Seeing black spots on your dog can certainly be a panic-inducing event- especially if they are found somewhere as sensitive as your dog’s nipples!
These spots can be either individual, or multiple blemishes that are separated or congregated together.
More often than not, these are nothing more than blackheads that dogs can develop wherever there is a pore or hair follicle. It just so happens that nipples have both of these qualities, so blackheads on dog nipples is not as uncommon as it might sound!
Hairless dogs, and dogs who are not bathed regularly or thoroughly, are particularly prone to developing blackheads.
Dogs with inverted nipples are also more likely to develop blackheads than dogs with regular protruding nipples, since it is much easier for foreign substances to accumulate in the crevices.
In scenarios where the spots are not simple blackheads, these dark features could be an indication of something more worrisome such as mammary tumors or endocrine diseases. We’ll dive into those additional possibilities in our article below!
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Why Does My Dog Have Blackheads Around Her Nipples?
Although blackheads are a likely causal factor of these tiny black spots, they can sometimes also be explained by other circumstances.
Pigmentation, skin diseases, mammary tumors, flea dirt and endocrine diseases are some of the other possible causes. Black dots on the skin may also simply be regular dirt accrued by the pup from playing around in the yard.
Blackheads, also known as open comedones, can emerge in dogs when the hair follicles or skin pores become clogged and slightly protruded. Clogged follicles and pores develop due to the excessive production of oil, as well as a prolonged build-up of dead skin, dirt or crust.
Though we can’t see them, nipples contain sebaceous glands that secrete sebum oil to prevent dryness. Excess production of oil from these glands can accumulate and collect dirt, which then causes the clogging. These surface substances become oxidized, resulting in a change of color from white to black– thereby creating blackheads.
As dogs have difficulty grooming their nipples (due to the fur that usually hides them), the pores around them are more prone to becoming dirty and develop blackheads as a result.
In lactating female dogs, black spots can develop due to dried up and clogged milk pores. This is a consequence of an increased amount of oil being secreted from glands to prevent the nipples from drying and cracking while the mother dog is nursing.
Blackheads can also develop if the dog has an unhealthy diet. Diets consisting of too much salt, excessive amounts of sugar, and insufficient water will promote the overproduction of oil.
Melanin is the element inside the body which determines skin color. Both an excessive or insufficient amount of melanin can cause different body parts to appear in different colors. The natural level of melanin production is often determined by genetics.
An emergence of black spots can occur after certain stages have passed in a dog’s life, or following an interaction with a certain environmental stimulus.
If the spots do not change in size and seem to have been present since birth, the dark features can also possibly be birthmarks instead of blackheads.
Discoloration that culminates in black spots can also develop following hormonal abnormalities, allergies, contact dermatitis or skin infections. In these cases, the hyperpigmentation occurs due to friction or inflammation from scratching or chewing.
Skin infections such as bacterial contamination, yeast overgrowth and mange can also lead to hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation is where excess melanin is produced and formed into deposits to create spots of darker skin around the body.
Secondary hyperpigmentation can develop in any dog, though dogs with skin infections, dermatitis, hormonal irregularities or allergies are much more susceptible.
Once the underlying cause is identified and treated, secondary hyperpigmentation should gradually disappear. Under normal circumstances without treatment, hyperpigmentation will not naturally go away.
Secondary hyperpigmentation is often accommodated by inflammation, which can be displayed on the body as redness, hair loss, calloused skin, a pungent odor, and occasionally pain.
After fleas feast on your dog’s blood, they can leave behind dirt or feces on your dog’s body. This is known as ‘flea dirt’ and will appear as little black speckles and are- thankfully- easily removed.
The presence of flea dirt requires immediate attention, as there could still be flea larvae or even adult fleas present on your dog, around the house or in the areas that your pet frequents. Fleas can cause irritation, allergies, and can sometimes even carry transmittable diseases.
In addition to flea dirt, other indications of a flea infestation may include:
- Constant scratching, biting or licking of skin
- Loss of hair
- Red patches of skin
- Strange behaviors such as sitting down abruptly
Early flea control and intervention is important to prevent any further health problems in a dog, and flea products such as Frontline will be effective in combating the blood-sucking insects.
Although unlikely, mammary tumors can develop in dogs- especially in females and pets that are not spayed. 50% of these tumors in dogs tend to be malignant, and therefore can spread to other organs.
Mammary tumors can cause hyperpigmentation and create black spots or cysts around the nipples. Your dog may also exhibit dietary changes, eating and drinking less.
Other changes associated with mammary tumors may include:
- Abnormal bump which increases in size
- Breathing difficulties
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Ulceration and bleeding at site of bump in severe cases
The earlier your dog is spayed, the less likely they are to develop mammary tumors. The cost of the procedure is usually different for each dog, and it could be the surgery that saves your pet’s life.
An endocrine disease associated with darkened areas on the body is Cushing’s disease. Another common endocrine disease that causes black spots is called hypothyroidism.
However, endocrine diseases generally develop sizable black patches, rather than little individual black spots.
Other symptoms associated with endocrine diseases may include:
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Hair loss or dulling of hair
- Weight loss
Should I Be Worried About Black gunk Around A Dog’s Nipples?
You generally do not need to be worried about blackheads and normal pigmentation.
Although they may not be the most pleasant to look at, blackheads do not cause any harm. Sometimes doing less is more, as irritating the pore can cause inflammation. Regular and thorough cleansing is often sufficient to control blackheads.
Some pigmentation occurs naturally due to genetics with or without an environmental stimulus. The only time when hyperpigmentation can become worrisome is when the black spots develop secondary to skin infections.
Other causes for concern include flea dirt, mammary tumors and endocrine diseases as mentioned above.
What Can I Do To Treat The Black Gunk Around Dogs’ Nipples?
To remove or treat the black spots, you will need to address the underlying cause. Whilst pigmentation often requires no attention, blackheads and flea dirt may warrant proper cleansing.
In cases where you suspect the presence of skin diseases, mammary tumors or endocrine diseases, it would be best to take your pet to the vet or a canine dermatologist.
Blackheads tend to not cause any problems to your dog’s health and usually can be left alone.
It is often recommended to not pick at it or pinch the blackhead. Not only can it be painful for your dog, but an even greater danger is the potential for further skin irritation and breakouts.
It is even possible for a disturbed blackhead to develop into a staph infection as bacteria can accumulate around the irritated area.
To deal with blackheads, washing with an appropriate canine-appropriate shampoo over the next few days will cause the spot to gradually disappear. Always be gentle when washing as the nipples are a sensitive area!
Blackheads can also be treated using anti-seborrheic or follicle-flushing shampoos that contain salicylic acid or sulfur.
In serious cases of blackheads, benzoyl peroxide can be used. However, products with benzoyl peroxide should not be used too frequently due to how dry the skin can become afterwards. You should always consult with your vet first to see which products are suitable for your dog.
Blackhead-clearing products can be obtained from your nearest pet store.. You should never use a product intended for humans unless advised to do so by your vet, as human products may lead to adverse, unintended consequences.
If the blackhead is infected and swollen from inflammation, you will need to apply topical steroids as prescribed by your vet such as fluocinolone or betamethasone, as well as steroid medications such as prednisolone or prednisone.
In some cases, antibiotics such as mupirocin and products for hair follicles such as isotretinoin can also be administered to treat infected blackheads. Treatment for infected blackheads may need to continue for several days to even weeks, depending on the severity of the issue.
To prevent the formation of blackheads, there are several steps you can take, including:
- Maintaining a healthy diet containing essential fatty acids
- Providing consistent grooming
- Occasionally using mild dog shampoo when bathing
- Ensuring there is always water available
In cases where your dog doesn’t drink enough water, there are alternative methods to hydrate your dog as suggested through our comprehensive guide here.
Grooming and bathing your dog with warm water, soap or shampoo is usually effective when it comes to removing flea dirt. You can also ask your vet to specify which type of shampoo is effective in removing flea dirt.
To get to the root of the problem, however, you will need to get rid of the fleas which created the dirt in the first place. The appropriate treatment for flea prevention and elimination will depend on your dog’s age, health and size.
Common methods involve topical ointments, collars and oral medication. Continuous reapplication of flea products is key to preventing flea infestations.
The treatment method may differ slightly depending on your dog’s physical characteristics, such as if your dog is pregnant, or if it is very young or old. Checking product descriptions and consulting with your vet will ensure the best products are used to prevent and remove fleas.
In many cases, visiting your vet or a canine dermatologist will be the most effective way to identify what a certain spot is and whether it will need to be treated.
Conditions such as skin disease, mammary tumors and endocrine diseases will require a consultation with a canine professional. To diagnose the issue, the vet will assess any other signs that may be present, as well as your dog’s medical history.
A series of procedures could potentially be carried out to identify the cause, especially for suspected cases of secondary hyperpigmentation. These can include:
- Endocrine test: Determines hormonal levels
- Impression smear: Classifies bacterial infection
- Skin and/or food test: Verifies presence of allergy
- Skin biopsy: Tests for seborrhea
- Skin scraping: Eliminates potential causes
Skin infections such as demodectic mange can be treated using follicle-flushing shampoos to remove the mites from the affected follicles. Your vet will be able to recommend specific products to treat the condition.
Antibiotic medications and medicated shampoos are an effective solution for skin infections, and are often prescribed by vets. They are usually applied for around 3 times a week over a long-term period.
Treatment programs require sufficient time, and may take up to a few months before skin irregularities disappear.
Common strategies used to diagnose mammary tumors include fine needle aspiration, histopathology and staging.
The primary method to treat mammary tumors is through surgery. When the tumor has spread to other areas, your vet is likely to recommend chemotherapy.
Endocrine diseases often involve hormonal supplements or injections throughout a dog’s lifetime. The amount required is dependent on factors such as weight, age, and severity of the disease.
In some cases, surgery is needed to adjust the organ responsible for abnormal levels of hormone production to stop the formation of black spots.
Constant maintenance and supervision is usually required to ensure hormonal levels are stable. Proper management of hormonal levels will ensure your dog can live a long life without much disturbance from endocrine diseases.
Dogs can often develop blackheads on their nipples, and most of the time it does not require immediate medical attention. Routinely bathing your dog thoroughly can remove and prevent blackhead formation.
Whilst blackheads and pigmentation are not issues that are usually required to be addressed promptly, other potentially more serious causes of black spots on nipples such as skin diseases, fleas, mammary tumors and endocrine diseases may need professional help.
Prompt action is vital in preventing long-term health issues, and consulting with a vet or canine dermatologist will always be your best bet in identifying and treating the issue.
Heather Abraham is a professional blogger who owns two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and a leopard gecko. She has a connection with animals since she was a child. She shares her love for all pet breeds and provides information on pet food, toys, medications, beds, and everything else.
She is committed to learning about the internal workings of animals. Her work permits her to work closely with knowledgeable vets and obtain practical expertise in animal care. When she is not working, her love of animals continues in her writing. Her goal is to educate and uplift readers who also have a passion for animals through her writing.