Why Is My Dog Lactating? [ANSWERED]

A female dog will go through different biological changes throughout her life. It’s no surprise pet parents become concerned when their dogs experience unusual and/or unexpected symptoms. For instance, why does a dog lactate if she isn’t pregnant? 

why is my dog lactating
Why is My Dog Lactating?

Why is my dog lactating? The most common reason a dog would lactate would be pregnancy. However, there are other reasons, such as:

  • Pregnancy lactating
  • False Pregnancy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Mammary Gland Tumor

There is not always a clear reason, however, as to why a dog would be lactating without consulting a veterinarian directly.

In this post, I’ll be exploring these reasons in-depth and help you determine the cause of your dog’s lactation. I’ll also take a look at how to take care of your dog when they start to lactate as well.

Pregnancy Lactating In Dogs

Pregnancy lactating is the most common reason why a dog would lactate. Pregnancy lactating occurs after a female dog has given birth to her puppies.

This diagnosis is one that is easy to spot when trying to figure out why she is lactating. Lactating after giving birth does not require any medical attention since it is natural that occurs after birth. 

There is no way to prevent this type of lactation or reason to do so.

The only thing that could be done at this point if your dog is pregnant is to make sure that she is seen at the vet for health checks until the puppies are born.  These regular appointments will help ensure not only the safety of your dog but also the puppies. 

False Dog Pregnancy & Lactating

False pregnancy, also known as phantom pregnancy, is a condition where a dog’s body believes is pregnant and experiences similar symptoms as if she were.

There are a few behaviors that one could look out for to diagnose their dog experiencing false pregnancy:

  • Nesting
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen belly
  • Secretion from the mammary glands

If you know your dog has not been around any male dog when it is in heat, you could rule out an actual pregnancy and determine that the dog is experiencing a false pregnancy. 

For a concrete diagnosis, there will need to be a visit to the veterinarian. 

The secretion from the mammary glands may make it seem like actual lactation and make it seem like your dog is pregnant, which in reality could be false. 

Another thing that could make the dog’s mammary glands sensitive is if another puppy or animal that is not her own stimulates her mammary glands to think that she is indeed pregnant.

This type of trigger to her body could set her off to experience other pregnancy symptoms. 

Hypothyroidism & Lactating

Dogs, too, can develop thyroid problems. Hypothyroidism is when the dog’s thyroid gland does not function properly, causing an imbalance in its hormones. 

A dog could experience the following symptoms with hypothyroidism:

  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of muscle coordination 
  • Lactating

There is no indication if hypothyroidism is preventable, but if your dog does experience any of the symptoms listed above, you might require a veterinarian consultation.

It is always a good idea to get professional input to avoid any additional problems or complications.  

Mammary Gland Tumor & Lactating

Mammary gland tumours can trigger a dog to lactate. Mammary gland tumours are when tumours grow in the dog’s body, with the possibility of the cancer being cancerous. Here is a list of a few things that could potentially trigger a mammary gland tumour:

  • Toxins found in pesticides
  • Household chemicals
  • Spaying a dog before it has had its first heat

One of the symptoms of mammary gland tumours is dog lactating. There is no real way to prevent a dog from developing a mammary gland tumour. Taking extra precautions in everyday things to avoid exposure to the dog could probably help.

A consultation with the veterinarian is needed to make the necessary precautions on what is required and to answer any questions involving mammary gland tumours. 

pregnant dog - english bulldog 4 weeks pregnant on white background

Is Lactating Harmful To Dogs?

There are no clear indications that dog lactating is harmful to them per se. Be mindful that there are no other underlying issues that would possibly need medical treatment to treat the dog and make the production of milk go away.

If you notice any abnormality in your dog’s behaviour, you may want to visit a veterinarian to make sure the dog does not require any medication.

How Long Will Dog Lactating Last?

If the reason your dog is lactating is that your dog has just given birth, this will likely stop once the puppies no longer rely on their mother as a food source. Some of the reasons listed will require medication and an actual diagnosis to help your dog stop lactating. 

There can be various variables to how long the dog lactates. If it is a false pregnancy, some actions can help prevent it from happening and lower the longevity of it. 

Tips On Caring For a Lactating Dog

No concrete guidelines can tell you exactly how to care for a lactating dog. First, indicate the reason why the dog is lactating and go from there on how to handle the situation.

The only clear caretaking of the dog that has given birth is making sure they have a safe and cozy place to lie while nursing their puppies. You always have to make sure that your dog is not experiencing any pain.

If they are getting a professional diagnosis would be the best option in determining what type of care the dog may need.

Understanding Lactation In Dogs

The best way to help your dog if she ever lactates is by doing your research and consulting with their veterinarian. As stated above, the reasoning for a dog to lactate can vary.

The only way to provide the correct care for your dog is by gaining knowledge to determine what medical needs the dog has.

Even though one would always expect pregnancy to be the primary reason for your dog lactating, there could be underlying health issues that could be causing this to happen. 

dog lactating
Dog lactating

Loving your lactating dog

Loving your dog unconditionally, just like they love us, as well as educating yourself on their medical needs, is the best thing you could do in these situations. Life with a dog could be the most rewarding thing in life, and let’s be honest; they provide us with unconditional love. 

There will always be questions about unexpected medical issues that can occur in the lifespan of coliving with your dog, but by us doing our homework and consulting with professionals can lead to a better life for you and your dog.

If your dog is experiencing lactating without being pregnant, you know what to do to provide them with the comfort they need.

So ask the questions and let the professionals guide you through what is required to have a healthy dog. A problem can be as simple as not understanding why your dog is out of nowhere lactating. You and the dog will be happy to live a life of health.   

dog at park lactating

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you’re a less concerned pet parent after reading this. If you are concerned and are worrying that your doggie is lactating due to reasons outside of pregnancy it is always best practice to visit your veterinarian.

Lactation is the most natural thing a female mammal goes through. 

Lactating is a part of life for dogs or any mammal. Lactating ensures that their offspring are giving the best nutrients to survive out of the womb. Female dogs will most likely experience this in their life, especially if they are not spayed and will be able to carry puppies in their belly. 

There is not always a clear reason as to why a dog would be lactating without consulting a veterinarian directly. Of course, the most common reason a dog would lactate would be pregnancy. However, there are other reasons, such as:

  • False Pregnancy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Mammary Gland Tumor

If your doggie is lactating then it may be a good idea to try and eliminate all other stressors in her life.

stuart and his dog

Family Dog Expert Author

Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.