Disinfecting Tips to Help Keep Pets Healthy

According to a 2008 analysis, about 63 percent of all U.S. households–71.1 million–are proud pet owners, and more than half of these households have more than one animal. That means American animal shelters, veterinary clinics, and breeding, boarding and grooming facilities are busy places! The daily influx of animals in and out of animal shelters, veterinary clinics, and other pet environments increases the risk of introducing or spreading disease in these settings. Proper sanitization and disinfection measures are necessary to ensure the health and safety of the animals as well as staff.

Three new, freely downloadable posters have been developed by the Center for Food Security and Public Health, the Water Quality & Health Council and the American Chemistry Council. The posters were created for people who work in animal care settings, including animal shelters and veterinary clinics. The posters provide guidance and remind staff of proper protocols when using bleach to disinfect animal contact surfaces, such as cages and food bowls. The steps needed for routine sanitation are described in simple language with helpful illustrations. The resources are featured on the Water Quality and Health Council’s new “Disinfect for Health” webpage (www.disinfect-for-health.org).

Killing germs on surfaces is a two-step process that involves both cleaning and disinfecting. First, wash surfaces with hot, soapy water, then rinse thoroughly. This is important for removing any dirt, or other organic material, which can quickly inactivate bleach’s oxidative power, thereby reducing or eliminating its sanitizing ability. The second step is to apply a bleach solution. A general purpose solution can be made with 1/4 cup of bleach in one gallon of water . A key step after applying the bleach solution is to allow adequate contact time (10 minutes for routine disinfection) to do its job. Rinse away any residue or allow the area to dry completely before allowing animal contact.

Bleach solutions do break down over time. A fresh solution should be made daily or when the container becomes dirty with organic debris (e.g., footbaths). Never combine bleach with ammonia-containing products as this can produce toxic chlorine gas.

Pets enrich our lives in countless ways. I hope you will join me in promoting these posters among those who work in pet environments.

Glenda Dvorak, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, is a Veterinary Specialist and the Assistant Director of the Iowa Center for Food Security and Public Health.

[1] Note: In outbreak situations, higher concentrations may be needed.