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A couple of years back, top top a night as soon as I assumed I was going to dinner v friends, I rather walked into a surprised party because that me! my friends were spanned in tartan patterns and also kilts because I to be on my means to the university of Edinburgh in Scotland because that a master in Applied animal Behaviour and also Welfare. And also since dogs are my bag, the goodbye cake featured a photo-quality photo of among my favourite dogs, Petunia, a somewhat odd selection, as dogs on cakes go.

You are watching: How many nipples do dogs and cats have

Petunia was discovered abandoned in brand-new York City in a sorry state through a huge goiter on her neck. The goiter was later on treated for this reason the cake photo was goiter-free. Instead, the cake captured Petunia’s long-term parts: her black and white cow-like splotches, and of course, her vast nipples.

Dog nipples don’t lure attention until they feature prominently top top a cake. Even then, there’s not lot to speak apart from, “Wow. That dog has really large nipples. And they’re on that cake.” but for researchers, there’s much more to dog nipples than hoping girlfriend don’t obtain a item of cake with nipples ~ above it. Nipples — or, much better said, nipple choice in young pets — has actually been investigated in numerous species to check out how they successfully access milk, a crucially necessary resource. And also as we’ll see, there’s part confusion about how different young mammals perform it.

I couldn"t find a snapshot of the cake, however here is Petunia and her nipples. Credit: Kelly Nadel

Milk time

Unlike precocial animals who are born basically saying, “I acquired this. See ya,” altricial pets can’t do it on your own; they need significant early-life care and also provisioning to remain alive. In mammals, milk — accessed by nursing indigenous the mother’s nipples — is critical for survival. If this could seem basic enough — obtain milk, continue to be alive — the process can play the end in a number of different ways. Because that example, imagine a varieties where numerous young space born in ~ the very same time. The young about theory could contend for access to nipples, the source of an important, however limited, resource. In fact, studies uncover that puppies acquire less weight in larger litters and gain an ext weight if there room deaths in a litter.

Should Hollywood choose up ~ above this theme, the resulting G-rated man blockbuster might look favor this: too countless puppies are born in a litter and the compete is fierce, therefore a couple of of the puppies, led by Amy Schumer, embark ~ above a perilous journey to find more milk. And they do! another mamma dog, play by Meryl Streep, has actually just lost all her puppies in a freak accident (off-screen, the course), and the trekking puppies connect with the brand-new mom just in the nick the time! PS: Suing if I see this idea anywhere.

Like most movies v talking dogs, the one’s no realistic. What carry out puppies actually perform with nipples? do they “ for position while nursing through the mother” as one self-proclaimed dog actions specialist claims, or is something rather going on? Researchers around the globe have teamed up to investigate the pre-weaning period, once young are dependent top top a mother’s milk, and whether nipple preference and also competition is the same across all altricial species. What is the state of nipple vain in different species?

Kittens ~ above nipples

If you’re someone that calls fives on your favorite chair, kittens feel you. Newborn kittens show a clear preference for specific nipples and also develop what’s referred to as a “teat order,” generally nursing indigenous one or two specific nipples. Not just do preferences construct early in life, yet contests for access to nipples continue,and kittens actively defend against littermates. Summary: my nipple.

Piglets top top nipples

Numerous studies uncover that piglets behave comparable to kittens and display “teat fidelity” whereby individuals connect mainly v one or 2 nipples. Really quickly ~ birth, piglets complete for nipples. But unlike kittens, numerous piglets soon reach a cease-fire. “Teat fidelity” helps reduce subsequent disputes over nipples, which could lead a piglet to miss out on a nursing. Summary: mine nipple.

Puppies ~ above nipples

Puppies walk not get the very same memo together kittens and piglets and also do not show continual use the or choice for specific nipples. Puppies rather latch onto plenty of different nipples. Researcher observed very few incidents of “contest” behavior, such as a puppy pushing into a education littermate come dislodge them from a nipple, and also they it was observed no incidence that “high-intensity dispute behavior” like biting, growling or swiping at another puppy. Puppies suckled in a “seemingly haphazard manner” and also not all at the very same time. Some would certainly suckle, rather slept, others played, and also others wandered roughly (in various other words, every doing different cute points at the very same time). Summary: Nipple shnipple.

The puppy observations come from a 2013 document by Lourdes Arteaga and colleagues published in Ethology. The researchers investigated the sample of nipple usage in 10 various litters the puppies, 1 to 28 days of age. Because the litters were both mixed- and pure-bred (including five various breeds), these outcomes are not assumed to it is in breed-specific, but instead are generalizable across dogs.

They space all equally adorable, however there is no one singular sample of nipple use across altricial mammals. Researchers proceed to inspection what’s behind the differences. Because that example, Skok & Škorjanc imply that the extreme fighting between piglets immediately after birth could be around colostrum, a critical limited source that pigs (ungulates) only accessibility after birth as result of their specific “route that maternal antibody move to the offspring.” Researchers likewise suggest the kitten nipple preference and also contests might help to “optimize the variety of nipples continuing to be productive throughout lactation, and also to alleviate energetically i have lot of money scrambles and potentially injurious contests among littermates.”

But what’s behind puppies" la-di-da strategy to nursing? In a record published earlier this year in the newspaper of compare Psychology, Robyn Hudson and also colleagues hypothesized the the pattern of chaotic, competition-free nursing actions observed in dogs can be an artifact that the domestication process. The observed differences in between kittens and also puppies, lock suggest, might be “due come different levels of domestication,” with dogs under the ignorance of domestication because that considerably much more time than cats, possibly bring about “relaxed selection.” Or, castle wondered, might the observed differences be due to lifestyle and also phylogenetic differences between dogs and also cats? come investigate this possibilities, they turned come the dingo, a canid that has been exposed to considerably less human influence 보다 the dog. Would certainly the dingo behave an ext like kittens or puppies?

Turns out the dingoes behaved specifically like the dogs! Bradley Smith, of main Queensland University and one that the paper’s co-authors, mutual over email, “Honestly, we had no idea whether or no dingoes would certainly be the same as dogs. Us were unsure whether the domestication procedure changed the nursing behaviour in dogs. Turns out that it hasn’t — dogs and also dingoes were specifically the same.” Domestication didn’t perform it. Smith adds, “It can be amazing to look in ~ wolves, however I suspect they are no different to dogs and dingoes.”

With this new information in hand, the researchers indicate that it was observed differences in between kittens and puppies room not an “artifact that domestication,” yet instead stand for lifestyle and also phylogenetic differences. The researchers highlight that cats’ history as solitary hunters and obligate carnivores and dogs’ history as social, group-living omnivores sets the stage for differences in parental care and associated behaviors.

But our expertise of dogs is not always based on scientific findings. For example, Cesar Millan"s website cases that dogs jockey for position while nursing, which is supposedly integral come "The source of dominance."The website walk on, "This position is therefore instinctual due to the fact that dogs start learning it virtually from birth together the new litter jockeys for position while nursing v the mother. The more dominant dogs will certainly get much more milk if the submissive dogs will find out to wait. Because this an initial struggle for position deals with food and also the feasible difference between life and death, the is very primal and makes a big impact."

But that’s not what the research found. Early-lifejockeying and also competition was no observed in dogs!While researchers and animal actions professionals proceed to investigate and also discuss the role of prominence in dog-dog social relationship — see finish of post for links to current research — it’s valuable to rotate to fact, not fiction, when building a situation for that dogs are and why they perform what castle do.

Recent research and discussion of dominance in dogs

Hekman, J. 2016. Expertise Canine social Hierarchies. The Bark

American Veterinary society of pet Behavior (AVSAB) supremacy Position Statement.


Arteaga L, Rödel HG, Elizalde MT, González D, Hudson R. 2013. The sample of Nipple Use prior to Weaning among Littermates of the domestic Dog. Ethology 119, 12–19.

Hudson R, Raihani G, González D, Bautista A, Distel H. 2009. Nipple Preference and also Contests in Suckling Kittens the the residential Cat are Unrelated to Presumed Nipple Quality. Developmental Psychobiology 51, 322–332.

Hudson R, Rödel HG, Elizalde MT, Arteaga L, Kennedy GA, smith BP. 2016. Sample of Nipple use by Puppies: A comparison of the Dingo (Canis dingo) and also the domestic Dog (Canis familiaris). Journal of compare Psychology 130, 269–277.

Passillé AM, Rushen J, Hartsock, TG. 1988. Ontogeny the teat fidelity in pigs and also its relationship to competitive suckling. Canadian newspaper of animal Science 68, 325–338.

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Skok J, Škorjanc D. 2014. Fighting during Suckling: Is it really an Epiphenomenon? Ethology 120, 627–632.