A number of canine owners have expressed concern over the condition of their canine’s nipples and frankly speaking, they do have a right to be concerned. A dog’s nipple can provide so much information about the canine’s past so there’s some sense in that.

It is not unusual to find female dogs being spayed to get rid of their reproductive organs. Spaying is mostly carried out to avoid unwanted puppies and for several other health benefits, but this action is not without its attendant consequences. Its effect on the dog’s nipples is one such consequence. 

A dog’s nipple starts from its groin region, down to its stomach. A typical dog possesses between 6 to 10 nipples, depending on the dog in question. The female mammary glands are designed to swell when the female is in heat or when lactating, which causes enlargement of the nipples. 

What is Spaying?

Spaying is a surgical procedure through which the reproductive organs of a female dog are removed. Abdominal surgery is performed during spaying to remove the uterus and the ovaries of the female dog which drastically reduces the dog’s hormone levels. This procedure is called ovo-hysterectomy and is performed during open surgery. 

Laparoscopic surgery is an alternative to spaying but is quite expensive which is why open surgery is more common. Open surgery is more painful with a longer recovery process because it requires larger incisions. The uterus and ovaries are removed during open surgery where a middle incision is made across the dog’s stomach. The wound is then stitched or stapled as soon as the bleeding is under control.


Can spaying cause Nipple Shrinkage?

When it comes to nipples, whether human or animal, there is no one-size fits. Nipple size differs according to different factors from, genetics, and age, to pregnancy and breeding. 

Experience has shown that a dog’s nipple will likely shrink to its pre-pubescent state during spaying. The level of shrinkage is however determined by factors like age and the number of heat cycles experienced by the dog before the commencement of spaying. 

Hormonal changes are stimulated during heat cycles. These changes tend to have an effect on the mammary glands and tissues, with age also playing its part. These are the factors that determine the level of shrinkage during spaying. 

According to experts, though nipple shrinkage is not an uncommon consequence of spaying, there is no guarantee that the nipples will return to their original size after spaying. 

Dog Nipples

Causes of Nipple Shrinkage 

A dog’s nipple does not just shrink without due cause, a few factors can trigger nipple shrinkage. First is the age of the dog. Every dog experiences two heat cycles per year. A dog’s mammary glands typically swell during its heat cycle, making its nipples bigger.

The normal thing is for the nipple to return to its normal size after each heat cycle. However, the nipples can become larger with time as the tissue changes associated with heat cycles eventually become permanent. 

Pregnancy also has an effect on a dog’s nipple. A dog’s mammary gland is designed to swell significantly during pregnancy in anticipation of nursing. The nipples become larger as the glands become full of milk. The pulling and suckling can also make the nipples more engorged during the nursing period. Though it shrinks after the weaning period, the nipples do not return to their former sizes. 

How Spaying can affect your Dog

Spaying causes a lot of behavioral and physical changes in dogs. The essence of spraying is to remove the dog’s ovaries. The ovary is responsible for the production of progesterone and estrogen, so without the ovaries, the dog would be unable to produce those hormones.

Female dogs stop producing progesterone once spaying is done. Serotonin levels are increased by the presence of progesterone. Removing this hormone sometimes leads to increased aggression once spaying is complete. 

Spaying has been proven to alleviate some health risks, which is why vets are always advocating for it. Some of these risks include ovarian, mammary, and uterine cancer. Looking at it from another angle, these cancers are not very common in dogs, which means vets might be exaggerating these benefits to owners. 

There’s been a lot of discourse over the years on how spaying solves behavioral issues. This picture is however not as simple as painted. Dogs can exhibit different behaviors including sexual behaviors. Spaying only reduces sexual-related behaviors and has no effect whatsoever on other behaviors. 

It also increases the risk of hip dysplasia and joint disorders. Furthermore, about 20% of female dogs also suffer from “spay incontinence” a condition caused by spaying. Spay incontinence causes dogs to lose control of their bladder, thereby peeing without control. It also raises the odds of suffering from brain tumors.

Spaying makes dogs more aggressive, fearful, and anxious. It is also harder to train them. Spayed dogs are more prone to panic attacks and separation anxiety. 

Though age also has a part to play in how spaying affects animals. There are fewer negative behavioral and health effects on dogs that were spayed from the ages of 18 months to 2 years. 

Dog after Spaying surgery

Post-Spaying Shrinkage

There is no way to predict accurately when the nipple will start shrinking after spaying as this is not something that can be predicted.

However, the reproductive hormones will not leave the dog’s body completely until after three weeks. The nipple may start to shrink a little while after spaying and then continue like that for about two months.

Most owners notice changes within the first couple of weeks. 

Is Lactation Possible after Spaying? 

If your dog was pregnant or nursing before spaying, then the dog is likely to keep lactating even after spaying. A female dog can also lactate after spaying in cases of false pregnancy. 

Though rare, the hormonal changes from spaying can induce false pregnancy. False pregnancy occurs when the dog’s body undergoes all the usual pregnancy symptoms without the dog actually being pregnant. These symptoms are triggered by the hormonal changes the dog is undergoing.

Symptoms of false pregnancy usually disappear after three weeks at the most, and if the symptoms persist then you might want to consult your doctor. 

Spaying during Pregnancy 

Spaying a pregnant dog automatically terminates the pregnancy and guarantees that the dog does not get pregnant again. However, pregnancy termination does not necessarily stop the body from exhibiting pregnancy symptoms after spaying.

Furthermore, a lactating mother should wean off her puppy before spaying is commenced. This is because, the site of the surgery is quite close to the dog’s mammary gland and if it is mistakenly nicked in the process, milk might sip into the incision which could lead to unwanted complications.

Also, it is possible to transfer the medication administered to the mother during spaying to the puppies through breast milk. 

There’s really no need to spay a nursing mother unless there is an emergency that requires it, otherwise, the milk should be allowed to dry after the weaning process before spaying is commenced. 

Benefits of Spaying 

Female dogs that undergo spaying live longer 

Dogs that go through spaying are less likely to experience pyometra (a womb infection) and mammary cancer, considered fatal diseases. The earlier the spaying, the better the odds. 

Spaying terminates the heat cycle of a female dog

Most owners would rather avoid the heat period because of how messy and inconvenient it is. The first heat season starts when the dog is 6 months old and can last for about 10 to 14 days. 

Dogs experience bloody vaginal discharges during heat and are prone to frequent urination and howling. 

Avoiding the risks that come with pregnancy and childbirth

Certain breeds have a higher risk of experiencing pregnancy complications, with smaller dogs being more likely to suffer eclampsia. There is no denying that it is cheaper to spay a pet than to care for a litter. 

The medical bills for a litter of puppies are not to be joked with, and that is without complications. Neutering will always be a cheaper option. 

female Dog spayed

Spaying Risks 

Like everything else in life, spaying comes with its own attendant risks. They include:

Urinary issues 

There is research showing that spaying can cause urinary tract infections and urinary incontinence in some dogs. 

Unprovoked aggression

Spaying reduces estrogen which can cause increased aggression in aggressive dogs. Estrogen has a calming effect, so, understandably, its shortage can cause aggression. 

Hip dysplasia 

Research has confirmed that spaying your dogs early before the onset of puberty can increase their chances of developing hip dysplasia. This is so because spaying disrupts sex hormone production, and those hormones are the major players in bone growth plate during a dog’s growing years. 

Weight gain  

Neutering reduces the rate of metabolism. This is why it is important to adjust your pet’s diet after spaying to reduce their susceptibility to weight gain. 

Alopecia (hair loss) 

Studies have shown that the fluctuation in hormone levels can increase a dog’s susceptibility to alopecia. 

Surgery complications

Every surgery comes with its own risk and spaying is no exception. There is always the risk of infection or bleeding after spaying. 

Why are the nipples of my spayed dogs enlarged?

Though a lot of healthy dogs react perfectly to spaying, a number of dogs have, however, experienced complications after spaying including fever, pain, and skin irritation. However, most of these complications should disappear with time or after a little medication.

Abdominal infection is probably one of the biggest spaying risks. This infection can lead to swelling of the body parts surrounding the surgery area, especially the mammary glands. The swelling might even include discharge from the nipple in serious cases. It is always advisable to visit your vet as soon as you notice such complications.

Spaying alternatives 

Below is a list of alternatives to spaying:

Surgical options


Here, the fallopian tubes and the uterus are removed via surgery while the ovaries are left untouched. Hysterectomy does not affect hormone production, even though the dog can no longer get pregnant. 


The ovaries are surgically removed while the uterus is left untouched. This means hormone-induced behaviors are avoided while the dog’s reproductive process is terminated. 

Options that do not require surgery     

Science has advanced in such a way that we now have products that male animals can be injected with to terminate the production of sperm. 

There is no known non-surgical option for female dogs at the moment, though there is research targeted at that. 


A lot of pet owners do not find saggy nipples attractive in their dogs. If you have an issue with how your dog’s nipple looks, there is no evidence to show that spaying will worsen the condition. 

In fact, spaying can reduce the size of the dog’s nipple as time goes on, depending of course on the number of litters it has had previously. 

If you’re not a breeder who is trying to raise a litter, it is definitely better to spay your pets because the medical benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. 


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