How To Clean A Newborn Puppy Without Hurting It!

Newborn puppies...there aren't enough words to describe how wonderful they are. After all, most people who breed do so for the love of their chosen breed and because they get to cuddle with a newborn puppy. However, one thing that no one ever realizes is that newborn puppies can be quite messy. In fact, once you have a litter, be prepared for 8 weeks, or more, of sleepless nights, busy days and plenty of mess.

But it doesn't have to be a completely negative experience and while newborn puppies can get surprisingly dirty those first few weeks, cleaning a puppy is fairly easy.

When to Give a First Bath?

Bathe puppies in water after they turn 4 weeks old.

One thing that many people aren't aware of is that you can't bathe a newborn puppy the way you would bathe other dogs. The reason for this is because newborn puppies cannot regulate their body temperature on their own. So if a puppy gets cold after the bath, he can succumb to hypothermia, which can lead to serious illness or even death.

With that understanding, the very first bath where puppy is submerged under water should be after 4 weeks of age or older. And it is very important that puppies are dried thoroughly and kept in a warm room to prevent chills.

However, while you can't bathe them completely you can still clean the puppies off if they need a good cleaning. On average, mom should keep them fairly clean, but there are times when they can use a good wipe down and if you are caring for orphaned puppies, you will need to clean them regularly.

Supplies You Need to Clean a Newborn Puppy

You don't need many supplies to clean a newborn puppy.

There isn't a lot of supplies that you will need. However, this is what I recommend having on hand.

  • Bowl of Warm Water: You can use running water or you can fill a bowl with warm water. Just make sure that it stays warm and change it frequently as needed.
  • Puppy Shampoo: Use a dog shampoo or baby shampoo that is gentle on their skin. Don't place directly on the puppy but put a very small amount, less than a dime, into the warm water to create suds. Puppy shampoo can dry out their coat so you only want to use this if you have really hard to clean spots on the puppies. If you are using sudsy water, make sure you have a bucket of clean water for rinsing.
  • Face Cloths: Have multiple facecloths available, especially if you are using sudsy water. Make sure they are clean and soft.
  • Towels: Fluffy and absorbant towels to dry off the puppies. Although you won't be submerging them in water, you want to make sure that they are thoroughly dry.
  • Heating Pad or Heat Lamp: Finally, have a warm bin or place the puppies on a heating pad or under a heat lamp to help them stay warm while they are drying off completely.

There is really no need to have anything extra when it comes to supplies and should really have it all in your whelping kit already.

6 Step Procedure to Clean a Newborn Puppy

Make sure you have a fluffy towel to dry your newborn puppy.

Now that you have all your supplies, it is time to clean your newborn pup. To do this, follow these steps.

Step 1: 

Taking the wash cloth, soak it with the warm water. If you are using sudsy water, soak it in the sudsy water first. Wring out the excess water to produce a damp cloth.

Step 2: 

Hold the puppy close to you. This will help him stay warm and will also prevent you from dropping him. I prefer to place a large towel in my lap and sit on the floor. Then puppy can rest in my lap while I clean him to prevent any accidents from happening to my newborn puppy.

Step 3:

Wipe the puppy down. Start at the head, just behind the ears and wipe down in soft, even strokes. Don't apply too much pressure as newborn puppies are very sensitive.

If you are using the sudsy water, avoid doing the face at this point.

Step 4: 

Taking the cloth from the clear water, wring out most of the excess water until the cloth is damp. Carefully wipe the face, and muzzle. Be very careful around the eyes and nose.

If you've used sudsy water, repeat the wipe down on the puppy with the clean water cloth until he is fully clean.

It should be noted that I only use sudsy water if the puppies are extremely dirty or have poop stuck on that can't be washed easily. It is often more just to help reduce the smell.

Step 5:

Once the newborn puppy is clean, take a dry towel and gently dry the fur to remove any dampness from the coat.

Remember that puppies can get cold very quickly if they are left wet and that can lead to serious health problems for your puppies.

Step 6:

Place the puppy in a warm area so that he won't get too cold while drying off. You can place him back with mom or under a heat lamp. Another option is to place him in a bin with a heating pad so he dries faster.

And that is all you really need to do to clean a newborn puppy.

Tips For Cleaning a Newborn Puppy

A newborn puppy only needs a bath when necessary.

Before we finish off this article, I wanted to leave you with a few tips in regards to cleaning a newborn puppy and keeping them clean. These are:

  1. Let mom do the cleaning. Mom should clean them regularly and it is okay for her to do all the heavy lifting with cleaning at this age. The only time you should reach for a wash cloth is when she is either neglecting the puppies or there is more mess than normal.
  2. Put puppies in to feed. After cleaning, place the puppies in with mom. She will finish cleaning them off and her heat will also help keep them warm as they dry.
  3. Only clean puppies if absolutely necessary. In addition, you don't have to clean every puppy. Just do the puppies that have the most mess on them.
  4. Spot clean when you can. Instead of wiping the whole puppy down, just use a damp, clean wash cloth on the big messes on the newborn puppy.
  5. Keep the whelping box clean. We have an article on how to clean your whelping box but keeping it clean and sanitary will go a long way with keeping your newborn puppies clean.
  6. Use baby wipes. Unscented and sensitive skin are the best ones to use but baby wipes are excellent for spot cleaning and don't get puppies too damp.

Cleaning your newborn puppies doesn't have to be done frequently and if you are monitoring your litter, you can be sure to catch those periods when puppies need a little extra cleaning easily. And if you do, cleaning a newborn puppy is as easy as cuddling with one.