Acute Septic Mastitis View In Dogs
Acute mastitis is an infection or abscess of one or more of the mammary glands.
Dams with acute mastitis run a high fever, are depressed, and refuse to eat. The affected teats, usually the two largest ones close to the groin, are swollen, extremely painful, and usually reddish blue in appearance. The milk may be blood-tinged, thick, yellow, or string-like. In some cases however, the milk appears normal.
Acute mastitis is caused by bacteria that gain entrance to the mammary gland through a scratch or puncture wound in the skin of the teat. Some cases are blood-borne and are associated with acute metritis. Breast infection can occur any time from day 1 to 6 weeks postpartum.
Diagnosis is made by examining symptoms.
Acute mastitis should be treated under veterinary supervision. Routine measures include appropriate antibiotics and the application of warm compresses for 30 minutes 3 times a day, followed by gentle stripping of the infected gland to express the milk. Early treatment may prevent an abscess.
The milk of an infected breast is of poor nutritional quality, and puppies usually refuse to nurse from these teats. It is seldom necessary to tape a nipple or bind the teat to prevent nursing. However, if the puppies are trying to nurse the infected glands, you will need to do this. A mammary gland that is not suckled stops producing milk in 3 days.
If the dam is septic, her overall milk production may decline. She may show little interest in tending her puppies. If this happens, remove the puppies and raise them by hand. If they are 3 weeks or older, wean them and dry up the breasts.
- Trim surrounding fur - Most dogs and cats loose quite a bit of fur on their bellies when they become pregnant, which prepares them for nursing. It is a good idea to trim away any remaining fur to make it easier to treat the condition. When the infection begins to drain, the discharge collects in the fur and can reinfect the breast. Use blunt tipped scissors or electric clippers to cut the fur surrounding the infection close to the skin. If you are using scissors, slip your index and second fingers through the fur, and cut the fur level with your fingers. Clip a 1 inch border around the affected area. If the skin is broken, fill the wound with water-soluble lubricant like K-Y Jelly before you clip. Then thoroughly rinse the area with warm water. The trimmed hair will stick to the jelly and rinse out.
- Keep the pups / kittens from nursing - some kinds of infection in the milk could make the babies sick also, so prevent them from nursing until after you take your pet to the vet. Puppies and kittens who are 3 weeks or older will do fine for a day or so on a watery mix of commercial pet food. Add water to the food until it gets soft and mushy.
Younger pets need to be fed milk with an eye dropper or needle-less syringe. Use a commercial milk replacement for puppies and kittens, available at pet supply stores. If you are unable to get to a store immediately, you can use a homemade replacement for 1 - 2 days. For puppies, combine 1 cup of whole milk, 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, 1 drop of liquid multivitamin for human infants, and 2 egg yolks. For kittens, blend 1/2 cup of whole milk, 1 egg yolk, 1 drop of multivitamin, and 2-3 Tums tablets (for calcium).
- Rinse away abscess drainage - When the breast abscesses and begins to drain, you can rinse off the discharge with a gently stream of water. You may not want to touch your pet due to the soreness caused by the infection, but a gentle warm-water rinse is very helpful for healing. Gently pat dry the area.
- Apply a cold compress - Applying heat is the single best thing you can do for mastitis. The warmth increases bloodflow to the mammary glands and helps break up the infection so that it comes to a head and drains. Warmth will often prompt the nipple to discharge the infected milk and will also help the swelling go down.
Soak a washcloth or hand towel in water as hot as you can stand, wring it out, and place it on the swollen tissue 2 - 5 times a day. Alternate the compress 5 minutes on 5 minutes off until the cloth cools.
Puppies should have their nails trimmed weekly beginning at 2 - 3 weeks of age to keep them from scratching the skin of the dam.
For relatively shallow infections, continue to apply hot compresses as described earlier. This will help open the infection so that it drains, and will also help clean out the wound.
If the infection is mild and involves only 1 or 2 breasts, your veterinarian may recommend that you let the babies nurse on the healthy breasts while you use a method to keep they away from the infected breasts. Some vets feel that it is ok for puppies to nurse from the uninfected breasts as long as the mother lets them. Tainted milk tastes odd, so the babies will probably avoid the infected breasts, but to be safe, you can use an adhesive bandage to cover the affected nipples.
Your veterinarian may also advise you to rid the female of the contaminated milk. To do this, milk the mammary glands mechanically by stimulating each nipple in turn with a warm, wet cloth. Massage and gently grasp and squeeze the base of the nipple close to the body, then gently pull the nipple away from the breast. Grasp and pull several times until you have expresses all the available milk.
If the infection is serious and the babies are old enough, your vet may advise you to dry up the mother's milk. Begin by withholding all food and water for 24 hours so that her body is forced to use the milk for her own nutrition. The next day, offer her 1/4 of her regular amount of food. The third day, feed her 1/2, the fourth day feed her 3/4, and return to regular portions on the fifth day. Start the babies on a solid food diet as directed by your veterinarian.
Show Sources & Contributors +
Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook
Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007
Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD
The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats
Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001
Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM