As a female dog matures, there will be lots of changes that you will want to prepare for. A dog’s estrus cycle, or “heat,” can have many symptoms.
One of these symptoms is swollen teats and nipples, and many people wonder, how long do a dog’s nipples stay swollen after heat?
A typical heat cycle lasts 2-4 weeks, depending on breed, and it can take another 4-6 weeks for the swelling to go down after the heat has ended.
Many physical changes occur once a dog reaches puberty, and there are also possible complications. Symptoms may depend on whether this heat is a first or if the dog’s been pregnant.
The Estrous Cycle
The female dog’s reproductive cycle has four stages; proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus. Much like a human menstrual cycle or “period,” some of these stages take place with little to no symptoms.
The Proestrus stage is when you notice your dog is beginning her heat. The vulva and nipples will be slightly swollen, and she may have some bloody discharge. Male dogs will be all over her, but she will not be interested. This stage can last anywhere from 9-27 days.
During the Estrus stage, your dog will be very excitable around male dogs. During this phase, she is most fertile and likely to get pregnant. The discharge should be lighter, and the vulva less swollen. This stage of the cycle can last 4-24 days.
After the Estrus stage will come the Diestrus stage. This stage lasts roughly two months. During this phase of her cycle, your dog will cease to be interested in males. Her estrogen levels will level out, and if she is not pregnant, the swelling of the nipples and vulva should come down.
The Anestrus stage is the part of the cycle where your dog returns to normal, usually lasting four to six months. Her body will be busy preparing her uterus for the next Proestrus stage.
What is Normal and What to Watch For
Your dog can go into heat for the first time between six months and two years. It is normal for the dog’s body to be a little bit different after this occurs, which sometimes means the nipples and vulva may not return to the way they were before. They may change shape, size, and color.
It is common for some nipples to grow to a different size than others. Just like with human breasts, your dog’s teats will respond accordingly now that its body is now capable of becoming pregnant and caring for puppies. The mammary glands will swell in preparation for carrying milk should she become pregnant.
However, if you notice redness or tenderness along with swelling after the heat has ended, you may want to bring your dog to the vet. These symptoms could be a sign of an infection such as mastitis. Watch also for any discharge from the nipples, such as blood or pus.
Contrary to popular belief, a dog can get pregnant during its first heat. It only takes a few minutes for a female dog to become pregnant, and it happens unexpectedly more often than you would think. Continuing swollen nipples and vulva after your dog has come out of heat could signify pregnancy.
Enlarged nipples are normal during a dog’s heat, but you still want to look for unusual lumps or bumps. Sometimes these lumps can be almost directly under the nipple and go unnoticed. You can gently massage your dog’s nipples to feel for anything strange. If you find anything, you should bring your dog to the vet.
Another potential reason for swollen nipples after heat is pseudopregnancy, also called a false pregnancy or ghost pregnancy. Pseudopregnancy usually occurs shortly after the heat has ended and hormone levels are still high. Over 50% of dogs will experience a false pregnancy at least once.
A female dog experiencing a false pregnancy will often exhibit the same signs as she would if she were pregnant. She may seem lethargic, have no appetite, or begin nesting. She may also become overly territorial and protective over her space or toys.
Usually, pseudopregnancy symptoms will resolve within a few weeks as your dog’s hormone levels normalize. However, in extreme cases, treatment may be necessary. If you don’t plan on breeding your dog, the best option is to have them spayed to avoid future issues.
How to Tell if a Dog is Pregnant?
A dog’s gestation period is only about two months long. During that time, it usually becomes evident that there are puppies in there just by looking at their belly. Weight gain is one of the dog’s most apparent signs of pregnancy, accompanied by enlarged nipples and lethargy.
If there are male dogs in the vicinity and she shows signs of pregnancy after a heat cycle, the odds that your dog is pregnant are very high. The only way to tell for sure if your dog is pregnant is to take her to the vet for them to confirm. Otherwise, you will have to wait two months to find out.
Tips for Caring for Your Dog in Heat
Much like how women need some TLC while menstruating, your dog can need some special care while she is in heat. Here are some great ways to ensure your dog is comfortable.
- Get her a doggie diaper to help with messes
- Offer extra potty breaks
- Avoid playdates, pet stores, or dog parks
- Make sure she has constant access to food and water
- Offer soft, snuggly toys or a bed
In short, nothing is unusual about your dog’s nipples staying swollen for a while after heat. Keep an eye out for any signs of infection or pregnancy, and have her regularly checked by a vet. During her heat, keep her as comfortable as you can. Your doggie will thank you!
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