil called sebum ( a naturally occurring waxy substance that keeps skin protected.) If this oil becomes impacted it can cause what is known as a ‘sebaceous cyst’. These are not harmful but they can give you a fright because they can resemble a tumor. This is why it is always best practice to get your vet to check your dog for any changes in their health and to do it early.
Help! There Are Blackheads On My Dog’s Nipples
Generally, these sorts of things are best left alone. But if they are causing your dog discomfort (you will know as they will lick and scratch the area), then you can try wiping away some of the waxy build-up and dirt with a dog-safe cleanser, or some gentle oil (olive oil is ok!); the oil will break down the wax. But just remember to be very gentle, and after you have cleansed the area, wipe away any residual oil or cleanser with a damp cloth rinsed in clean water. Do not use human cleansers on your dog! This can irritate their skin, which has a different pH to human skin.
When Are Black Spots A Worry?
If your dog has swelling around their nipples that are not associated with pregnancy, if their nipple is weeping or oozing liquid (i.e. pus), or if there is a bad smell around the area, you need to take your dog to the vet to have this further investigated. There could be a skin infection, allergies, or cancer present.
Another Possible Reason For Black Spots
If you have not had a really close look, then do – because these black spots might just be flea dirt! Flea dirt is the feces of the adult flea. It looks like small black specks and you will find it all over your dog if they have a flea infestation, not just on the belly but on their torso. Fleas love the warmest part of the dog’s body, so they tend to hang out on the dog’s underside, at the base of the tail (on the dorsal side), and under the dog’s ‘armpits’. If in doubt, check your dog’s bed – flea dirt will fall off your dog and onto their bedding. If this is the case, you will need to do a full flea eradication on your dog and in your home.
Some dogs have very fine fur and therefore their skin is exposed to the sun. Many dogs have a complete lack of fur on their tummies. If this sounds like your dog and they spend quite a bit of time outdoors, then it is possible that black or brown marks on your dog’s tummy are sunspots. These are generally flat but if they are cancerous (skin cancer) then they will change shape, become raised, and possibly ooze or bleed. Again, this is not something you want to ignore – get your dog to a vet ASAP.
The Takeaway On Black Spots On Your Dog’s Nipples
Both male and female dogs are born with between 6 and 10 symmetrical nipples. Some dogs have dark skin naturally, which is caused by a pigment called Eumelanin.
Sometimes you may notice that your dog is developing black spots near its nipples. The likely reason for this is a build-up of wax that has trapped dirt. This is nothing to worry about. If your dog seems irritated by this build-up then you can help them by cleansing the area with a dog-safe cleanser or olive oil.
If these spots are accompanied by licking, itching, scratching, swelling, discharge, or a bad smell, then get your vet to check them out. Your dog may have fleas, an infection, an allergy, or possibly cancer of some sort (i.e. skin cancer.)
Pregnant and lactating female dogs or undersexed female dogs in heat will experience swelling in this area, which is normal. Their nipples wax over more than usual at these times, which is nature’s way of keeping the skin soft and supple.