How to Bathe a Newborn Puppy

Hard
10 - 20 Minutes
1 Month

Introduction

A rescue agency has a litter of newborn puppies that were found in a dumpster, dropped off to be cared for. Sadly, three of the five puppies have already passed and the remaining two puppies are in rough condition, hungry and very dirty. With no mom to clean and care for them, keeping them alive is going to be a challenge!  

Momma dogs don't just feed their puppies, they clean them and stimulate them to urinate and defecate by licking them. A litter of newborn puppies should get all the care, including cleaning, that they need from their mom and do not need human intervention. However, if mom cannot clean her puppies due to illness, if mom is not present, or if a young mom  is confused and does not know what to do, it may be necessary to bathe puppies that require it. 

Because newborn puppies have limited ability to regulate their body temperature, bathing them can be dangerous.  Usually, it is not recommended that puppies be bathed until they are at least 4 weeks old. First, determine if the newborn really needs a bath--if you can get away with not bathing a newborn that is preferable. If there is no other option, such as when the puppy was not cleaned after birth or is covered in filth, you will need to proceed carefully so as not to chill the little pup.

Dog's Perspective

If mom can not, or is not caring for a newborn puppy, then the world is a pretty scary and dangerous place for that pup. Lacking the necessary care and comfort from his mom, a newborn pup is in jeopardy from a host of issues. Since newborn puppies have delicate temperature regulation systems and chill easily, immersing them in water or bathing them and then drying them can be problematic. If you can avoid bathing, leave the puppy until it is 4 weeks old to bathe. If the puppy desperately needs cleaning, you will need to ensure you do everything you can to keep the puppy warm during the procedure and dry him off so he does not get chilled from damp fur or skin. A newborn puppy in this situation will often be frightened and in need, take care to provide all the comfort and support you can.

The Minimal Intervention Method

Effective
0 Votes
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Work in a warm locale
Hold puppy close to you for comfort and warmth. Work in a warm place with no drafts.
Step
2
Use a cloth
Use a soft washcloth, or use a cotton ball or gauze square for tiny puppies.
Step
3
Wet cloth
Wet the cloth in warm water, not hot or cold, do not use soap.
Step
4
Wipe with cloth
Start at the puppy's head and work toward their back end and tail. Gently wipe away dirt. Warm up the cloth often with warm water, do not allow it to get cold. Work as quickly as possible so puppy does not have to stay damp longer than necessary.
Step
5
Dry carefully and quickly
Dry the puppy by gently wiping with soft dry cloth, blow dry on lowest warm setting, carefully. Put the puppy back with mom to keep warm or in a warm location. A warm water bottle or other carefully regulated heat source can be used if mom is not available.
Recommend grooming method?

The Exceptional Cases Method

Effective
0 Votes
Dryer
Towel
Step
1
Prepare bath
If the puppy is caked in a harmful substance, filth and feces, or has fleas, a more invasive bath may be required. This should only be conducted in the most extreme circumstances. Fill a container with a few inches of warm water. Containers should be just large enough to hold the puppy and to let you work. Throughout the bath, make sure water stays warm and does not get cold. Bathe in a warm area free of drafts.
Step
2
Avoid shampoo
If really necessary, use a gentle puppy shampoo. Talk to a veterinarian about what product would be appropriate. Preferably, use fingers to remove debris and dirt.
Step
3
Wet and work quickly
Place the puppy gently in the water and scoop water with your hand over the puppy. Watch the puppy to make sure he does not start shivering or show other signs of chill, adjust water temperature accordingly. Work quickly to minimize exposure. Have an assistant present if possible to help speed up the process. Make sure puppy's head stays well above the water line and avoid getting water on the puppies face.
Step
4
Wipe off
Gently wipe with a soft cloth, or piece of gauze. Use gentle puppy shampoo on especially soiled areas or pick off debris, keep away from the eyes, nose and mouth.
Step
5
Dry
Dry puppy with soft cloth and blow dry on a low setting. Pick off fleas manually with soft tipped tweezers. Return puppy to mom as soon as possible or put in a temperature controlled area with a heat source once bathing is complete.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • Only bathe a newborn puppy if really necessary. Usually, their mom provides all the cleaning they need.
  • Avoid immersing a newborn puppy in water or using shampoo, except in the most extreme conditions when other options are not viable.
  • Keep the bathing process as short as possible by having items ready and using an assistant.
  • Return puppy to mom or a warm space as soon as possible.
  • If bathing a newborn puppy is necessary, usually it can be done once and does not require repeating until the puppy is 4 weeks old.

Conclusion

Newborn puppies need their mom's tender loving care and cleaning and usually, nothing else! However, if mom is not able to clean the puppy and the puppy has not been cleaned after the birth, or has become covered in feces or another noxious substance, you may need to intervene.  Try to do the minimum required to clean off puppy with warm water and a cloth.  Only in extreme circumstances should a more invasive bath be considered.

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