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What is that dark build-up on my dam's teats?

Common sense disclaimer: As with everything else on this blog, it’s critical to seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian, preferably one that is board certified in theriogenology (reproductive science) for reproductive matters. This website, its blog, and its courses are NOT designed nor intended to replace the need for a qualified veterinarian, but instead to help educate people to to work optimally with their veterinarians. All recommendations should be reviewed with qualified professionals, such as a board certified reproductive veterinarian, prior to implementation in a breeding program. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian. Readers assume all risks associated with use of material on this site. More here.


If you are finding a dark build up around your dam's teats that you can't seem to wash off, don't worry, that's normal.

Dogs naturally secrete a waxy substance to keep their nipples and teats from getting dry. That wax combines with dead skin cells and debris to form a smegma (yes, similar to the smegma you find on male dog penises).

Once formed, smegma is hard to wash off.

The smegma is more easily dissolved by conditioner or hand lotion or even vegetable/coconut oil or something like that with a more oily base than by shampoo or soap.

First, use some warm compresses to soften the smegma. Then use your conditioner, lotion, or oil. Whatever you use, make sure it is suitable for use on a dog. Some human products are not safe for dogs.

If you use conditioner, wet the dog and leave the conditioner on a while, then GENTLY remove. If you use something else, again, leave it on to give it time to soften the smegma and GENTLY remove. Do NOT scrub or pick at it.

The tissue there is very delicate and it's easy to irritate or even make it bleed. It may take several applications to get it all off. You may want to wear gloves when doing this to help keep the smegma off your hands, as with their mammaries, it's hard to get off your hands.

Why can't I wash this off?

For anyone interested in the science behind this, it's simple chemistry.

You dissolve something with something similar.

Salad dressing is a good example of this. The oil and water (or water-based ingredients) can't dissolve each other, so they separate. Water is not a solvent for oil and oil is not a solvent for water.

When you try to wash off the smegma, you are trying to dissolve a waxy substance with a water-based one. It's like trying to get candle wax off a table cloth. You can't wash the waxy out with soap and water.

Soap can often wash off oily substances, but wax is more resistant to being dissolved by soap.

So you'll want to use something that dissolves wax (which is more like an oil than water based).

Need more help?

You are not alone! Please reach out to us and we will be happy to work with you. Email Ji at


Please comment below if you like this article, have anything to add, or disagree with something in it. We want to hear from you!

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Claire Desrochers
Claire Desrochers
Jul 12, 2021

If you titre test your dog at 20 weeks - certainly not immediately after vaccinating your dog or your will get a false reading - you will know your dog is protected - or not. Similarly, if you do a titre test every 3 years you will know whether or not you need a booster. I have been breeding dogs since 1981 and started titre testing in 1995 and never once had to give any dog a booster. None of my puppies have ever required one either so it's pretty safe to conclude that vaccines last far longer than the 3 year period.


Claire Desrochers
Claire Desrochers
Jul 12, 2021

Lepto vaccines generally cover very few of the strains that exist. As it presents a higher risk than other vaccines, it really doesn't generally add up to being a case where the risk outweighs the benefit. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of strains of lepto so the chances of your dog actually being protected are negligible.


Cat Anderson
Cat Anderson
Mar 25, 2021

Great info! Just goes to show you can teach this old dog (breeder) something new every day. Thank you!

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