Rash on Nursing Dog? 5 Common Reasons

Taking care of a nursing mother dog is a joyful yet responsible task. You need to be attentive to both the mother and the babies and consider their different needs. Sadly, nursing mothers are prone to various issues and conditions, and skin rashes are one of them. 

Rash on nursing dog – why it happens and what to do? Skin rashes on nursing dogs appear due to various reasons like hormonal imbalances and hair loss, teeth and nail scratches, allergies, nursing intertrigo, and ringworm. Each case is unique and warrants a different approach. However, veterinary help is advisable in all cases.

In this article, we will review in detail the different reasons nursing dogs develop skin rashes and then discuss the possible treatments and management options for each reason. 

Why Does My Nursing Dog Have a Rash After Giving Birth?

A nursing dog can develop a skin rash after giving birth due to several reasons. Here are the most common ones. 

Reason number 1: Endocrine imbalances 

Pregnant dogs giving birth go through major endocrine changes. More often than not, these changes can lead to temporary imbalances in hormone levels. Such hormone irregularities often result in increased hair loss. The exact mechanism behind this phenomenon is unknown. Interestingly in dogs with pre-existing skin conditions, giving birth may intensify the clinical manifestation and make the skin disease worse than it was before pregnancy and whelping. For example, a dog with atopic dermatitis is likely to experience intense scratching, excess skin dryness, and dandruff in the post-partum period. 

Reason number 2: Teeth and nail scratches 

Despite their diminutive size, puppies can have sharp nails and, eventually, when they start growing – sharp teeth. Both the nails and teeth are like needles and can inflict painful scratches on the mother while nursing. These scratches are superficial and, in theory, should be harmless. However, because of their repetitive nature, over time, they can cause rashes. 

Reason number 3: Allergies 

Allergies are a common issue in modern dogs, and contact allergies are becoming particularly widespread. Therefore, it is not uncommon for the nursing dog to develop an allergic reaction to the bedding or blanket put inside the whelping box. If the rash is a contact allergy, the skin lesions will be mostly present on the sides of the body and legs where the dog comes in contact with the bed surface. Possible skin lesions include pustules, papules, hives, and rashes. 

Reason number 4: Nursing intertrigo 

Intertrigo is a specific skin condition that develops in skin folds, wrinkles, or body areas prone to friction. In nursing dogs, that area can be the midline between the left and right sides of the breasts. Intertrigo develops due to bacteria or yeast overgrowths and manifests with rashes, skin lesions, itching, and an unpleasant odor. 

Reason number 5: Ringworm 

Ringworm is a fungal skin infection that causes circular skin lesions – hair loss followed by redness, scaling, and a rash-like appearance. Ringworm is more common in cats than in dogs. However, if living in a multi-pet household, cats can transmit the fungus to the nursing dogs and even the puppies. Ringworm is more likely to be transmitted to pets with compromised immunity (puppies have underdeveloped immune systems, and mothers may experience immune compromises after giving birth). 

How Can I Help a Rash on A Nursing Dog?

Luckily, skin rashes in nursing dogs are manageable. However, the exact approach depends on the underlying cause. Let’s take a look at the different ways you can help.

Helping dogs with endocrine issues

When dealing with pregnancy-triggered endocrine imbalances, there is not much you can do. In general, these issues are expected, and the good news is they are transient and usually resolve within the first few weeks after giving birth. The hair loss resolves, and dogs tend to grow even healthier and denser coats than before. In cases of a pre-existing condition, based on the exact problem, you can ask the vet for relief options, like changing the food or giving soothing oatmeal baths (basically, anything you can do without harming the puppies).  

Helping dogs with nail and teeth scratches 

If the puppies have sharp nails, the best thing you can do is carefully trim them using special nail trimmers made for puppies. This sounds way more complicated than it actually is. Trimming the puppies’ nails is the same as trimming nails in adult dogs. You just need to be gentler and mindful about how much nail you trim. In the second case, if the puppies’ teeth become an issue, you should consider weaning the puppies. If necessary, you can still supplement the puppies with milk formulas in the initial period, but the fact they are growing teeth means it is safe to start switching them to puppy food. 

Helping dogs with allergies 

As with all allergy problems, the solution is simple – all you need to do is avoid exposure. In this case, this means replacing the whelping box cover or bedding with another made of non-allergenic material. Most dogs tend to be allergic to polyester and other synthetic materials. In such cases, try a natural option like cotton. 

Helping dogs with nursing intertrigo 

Dealing with nursing intertrigo is not quite simple. Namely, in most cases, it requires using systemic oral antibiotics and local use of ointments. Since we are talking about nursing mothers, this comes as a challenge. In severe cases, it is best to wean the puppies and start feeding them with replacement formulas so you can take proper care of the nursing intertrigo and help the mother heal. This is because the oral antibiotics will be passed from the mother to the puppies. Plus, the puppies can lick off the ointments, which considering their size, can be detrimental. 

Helping dogs with ringworms 

You can manage some ringworm cases with topical antifungals. However, in more severe cases, systemic antifungals are warranted. In such cases, same as the intertrigo situation, it is best to wean off the puppies so you can take proper care of the mother and start giving her the necessary treatment. We should note that ringworm is transmissible to humans, too (wear gloves when applying ointments and wash your hands after handling the infected mother and/or puppies). 

How Can I Avoid Rashes on A Nursing Dog?

Not all skin rashes are avoidable. However, you can minimize the dog’s chances of developing a rash by following these simple yet efficient tips:

  • Make sure the whelping box and bedding are clean and covered with non-allergenic materials 
  • Check the puppies’ nails and gently trim them if necessary
  • Regularly check the area around the teats and be attentive to the hygiene levels
  • If you have another dog or a cat, prevent contact until the puppies are a few weeks old 
  • Wean the puppies off in a timely manner as their small but sharp teeth can cause more problems than you can imagine. 

Summing Up: Rash on Nursing Dog 

All in all, skin rashes in nursing dogs are common issues. The good news is they are not life-threatening, neither for the mother nor for the babies. If you have a nursing dog and suddenly develop a skin rash, it is best to seek veterinary help. The sooner you determine the underlying issue, the sooner you resolve the rash and get your dog back to its normal healthy self. 


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of bulldogpapa.com. Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!

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