The Fur–1–1 on Sanitation
By Kelly Harrison DVM, MS
Edited by Brian DiGangi DVM, MS, DABVP
In order to keep our furry friends safe, proper cleaning and disinfection is of utmost importance. We now know that the order in which we use products can make a difference in the efficacy of our cleaning regimen. Additionally, variables that are specific to each product, such as contact time, can influence the success of a disinfection protocol. With so many products on the market, it can be somewhat confusing as to which is the right choice for your business. First, assessing which diseases your fuzzy clients are most susceptible to is an important factor in deciding on a disinfectant. Once this is established, a thorough investigation as to which product provides the greatest level of protection is the next step. Finally, a basic understanding of how each product works is crucial for keeping our critters happy, healthy, and coming back as repeat clients.
After our discussion from The Fur-1-1 on Sanitation: Part 1, we learned the basic strategies for proper cleaning, but how exactly do we go about selecting the right disinfectant? Below are some considerations:
- Which diseases are most likely to be present in my work place, and is the disinfectant we are interested in efficacious against those particular diseases?
- What type of surface(s) will be cleaned, and is the cleaner known to leave toxic residues or cause corrosive damage to those particular surfaces?
- How many steps are involved in the cleaning process? Does the disinfectant require a detergent first? Then a thorough rinse? Then a squeegee?
- Does the product require mixing? If so, how difficult is it to create appropriate concentrations of the disinfectant that are both safe and effective?
- What is the ease of application and storage of the product?
- What is the contact time of the product?
- What is the shelf life of the product?
- What is the cost?
- What are the risks? Is there safety and toxicity information available for both humans and animals?
Before delving in, let’s briefly touch on the concept of enveloped versus non-enveloped viruses. You may encounter this terminology when searching disinfection products designed for use with our pets. Simply put, these two terms are used to describe the structure of a virus. Commonly seen viruses are often broken down into the categories enveloped and non-enveloped. Enveloped viruses include Canine Distemper Virus, Herpes Virus, Canine Parainfluenza Virus, Rabies Virus, Canine Influenza Virus, Feline Leukemia Virus, and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Non-enveloped viruses include Canine Parvovirus, Canine Adenovirus, Feline Panleukopenia, and Feline Calicivirus. This language will be important when we classify specific cleaning agents as effective against enveloped viruses, non-enveloped viruses, or both. In general, non-enveloped viruses are more difficult to kill, so knowing which products are effective against them is essential.
Let’s start off with a common cleaning product everyone is familiar with: household bleach. Bleach is readily available, cost effective, and can eliminate non-enveloped viruses with 10 minutes of contact time. It is also a great example of why knowing and understanding concentration is so important. In general, bleach is used at a ratio of one part bleach to 32 parts water for everyday cleaning. This equates to a half cup of bleach per gallon of water. At this concentration, bleach is effective against most bacteria, enveloped viruses, and non-enveloped viruses. However, this concentration is ineffective at killing ring worm spores. In the face of ringworm, a dilution of 1:10 (bleach to water) is required. Understanding the importance of concentration and ensuring the correct dilution is properly attained is critical for a successful disinfection program.
So what are some of the downsides? Bleach requires the application of a detergent followed by a thorough rinsing and drying prior to its use as a disinfectant. Additionally, bleach can be corrosive over time, depending on the surface. If used at inappropriate concentrations, bleach can also causes severe irritation to the airways of both humans and animals. Finally, a bleach solution must be made up daily, as bleach is unstable in water and is inactivated by organic debris (e.g. food, feces, blood, etc.), detergents, and sunlight.
Quaternary ammonium compounds are another class of disinfectants. This class of disinfectants includes compounds such as Roccal®, Parvosol®, and Kennel-Sol®. Quaternary ammonium compounds are effective against enveloped viruses and are bactericidal. They also have some fungicidal activity, but despite label claims, it is well documented that they are ineffective against non-enveloped viruses. This is an important consideration depending upon the goals of your cleaning and disinfection protocol. Many quaternary ammonium compounds contain detergents and must be diluted according to manufacturer’s directions.
Similar to other disinfectants, quaternary ammonium compounds are inactivated by organic matter and require 10 minutes of contact time for maximal efficacy. It is important to know that quaternary ammonium compounds carry the potential risk for chemical burns if they are not thoroughly removed from surfaces following disinfection. They are, however, cost effective, readily available, and fragrant.
Another category of disinfectants are known as oxidizing agents. Examples include products such as Trifectant®and Virkon S®. Oxidizing agents are broad spectrum, killing both bacteria and viruses, including non-enveloped viruses. These products also contain a detergent, eliminating the need for a separate cleaning product. Although areas should be properly cleared, oxidizing agents maintain some efficacy in the presence of small amounts of organic debris. Oxidizing agents have a longer shelf life in comparison to bleach; however, they are more costly. Contact time is manufacturer dependent but is typically 10 minutes.
Finally, accelerated hydrogen peroxides (Accel ®, Oxy-Sept 333, Oxivir) are another option when it comes to choosing a disinfectant. These single-step products contain a patented formula combining low levels of hydrogen peroxide with a detergent. Accelerated hydrogen peroxides are more effective in the face of organic matter in comparison to other compounds and often have shorter contact time requirements—around five minutes. Importantly, they are effective against non-enveloped viruses. Also more expensive than bleach, these products may cost more upfront but have the potential to make your business run more efficiently, leaving more time to concentrate on our furry counterparts.
While we have only scratched the surface, choosing a disinfectant that is right for your business can seem overwhelming at first glance. Initially, the creation of a risk assessment based on your client’s individual needs will guide your decision making. The next step is a thorough investigation as to which product provides the greatest level of protection all while considering additional factors such as ease of use, number of steps, the potential for toxic adverse events, and cost. By simply doing our research, we can better serve our furry friends by providing them with a happy and healthy environment, all while safely protecting them from the spread of harmful disease.
Dr. Kelly Harrison received a Master of Science degree in 2008 and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 2012 from the University of Florida. Following graduation, Dr. Harrison completed a one year internship, specializing in shelter medicine, at the University of Florida. Her professional interests include improving the overall standards of care and well-being of shelter animals; high quality, high volume spay-neuter, and behavioral health strategies for animals living within a shelter environment. Currently, Dr. Harrison is a part-time Clinical Instructor with the Veterinary Community Outreach Program at the University Of Florida College Of Veterinary Medicine.