Mastitis in the Lactating Dam and Addressing it Naturally

Mastitis is the name applied to swelling, inflammation, and infection of one or more lactating glands in the breast.


  • Firm, swollen, warm, and painful mammary gland(s)
  • In severe cases, there may be a purulent (pus-like) or hemorrhagic fluid present
  • Neglect of puppies (due to pain when attempting to nurse)
  • Failure of puppies to thrive
  • Fever, dehydration

It is always a good idea to keep an eye on the breasts of your lactating Dam. make sure that all are being used and emptied, especially if there are only a few puppies or a singleton in the litter.

Typically puppies have a favorite nipple, so check those that don’t get as much use, regularly.

Beware of breasts that are “hot” to the touch and have a packed “hard” feeling. If milk is not being “cleaned out” regularly, the breast could develop an infection leading to an abscess or mastitis.

Conventional “treatment”

The conventional method of treatment for mastitis is a course of antibiotics. While this treatment is certainly effective in treating mastitis, prescription antibiotics may negatively affect the health of both the dam and puppies. Medications pass to the puppy through the breast milk and antibiotic-resistance can begin developing in the puppies’ systems unnecessarily.

Caring for Mastitis Naturally

Mastitis usually indicates that there is a plugged milk duct in the breast. There is no better way to open and break up the plug than to have the puppies nurse frequently. Although nursing may be painful to the dam during an active infection, it is still the best remedy for mastitis.

Very warm compresses (Caution: not so hot they burn the skin) can also be applied to the affected breast, along with manual milking if you prefer, to empty a hard packed breast. Some breeders insist on allowing the puppies to continue to nurse on the affected breast to keep it “cleaned out”, while others do not. It really depends on how bad the infection is. If there is a bad infection going on, the puppies nursing from the affected breast, could develop digestive upsets or loose stools from the tainted milk.

As unusual as what I am going to say next may seem a little strange however, a cold, raw cabbage leaf placed over the effected breast will work wonders in soothing the inflamed breast. A cool cabbage leaf acts as a cold compress to reduce inflammation. It is said that this cabbage treatment not only relieves breast tenderness, but also helps to unclog the milk duct to flush the infection!

Personally, over the years, I have only had two bitches with mastitis and both were resolved within 24 – 48 hours with just the above protocol. No natural remedies for support were necessary. That is the beauty of a strong, balanced immune system from natural rearing.

If your bitch should have hot/hard breasts along with a purulent or hemorrhagic discharge and/or a high temperature (over 103 degrees farenheit) it may be necessary to also give her some natural support with colloidal silver or essential oils or homeopathy.

If you have never cared for a dam with mastitis naturally before, you may want to talk to a seasoned NR breeder for advice. If one is not available, get in touch with an animal naturopath or a truly holistic veterinarian. If not cared for properly or quickly enough, it may abscess or the infection could become systemic.