Pet Hygiene and the Importance of It

We bathe regularly, wash our dishes, clean our houses even if we hate it, but when was the last time you not only changed the litter box but cleaned it and dried it before putting new litter in? Can you remember the last time to use soap and water or run your dog’s food bowls through the dishwasher to clean and sanitize them?  Pets bring a lot of love, laughter, and wonderful companionship into our lives but with that comes shedding dander, and muddy paw prints occasionally.

Keeping your home clean when you have pets not only is healthier for our pets, it is healthier for us humans who happily share our homes and lives with our pets. Our health and hygiene are as important as that of our pets, and several infectious diseases are zoonotic which means they can be transmitted from animals to humans.  Keeping these illnesses at bay and protecting the health and wellness of every person and critter in our homes can be avoided with the practice of improving efforts at pet hygiene. These housekeeping chores are quite simple and they keep our homes healthy places to live. These should be done regularly and by doing so become a habit that benefits our pets and us. No one wants to live in a house that smells bad or is full of dander so creating a healthy home is not just for our pets benefit.


Clean The Cat Litter Box Every Single Day

If the smell of the ammonia and cat feces aren’t encouragement enough to make you clean the cat box, consider this fact- a dirty litter box is a perfect place for germs to grow. The scariest thing in the cat box isn’t the cat’s feces. It’s a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. This single-celled organism is spread through cat feces and can cause a disease called toxoplasmosis, a disease with flu-like symptoms. More than 60 million Americans may be infected according to the CDC, but most people are protected by healthy immune systems. Toxoplasmosis can cause birth defects in children of pregnant women who have been infected.  This is why pregnant women should never clean the litter box.  A dirty cat box can also have parasites such as roundworms and hookworms that can be transmitted to humans, especially children. These risks are exponentially higher if you have a cat that regularly goes outside where it can encounter T.gondii and worms.  Just remember, it this seems scary and serious it is, but dogs are not cleaner pets, at all. They have their own equally disturbing health issues they can share with their humans.

A clean litter box also cuts down on the ammonia smell of aging urine and which is why our noses wrinkle up when we smell a dirty cat box. The ammonia is an irritant to our nasal membranes. The best way to clean a cat box is to empty and dispose of the dirty litter and then use mild dish soap and warm water to cleanse and rinse out the box completely. Using an unscented soap will make sure that fragrance doesn’t confuse your cat and make them anxious to use the lemon-scented cat box. Enzyme cleaning products are essential to have in your cleaning supplies as a pet owner and stains can be removed with these. Just be sure to check the expiration date as enzyme cleaners lose their ability to work after a certain period. Try to have one litter box per cat you share your home with as not all cats like sharing a box and can help you know which cat may be having digestive or other issues.


Wash Your Hands After Playing With Your Pets

Always wash your hands after playing with your pets to prevent the transmission of zoonotic diseases that can be caught by ingestion. If you’ve petted a dog with worms and then eat a chip, you could risk ingesting a worm egg.  Using soap and water every time you wash your hands prevents the transmission of E. coli, salmonella, cryptosporidium, and ringworm. Lizards, in particular, can have salmonella so that snack you eat after playing with your bearded dragon should not be eaten until the lizard is secured in their habitat and you’ve washed your hands.


Use the Right Cleaning Products.

Some house cleaning products are dangerous or poisonous for pets. Dishwasher concentrated detergents, and of course, caustic substances like oven cleaners drain cleaners, and any concentrated household-cleaning product should be avoided and kept securely away from your pet. Baking soda carpet fresheners can even act as irritants for a cats lungs and cause the symptoms of asthma. Using natural pet safe cleaning products can make the home clean and are safer.  Regular soap and water are usually enough to clean and for heavy cleaning issues, using dilute bleach solution if a surface is bleach-safe can handle the cleanup job.


Clean Food and Water Dishes

Pet bowls are the fourth most germ-contaminated item in the home by NSF International, after countertops, cutting boards, and faucet handles. When pets eat and drink from their dishes, their saliva transmits bacteria. The bowls need to be cleaned properly so that bacteria doesn’t grow and cause illness in your pets. You should wash pet food bowls every day between meals and water bowls every day or two ideally. If food is often left in the bowl, cleaning the pets bowls more frequently will avoid high bacterial growth. Automated watering bowls need to be looked after closely to prevent mold or algae. Mold can make a pet sick, and the filters can get clogged with mold. Replace filters and clean them regularly in automatic water fountains for your pets.


Store Pet Food Properly

Your pet should not be expected to eat food that’s been sitting out for two days. If you don’t eat food that’s been sitting out overnight, you can assume that’s risky for your pet as well. Dry dog food can become contaminated with salmonella. Younger and older adults, and those with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to severe stomach illness salmonella poisoning can cause.  Dry pet food should always be stored in airtight containers and opened cans of wet food need to be refrigerated for food safety. Room temperature wet food is a breeding ground for bacteria. If you have a pet is on a raw diet or is fed raw foods, cleaning all food surfaces and dishes is even more essential. Never store pet food outside or in a garage or carport area as open pet food will attract rodents.


Keep Pet Bedding and Toys Clean

A pet’s bed is where fur, dirty, dander and even flea and ticks can find a nice cozy spot in your home to make your pet and you miserable. Clean pet bedding minimizes allergens and can help your dog or cat have healthy skin and prevent flea or tick infestations. You should vacuum pet beds and only a week or when necessary washing the bed in hot water and drying at high heat for at least 20 minutes can reduce any hygiene and health issues. A cat bed should be vacuumed weekly or have a lint roller used on its surface regularly to pick up fur and dander. Remember to wash and sanitize your pets toys regularly. Soft toys can be washed in the washing machine like bedding, and many toys are even dishwasher safe. Replace damaged pet toys that can present a choking hazard and a dilute bleach solution can be used to clean other pet toys that cannot be sanitized in the washer or dishwasher.


Flea and Tick Prevention

Flea and tick prevention by bathing or topical medications is essential for your pet’s health and yours.  A good flea and tick regimen can also prevent Lyme disease and halt the spread Bartonellosis, also referred to as cat-scratch fever.

Cats are asymptomatic but humans who contract it can have redness and a wound infection where they contracted the bacteria and have other symptoms like fever, lethargy, and headache. Essential oils and ultrasonic devices do not prevent flea and tick infestations so while a DIY natural route might be preferred; it is not going to protect your pets or home. Washing a dog’s paws after walks also helps minimize parasites and bacteria that can come in with your dog after playing in the yard or going for a walk.


Vacuum Regularly

If anyone in your home has asthma or any allergies, regular vacuuming can help reduce allergens. Not only can people be allergic to pet dander, but dogs and cats can be allergic to dust mites and mold like their owners. Vacuuming reduces allergens in the environmen. All residents of your home breathe easier. Pet owners should steam clean their carpets every six to 12 months to kill bacteria, dust mites, and fleas. Renting a steam cleaner is an affordable way to deep clean your carpets and make your home air quality cleaner.



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