Puppies get into all kinds of sticky and stinky situations, sometimes necessitating a bath. These little guys have sensitive skin that requires a gentle, soap-free shampoo formulated especially for dogs. While regular dog shampoo is safe to use on puppies, avoid any formulas containing flea medications because such chemicals can be toxic to young pups.
The best choice for bathing a puppy is to choose a shampoo designed especially for puppies that won't cause tearing, just in case it gets into your little one's eyes. If you don't have any puppy shampoo available, you can use a regular dog shampoo to lather up your pup, recommends PetMD. Dog shampoo is preferable to other types of soaps or cleansers, including most human shampoos, which aren't designed to work with your puppy's sensitive skin. These types of cleansers cause more harm than good by stripping away the natural oils of your puppy's skin and disturbing the skin's pH balance. An improper skin pH balance can lead to skin infections and dermatitis, especially in young puppies.
One type of shampoo designed for adult dogs that you should avoid using on puppies is a flea shampoo. Flea shampoos contain insecticides to kill fleas and their eggs, many of which are unsafe for use on young puppies. Unless the label specifically states that an insecticidal shampoo is safe for use on puppies, never use such a shampoo to bathe your little one. Depending on the specific insecticide a flea shampoo contains, it may not be safe for puppies younger than 6 months of age.
When choosing a dog shampoo to use on your puppy, look for ingredients that will soothe and moisturize his delicate skin. DogChannel.com recommends using shampoos containing oatmeal on puppies, which can calm dry, itchy skin. Moisturizers like honey, vitamin E and aloe vera are gentle to puppy skin as well. Avoid shampoos with artificial fragrances; instead opt or those containing natural essential oils like chamomile, lavender and tea tree oil. Not only do these essential oils help make your puppy smell good, but they also help repel fleas safely.
Wait until your puppy is at least a few weeks old to bathe him, if possible, because very young puppies can easily become chilled after a bath. Until then, simply wipe him down with a damp washcloth to keep him clean. In a pinch, human baby shampoo, like dog shampoo, has a neutral pH, and won't irritate your puppy's skin if you use it to bathe him. Rinse any shampoo thoroughly out of your puppy's coat using lukewarm water so that the residue won't cause itching. Follow the shampoo with a moisturizing conditioner to add shine and softness to your pup's fur.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Bathing Your Dog
- petMD: Puppy Checklist: Getting off to a Great Start
- petMD: Maintaining Your Dog's Skin pH
- Drugs.com: Bio Spot Flea & Tick Shampoo for Puppies
- Cesar's Way: How Often to Bathe a Dog
- Hartz: Hartz UltraGuard Plus Flea & Tick Dog Shampoo
- DogChannel.com: When to Start Bathing a Puppy
- Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Dogs and Pesticide Use
- Healthy Pet Journal: The Natural Approach to Flea Control
- Doctors Foster and Smith: Bathing FAQs
- Photo Credit Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images