Personal hygiene may be the last thing on Daisy's mind once she has delivered her batch of babies. You can't blame her; once the milk station is open for business, most of her time and energy go into nursing those hungry fur balls and keeping them warm. Postponing a bath for a while won't do any harm.
Attention Comes First
Resist the temptation to give mama dog a bath shortly after she gives birth. Mama dog is on an important mission, as her small pups are vulnerable and need her tender loving care as well as her warmth and her nourishment. For the first 24 hours after giving birth, she'll be secreting colostrum, a gold-colored, thick fluid produced by her nipples that kick-starts her pup's immunity and resistance to infectious diseases.
Once the colostrum has been delivered, the milk bar is officially open. The pups will mostly nurse and sleep for days. Mama dog will still be very reluctant to leave her pups during this period; she will likely get up only to eat, drink and go potty. Removing her from her pups to give her a bath will only make her upset this soon after giving birth. You can't blame her; during the first days the puppies are totally helpless beings. Mama's protectiveness is given a boost by some powerful hormones.
It's best to delay a bath for a reasonable time after whelping. When time permits, Daisy will make efforts to clean herself on her own during her puppies' first weeks. She will have a sticky vaginal discharge that will last for at least two to three weeks. Once the discharge starts to diminish, bathing her will help keep her coat in good shape and eliminate odors.
Because momma's babies will likely nurse about a dozen times a day, you don't want them to taste shampoo residue with their milk. Use only a bland shampoo that is free of chemicals, flea and tick killers, deodorants or de-tanglers. Pay special attention to rinsing it off completely. Dry her off with towels, or better, with a hair dryer to ensure she's completely dry to go back to her hungry pups. While you're cleaning her up, make sure the pups stay warm.
While it's best to wait a while before giving your nursing dog a complete bath in the first days of nursing, you can clean her up using a damp towel. If her nipples are caked with dry milk, for instance, it's a good idea to carefully clean her up using a soft washcloth immersed in warm water. The same applies with cleaning her up from any other types of discharge and messes. Good hygiene is important for mama dog and her pups.
Because it's not advisable to give Daisy a bath in the very first days after whelping, do everything possible to keep her and her environment clean prior to giving birth. A full body bath several days prior to whelping is a good idea, since it's likely the last one she'll have for a while. Shaving your dog's belly may help the pups find the nipples, while shaving and cleaning the area around the genitals will be a practical solution for dogs with long or dense coats.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.