Pop quiz! Without looking at your own pets or looking up the answer online, think about this—do all Labradors (male and female) have nipples? Or is it just the females that have them? I recently heard someone asking this very question. The presence of nipples on male dogs seems unfathomable, but the men in our lives have them, don’t they?
Do male Labradors have nipples? Yes, male Labs do have nipples. The nipples on a male Labrador run in two rows side-by-side from the chest area down to the groin area in a symmetrical pattern. Most male dogs have 8 to 12 undeveloped nipples that remain non-functioning throughout their lifespan, unlike female Labradors.
Most people are puzzled over the fact that male species can, and often do, have nipples. What is the reason behind this? Let’s take a closer look at why male Labradors have nipples, how many they should have, and if there are any complications to expect with male dog nipples.
Why Do Male Labradors Have Nipples?
It should not come as a surprise that male mammals can have nipples too. Human males have them as well, after all. But why do males have them? You may have also questioned why your male Labrador has nipples but does not produce milk for their pups. So why do male Labs have them at all? The answer is actually the very same reason why human males have nipples. To understand why male dogs have nipples, you just need to figure out why human males have them. In utero, mammals develop in surprisingly the same way.
The reason that male dogs, as well as human males, have nipples is all about fetal development. When a Labrador pup is conceived, it is neither male nor female. This is exactly the case with us humans for the first seven weeks of our development. The embryo blueprint seems to start off with nipples and only when the sexual development part of the growing process begins, can the gender of the puppy actually be determined.
Basically, all puppies, much like humans, start as genderless embryos that come standard with nipples before the gender of the creature is biologically determined. At a later stage of development, it is determined if these nipples will be functioning (females) or non-functioning (males). In Labradors, the growing fetus isn’t determined to be male or female until about four weeks after conception. Before this, they are essentially genderless. For humans, this process only starts at seven weeks after conception. In a manner of speaking, the nipples are just “place holders” until its own biology decides if the pup will be a boy or a girl.
Male Labrador nipples are not completely useless, however. Some experts suggest that dog nipples are modified sweat glands. This means that male dogs can sweat from their nipple areas, whereas female dogs do not. For females, the sole purpose is to be able to produce milk for their offspring. Also, a change in your male Labrador’s nipple size and shape could be a sign of a health problem. We will cover more on this topic below.
How Many Nipples Do Male Labradors Have?
Now that we have established that it is absolutely normal for your male Labrador to have nipples, you might be wondering how many nipples are considered normal and if there is anything to worry about if your pet’s nipple count does not fall into that “normal range”. While most Labradors of medium size have 8 to 12 nipples, this is not an absolute rule.
How many nipples a male Labrador has really depends on the individual dog and its size. Most Lab owners find that 10 nipples are the norm (5 on each side), but you can find hundreds of examples in forums and online posts where Lab owners mention that their dogs have anywhere from 6 to 9 nipples.
Most dogs have a symmetrical presentation of nipples, meaning that they will have the same number of nipples on either side of their stomach, but some dogs have been known to have a different count on one side than the other. If you notice this with your own Lab, there is nothing to worry about. It is not unusual for male Labradors to have 7, 8, or even 9 nipples. This asymmetrical presentation is not a sign of any health concerns or abnormalities with your pet.
To illustrate how inconsequential the number of nipples on your pet is, one just has to look at female nipple development in dogs. Very often there will not be exactly one nipple per puppy on a female dog. Sometimes there will be more nipples than required, sometimes there will be fewer than required and in some cases, the number of nipples will be just perfect. This highlights the fact that the number of nipples the mother has plays no role in the number of puppies she will give birth to.
What Does the Number of Nipples on a Dog Mean?
What does it ultimately mean if your dog does not have the expected number of nipples? Does it indicate that something is wrong if your dog has 8 nipples and another of the same breed, gender, and size has 12 nipples? Rest assured that many dog owners have wondered the very same thing. Sometimes it is just a case of a nipple or set of nipples being located in an unusual area of the dog’s body.
Later in this post, I briefly cover why and how this unusual nipple location happens. The unusual placement of nipples sometimes makes it seem as if there are odd numbers of nipples on the body when there are not. In other instances, the dog is simply born with fewer or more nipples. You might count 8 nipples running the length of your dog, but there might be more. Again, there is nothing to be worried about.
Where Are Male Dog Nipples Located?
Is There a Right or Wrong Placement for Nipples?
Typically, a male Labrador will have nipples that run from his chest and down to the groin area in 2 side-by side-straight lines. They are usually symmetrical and will appear flat or small in comparison to those of a female Labrador. In some instances, your dog might have another set of nipples elsewhere on the body.
Surprisingly, a common place for additional nipples to grow is on the inside of the leg. This area is often covered in fur, which makes the nipples difficult to see. Why does this unusual location of nipples happen? The science behind this can get complicated but in basic terms, it is about how the nipples form in the womb during the development phase. The nipples actually follow certain biological lines during placental development and sometimes these lines, which run from the legs to the feet, can deviate during development and can end up a little “off course.” This means that some nipples might turn up on the legs or not turn up at all instead of being where you would expect them to be.
Some suggest that the perfect symmetry that results in a straight line of nipples on a Labrador comes down to good breeding. While there may be some truth to that claim (there is no real scientific evidence to back this, however), there is no guarantee that a professionally bred dog will have the perfect number of nipples in exactly the “right” places anyway. Even if you buy your Labrador from a breeder, you might find that the nipple placement is not arranged as expected.
What Are Labrador’s Nipples Called?
Typically speaking, the nipples on a dog are named according to where they are located on the dog’s body. You might hear the nipples being called as follows:
- Cranial thoracic nipples. These are the very first pair of nipples on your Labrador. They are typically found in the chest area.
- Caudal thoracic nipples. These are the second pair of nipples on the Labrador and they are typically found in the chest area/abdomen.
- Cranial abdominal nipples. These are the third pair of nipples on your Labrador and they are situated just next to the abdomen.
- Caudal abdominal nipples. These are the fourth pair of nipples and they are typically in the abdomen area.
- Inguinal nipples. These are usually the last pair of nipples, which are found in the groin area.
Any of these pairs can be doubled up, which will increase the total number of nipples your Labrador has.
Do Male Labradors Have Mammary Glands?
Because male Labradors display nipples, many people want to know if they also have mammary glands. The answer to this question can be complex. While male dogs do have mammary glands, they are never actually activated by the sex hormones and therefore remain in what is called a “rudimentary state”. This basically means that they are undeveloped and therefore are limited in their functionality. A female dog’s nipples and mammary glands are only activated when her sex hormones become present.
Something to be aware of, however, is that because male Labradors have mammary glands, they can develop mammary tumors, just like female dogs do. Mammary tumors are rare in male dogs, but not impossible.
What Does It Mean When a Male Labrador’s Nipples Are Swollen?
As previously stated, male Labrador’s nipples are not completely useless. It is therefore important to examine the shape and appearance of your Labs nipple every so often. It is also important to note any changes in the shape or appearance of your Lab’s nipples that present themselves during your examination.
Detecting a change in your male Labrador’s nipples could actually save his life. While male dog nipples are not functional in terms of feeding offspring, any changes in them can be a sign of a health concern. By ignoring them completely, you might miss an important sign that your beloved pet is unhealthy.
One of the most common changes that Lab owners notice is swollen or enlarged nipples. Unfortunately, this is commonly a sign of testicular cancer in dogs. Some dog owners miss or overlook this sign because they assume that if their Labrador is neutered, he cannot possibly have or get testicular cancer. Unfortunately, testicular cancer can and does affect both neutered and unneutered dogs. Neutered dogs will probably need chemotherapy to treat this cancer, whereas unneutered dogs may just need to get neutered to eliminate the cancer and ensure that it does not spread to other parts of the body.
If your dog has swollen nipples and/or displays the following symptoms, have her examined by the vet immediately in order to rule out testicular cancer:
- Other dogs seem to be attracted to him,
- Painful or swollen abdomen,
- Hair loss in a symmetrical pattern,
Even if you do not notice the additional symptoms, taking your male dog to the vet when it has swollen nipples is highly recommended.
What Does It Mean When a Male Labrador’s Nipples Change Color?
An unexpected change in nipple color can sometimes be alarming to a Labrador owner. You may fear that your dog is sick or that the nipples have some sort of infection. Typically, dog’s nipples are either pink or dark in color. The natural color of your Labrador’s nipples will depend on the type of Lab you have and his coloring in general.
If you notice a color change, don’t panic right away. As male Labradors get older, their nipples tend to change color and take on a darker hue. They may even turn black. If they have changed color but look otherwise normal, there should be no immediate cause for concern.
However, there are times where it is appropriate to worry about a nipple color change,. If your Labs nipple starts to change color and he also presents the following symptoms, you should take him to the vet to be checked for any health complications:
- The dog’s nipple seems sore to the touch
- The nipple has a discharge
- The nipple has changed shape from small and flat to long and/or enlarged
While nipple color change in female dogs can possibly be an indication of mastitis, male dogs cannot suffer from the same condition as their nipples are non-functioning.
Why Does it Look Like My Male Labrador Has No Nipples?
If you examine a female Labrador, you will probably notice that her nipples are highly visible. You won’t have to search too hard to find them, even if she has a longer fur coat. Their prominence is due to the fact that after she gives birth, her puppies need to be able to locate the nipples easily. Male Labradors nipples, however, do not have this same purpose. There is no need for theirs to be highly visible since they aren’t able or expected to produce food for their young.
If you have given your pet a quick look over and it looks as if he does not have nipples, you probably just have not looked close enough. He will have nipples, but they just will not be too obvious.
You can put your mind at ease by having a closer look for yourself. When your Labrador comes around for some affection, give his tummy a good rub. Part his fur and look at his skin. You might not see or feel obvious nipples, but you might feel tiny raised bumps on his stomach in seemingly symmetrical pairs. These are his non-functional nipples and because they have no real function, there is no need for them to be larger or more obvious.
Knowing how they look in their natural state while your dog is healthy and in his prime is a good idea. You can use this knowledge as a reference to keep a check on possible testicular cancer by noting changes in his nipples.