Can I Wash My Dog After She Gives Birth?

New mother dogs require special care and attention after giving birth. One question many owners have is when it’s safe to bathe their dog after she delivers her puppies. There’s understandable concern that a bath too soon could harm the mother or newborn puppies.

However, bathing a mother dog after birth can be done safely as long as proper precautions are taken. The key is waiting until the right time and using care not to separate mom and pups for too long. With some planning and gentleness, bathing can help the new mother feel refreshed without putting her litter at risk.

Why Wait to Bathe

It’s best to wait 2 to 5 days after your dog gives birth before bathing her. Bathing too soon can disrupt the bonding process between the mother dog and her puppies. The hours and days after giving birth are critical for puppies to nurse and bond with their mother. Removing the mother to bathe her could cause undue stress.

Bathing immediately after whelping can also interfere with the dog’s natural postpartum recovery. Like human mothers, dogs need time to heal after the rigors of labor and delivery. The mother dog also needs adequate rest to regain strength to properly care for her puppies. Allowing the mother dog time to recuperate before being bathed supports the health of both the mother and puppies.

According to veterinarians, waiting 48-120 hours after birth allows the mother dog to regain stamina and a normal temperature before undergoing the exertion and temperature change of a bath (Source). This window is considered ideal for allowing the mother dog to recover without compromising hygiene.

When It’s Safe to Bathe

The average recommendation is to wait 1-2 weeks after giving birth before bathing your dog. This allows your dog’s incision from birth to heal and gives the puppies time to gain strength and mobility.

Some signs your dog may be ready for a bath earlier include if she is no longer producing discharge, her incision area looks clean and dry, and the puppies are mobile and have their eyes open. Some breeders bathe mom after 5-7 days if the area is clean and healed.

However, exceptions can be made if your dog gets into something dirty or has fleas. In these cases, a gentle bath with mild soap may be given as early as 48 hours after birth. Avoid submerging the incision area in water. Discuss an early bath with your vet if concerned.1

Preparing for the Bath

It’s important to be prepared before giving a new mother dog her first postpartum bath. Here are some tips:

Have supplies ready – Gather all the bath supplies in advance, including a gentle puppy or dog shampoo, towels, a rubber mat for traction, and a pitcher for rinsing. Organizing everything ahead of time makes the process smoother.

Choose a calm time – Pick a time when the puppies are sleeping and the mother dog is relaxed. This helps make bath time less stressful for her.

Recruit a helper – Having an extra set of hands to hold puppies, keep them warm, and assist with bathing the mother dog can be extremely helpful.

Setting up a bathing area in advance, choosing the right time, and having assistance can help make a new mother dog’s first post-birthing bath go more smoothly.

Bathing Tips and Precautions

When bathing a mother dog after she gives birth, it’s important to be gentle and use mild products. Here are some tips for safely bathing a postpartum dog:

Use a mild puppy shampoo or sensitive skin dog shampoo. Avoid harsh soaps or chemicals that could irritate the dog’s skin or cause discomfort. A gentle oatmeal shampoo is a good choice for bathing a nursing mother dog.

Keep the water warm, not hot. Hot water can dry out the dog’s skin. Lukewarm water is ideal for bathing a dog after she gives birth. Test the water on your wrist before wetting the dog.

Thoroughly wet the dog’s coat before applying shampoo to allow it to penetrate down to the skin. Focus on soiled areas but avoid getting water and soap directly in the vaginal area.

Gently massage the shampoo into the coat and rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of soap. Take care not to get water in the dog’s ears.

Dry the dog completely with a towel. Blow drying on a low setting can help finish drying the coat. Chilling can be dangerous for a postpartum dog and newborn puppies.

Keep baths brief after birth, aiming for 5-10 minutes. Monitor the dog for signs of stress or exhaustion.

Bathe no more than once per week and keep an eye out for any signs of vaginal discharge, which may indicate an infection. Contact your vet if you have concerns.

Caring for Umbilical Cord

After the puppies are born, their umbilical cords should be treated carefully to avoid infection. It’s important to keep the cord dry by frequently changing bedding and wiping the puppy with a warm, damp cloth if needed.

Watch for signs of infection like redness, swelling, discharge, or a foul odor, and contact your veterinarian if you notice anything concerning. Some vets recommend gently dipping the cord in a mild iodine solution once a day to help dry it out and prevent bacteria growth. Be sure to ask your vet if this is recommended.

According to this source, you should wipe or dip the cord once per day until it falls off at the base. Keeping it clean and dry will help it detach in a healthy way.

Signs of Postpartum Complications

While most dogs recover well after giving birth, some may experience postpartum complications. According to the High Street Epping Vet Clinic, affected dogs often have a foul smelling red discharge from the vulva. They also become depressed, are off their food, and may have an initial temperature rise (High Street Epping Vet Clinic).

Other signs of complications include lethargy, loss of appetite, and excessive vaginal bleeding, according to Animal Emergency Care. The DVM360 notes that dogs experiencing moderate complications will exhibit pain and reluctance to nurse or lie down. Fever can also precede other clinical signs.

Additionally, complications may present as a swollen or hard abdomen. This could potentially indicate a retained placenta or uterine infection. It’s important to monitor the mother dog carefully and contact a veterinarian if any concerning signs are noticed after whelping.

When to Call the Vet

It’s important to monitor both the mother dog and her puppies closely during the days and weeks after birth. Contact your veterinarian right away if you notice any of the following concerning signs:

For the mother dog:

For the puppies:

  • Not nursing or seeming underfed
  • Excessive crying or distress
  • Lethargy, weakness, or inability to stand
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, or coughing
  • Weight loss or failure to gain weight

Call your veterinarian with any concerns about the mother dog’s recovery or the health of her puppies in the days and weeks following the birth. Prompt veterinary care can prevent complications and help ensure the wellbeing of both mom and puppies.

Caring for New Mother Dog

Providing the right care for your dog after she gives birth is crucial for the health of both the mother and her puppies. Here are some tips for caring for a new mother dog:

Give her a high-quality diet with extra proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Mother dogs need almost double the calories when nursing puppies. Feed her puppy food, canned food mixed with dry kibble, raw food, or a special lactation diet recommended by your vet. Make sure she has constant access to fresh water as well.

Provide a peaceful area for her to nurse and bond with puppies, away from other pets or noisy children. She’ll need a whelping box, nesting area, or enclosed space just for her new family.

Only allow limited exercise for the first 2 weeks after giving birth. Take her outside on-leash for short bathroom breaks. Don’t let her jump, run, or play yet. Let her focus her energy on nursing. Follow any exercise restrictions from your vet.

Check with your vet about supplements, vaccinations, and medications that are safe for nursing dogs. Monitor her and contact your vet if you notice signs of postpartum complications.


In conclusion, it’s best to wait at least 2-5 days after your dog gives birth before bathing her to allow her body to recover from the labor and delivery. This gives the uterus time to involute and closes the open blood vessels that occur after birth, reducing the risk of infection.

However, after a few days a bath can be safe and beneficial. Focus on using a gentle shampoo and carefully cleaning the mammary glands to avoid mastitis. Make sure to properly dry her afterwards as well. Contact your veterinarian right away if you notice signs of infection like fever, foul-smelling discharge, loss of appetite, lethargy after bathing. With some basic precautions, bathing after birth can help the new mother feel clean, comfortable and promote bonding with the puppies.

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