Q. How can I tell if my dog has mastitis? What can I do about it?

A. Mastitis is defined as a bacterial infection of the mammary glands, and it can occur in one or more lactating glands in bitches.

The clinical signs are variable in severity and include warm, firm, swollen and painful glands, fever, loss of appetite, lethargy and not uncommonly neglect of puppies.

The treatment of mastitis includes antibiotics, pain relief and in some cases intravenous fluid therapy, and supportive care. Warm compresses applied to affected glands several times a day can reduce swelling and pain. If the breast infection is not too severe, puppies may be allowed to continue nursing. This is the ideal option, as it is best for the health of both mother and puppies. However, if the bitch is not well enough to care for her pups on her own, you will need to hand-raise them and start supplemental feeding.

Mastitis is an emergency condition and you should contact your vet without delay as soon as you notice any signs of mastitis in your lactating bitch.

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