What Can I Wash My Nursing Dog With?

When a dog is nursing puppies, it’s important to keep the mother dog and her environment clean to protect the health of both mom and babies. However, you need to be careful about what products you use. Many regular dog shampoos and household cleaners contain harsh chemicals that could irritate the sensitive skin of nursing dogs or be unsafe if puppies ingest them. Using the wrong products could lead to issues like skin irritation, digestive upset, and even toxicity. It’s crucial to understand the proper hygiene practices and safe washing products for nursing dog moms. This ensures you keep both mother and puppies comfortable while avoiding health risks during this vulnerable time.


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Risks of Using Regular Dog Shampoos

Regular dog shampoos often contain harsh chemicals that can be dangerous for nursing puppies. The ingredients in many dog shampoos are too strong and harsh for a puppy’s sensitive skin (https://www.veterinary-practice.com/article/shampooing-dogs-facts-and-myths). The chemicals are absorbed into the mother’s milk supply, so nursing puppies ingest them during feeding. This puts puppies at risk of skin irritation, digestive issues, and other health problems.

Some of the most concerning ingredients in regular dog shampoos include formaldehyde, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone, parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, and sulfates. These can cause skin inflammation, dryness, itching, and rashes in puppies. The fragrances and chemicals also alter the taste and nutrition content of the mother’s milk.

Veterinarians advise against using any human or regular dog shampoo on nursing mothers. The puppies’ health and wellbeing depend on receiving clean milk without exposure to harsh soaps and detergents. Special care must be taken to only use natural, non-toxic shampoos approved for use on nursing dogs.

Vet Recommendations

Veterinarians recommend using gentle, hypoallergenic shampoos formulated specifically for puppies when bathing nursing dogs. These will clean effectively while being safe for both mom and pups.

According to veterinarians surveyed by The New York Post, the top puppy-safe shampoos contain natural ingredients like oatmeal, aloe, and coconut oil that soothe sensitive skin (https://nypost.com/article/best-dog-shampoos-per-veterinarians/). Oatmeal is a popular ingredient in vet-recommended shampoos because it gently cleans without stripping oils. Aloe vera is soothing and hydrating for dry or irritated skin.

Vets advise avoiding any shampoos with harsh chemicals, artificial fragrances, or dyes. The mildest cleansers like glycerin and castile soap are ideal for nursing moms. Look for a tear-free formula labeled specifically for puppies.

According to The Honest Paws website, their Oatmeal Shampoo is a top choice amongst veterinarians for its gentle hydrating and calming properties that are safe for puppies and won’t interrupt lactation (https://www.veterinarians.org/dog-shampoo/).

Natural Ingredients to Look For

When looking for a gentle shampoo for nursing dogs, it’s best to choose all-natural ingredients that cleanse without irritating sensitive skin. Some ingredients to look for include:

  • Oatmeal – Helps soothe itchy, irritated skin. Oatmeal contains saponins which are natural cleansers. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties[1].
  • Aloe Vera – Soothes and hydrates skin. Aloe vera gel contains enzymes, vitamins, and amino acids that help repair skin cells[2].
  • Honey – Has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties to fight infections. It’s also a natural humectant to retain moisture in the skin[3].

These types of gentle, natural ingredients cleanse away dirt and odors without stripping the skin’s natural oils or causing dryness and irritation.

Homemade Shampoo Recipes

When bathing nursing dogs, it’s best to use gentle, non-irritating homemade shampoos made with simple ingredients. Here are some easy DIY shampoo recipes to try:

Oatmeal Shampoo: Mix 1 cup of finely ground oatmeal with 1 cup of warm water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then strain out the oats. Add the oatmeal water to 1/2 cup of unscented liquid castile soap and 1/2 cup aloe vera gel. Pour into a bottle and shake before each use. Oatmeal helps soothe dry, itchy skin (Source).

Coconut Shampoo: Mash 1 cup of coconut pulp with 2 cups of boiling water. Allow to cool fully, then strain out the coconut. Mix the coconut water with 1/2 cup of liquid castile soap and 1 teaspoon of coconut oil. This helps moisturize skin and coat (Source).

Aloe Vera Shampoo: Blend 1 cup aloe vera gel, 1 cup goat’s milk or coconut milk, and 1 teaspoon vitamin E oil. Add to 1/2 cup liquid castile soap. Aloe vera has soothing properties for skin.

Glycerin Shampoo: Mix 1 cup liquid castile soap, 1 cup apple cider vinegar, and 1/3 cup glycerin. Glycerin acts as a natural moisturizer. Shake before use.

Tips for Bathing Nursing Dogs

When bathing a nursing dog, it’s important to be gentle and limit bathing frequency. Here are some tips:

  • Wait at least 2-5 days after giving birth before bathing, to allow recovery from labor (1).
  • Bathe no more than once per week, as frequent bathing can dry out skin (2).
  • Use a gentle dog shampoo labeled safe for puppies or nursing dogs (3).
  • Wash the dog carefully using your hands or a soft washcloth, avoiding her mammary glands.
  • Rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of shampoo.
  • Dry the dog completely with a towel before allowing contact with puppies.
  • Keep the bath area warm to prevent chilling.
  • Watch for signs of stress during bathing and keep sessions brief.

With some care and gentleness, most nursing dogs can be bathed without issue. Limiting frequency and using mild shampoo allows her to stay clean while nursing puppies.

Signs of Skin Irritation

There are several common signs indicating skin irritation in dogs:

Rashes – Rashes can appear as red, inflamed skin or small red bumps. They often occur on the belly, inner thighs, or paws. According to WebMD, skin irritation symptoms include discolored skin and itchiness (source).

Excessive scratching – If your dog is scratching more than normal, it could signal skin irritation or an infection. The Dutch website notes itching is a key sign of irritated skin in dogs (source).

Other signs include scabs, sores, red spots, and bumps. PetMD states common skin problems in dogs include rashes, scabs, red spots, small bumps, and irritated skin (source).

Pay close attention if your nursing dog shows any of these signs. Skin irritation requires prompt treatment to relieve discomfort and prevent escalation.

Alternatives to Bathing

While bathing nursing dogs does come with risks, you may still want to freshen up your dog without a full bath. Here are some alternative options:

  • Dry shampoos – These waterless shampoos come in spray bottles and work by absorbing oils and dirt from your dog’s coat. Simply spray it on, work it into the fur, let it sit for a few minutes, then brush it out. Some popular brands are Burt’s Bees and Wahl Dry Shampoo for Dogs.
  • Dog wipes – Unscented baby wipes or pet wipes can be used to spot clean dirty paws, bellies, or bottoms. Gently wipe down the area and allow to air dry. Look for fragrance-free wipes without alcohol or harsh chemicals.
  • Spot cleaning – For isolated stinky or dirty spots, you can spot clean with a damp washcloth and mild puppy shampoo. Avoid getting water near the teats. Rinse and dry the area thoroughly.
  • Baking soda – Sprinkle baking soda directly on greasy or smelly spots, let sit for a few minutes, then brush off. The baking soda will help absorb odors and oils.
  • Apple cider vinegar – Wiping down with a 50/50 apple cider vinegar and water solution helps deodorize skin and fur.

While not as deep cleaning as a bath, these methods can help freshen up your nursing dog between full baths. Monitor for signs of skin irritation and discontinue use if redness or irritation occurs.


When bathing a nursing dog, it’s important to use natural, gentle cleansers that won’t irritate her sensitive skin or be passed to the puppies through her milk. Human shampoos and soaps should be avoided, as they often contain chemicals that can cause dryness, itching, and allergic reactions in dogs. Instead, look for dog shampoos made with natural moisturizers like coconut, oatmeal, and aloe vera. You may also want to try a homemade recipe using gentle ingredients like castile soap, apple cider vinegar, and essential oils.

Be sure to follow some basic bath time rules as well – keep her baths brief and infrequent, use lukewarm water, thoroughly rinse all soap residue, and gently dry her coat afterwards. Try to minimize stress during bathing, which can affect milk production. Watch for any signs of skin irritation afterwards like excessive licking, scratching, or redness, and discontinue use of any product that seems to cause a reaction.

Bathing may not be necessary if she keeps herself clean through regular grooming. You can also use alternative methods like dry shampoos or wipes for quick cleanups between full baths. The most important thing is to keep both momma dog and her puppies healthy during this sensitive nursing period.


Here are the sources used for facts and recommendations in this article:

  • American Kennel Club article “Bathing Your Nursing Dog” by Dr. Jerry Klein
  • Fuller, Karen. “How to Bathe a Dog After She Has Puppies.” The Nest, 26 February 2019.
  • Hein, Ritchie. “How to Bathe a Nursing Dog.” Hello Motherhood, 2021.
  • Dinarello, Angelica. “How to Bathe a Nursing Dog.” Preppy Puppies, 12 August 2022.
  • Davis, Johnny. “Bathing and Grooming Tips for Nursing Dogs.” American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 2019.
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