Managing A Healthy Pet Care Facility
By Outstanding Pet Care Learning Center
Any pet care facility’s primary concern and goal should be to keep all pets healthy and happy. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to control the environment in which they are cared for.
The ability to maintain a clean facility that is both disease and odor free effects all levels of proper pet care. On any given day in a pet care facility, many pets will come and go. Prior to pets’ arrivals, you have no real knowledge or control over where they have been or to what they may have previously been exposed. Environmental management is necessary to maintain disease control, have a pleasant environment in which to work, and to have happy pets and happy owners.
It’s unfortunately reasonably common to see occurrences of canine cough and canine influenza making national news. Ensuring your facility has the most up to date information is critical.
Cleaning Products and Equipment
Zoetis recently released their CIV Defense Handbook Canine influenza disease information, tips, and guidelines for clinics and pet owners1. It has an abundance of valuable information to help prevent the spread of CIV, which includes the following cleaning recommendations2,3:
- Clean with a detergent-based product first, then disinfect with bleach (5% NaClO diluted at 1:32 or 1/2 cup/gal).
- Allow 10 minutes’ contact time for disinfectants, followed by thorough drying.
- Surfaces contaminated with feces, urine, vomit, blood, or nasal discharge must first be cleaned with detergent and rinsed before using disinfectant.
- More disinfectant is not better! Overly concentrated disinfectant solutions are damaging to skin, eyes, and respiratory tract, and can worsen disease due to tissue irritation.
- Dedicate separate cleaning supplies, rubber boots, and disposable gowns to each area.
- After handling any dog, disinfect hands with 15-20 seconds of thorough handwashing with soap and water.
The choice a pet care facility owner makes in a disinfectant is critical in terms of safety and effectiveness. Once that choice is made, it’s your responsibility to apply that disinfectant in a proper manner to ensure it is doing the job as intended.
It’s important to follow the directions provided by the manufacturer and to be aware of its potential hazards and to know if it can be mixed safely with other solutions you might be using in the environment.
When cleaning, pay attention to the equipment you are using and that it is being used properly. Improper use can cause urine and fecal matter to become particles in the air, potentially spreading diseases. If a high pressure system is used, dogs should be removed from the general area. And fecal matter should be picked up prior to pressure spraying.
The Importance of Odor Control
No one wants to work, visit, or live in a place that has a strong or offensive odor. In order to promote our businesses and invite pet owners to visit and tour our facilities, we want to make sure our first impression is one that looks and smells good too.
One source of odor comes from urine and fecal matter. Ammonia gas is produced during the breakdown of this matter, causing unpleasant odors and vapor in the air. Allowing waste to accumulate in enclosures will greatly increase ammonia production. A buildup of ammonia may affect an animal’s eyes and lungs. Promptly remove and dispose of urine and fecal matter and follow disinfecting procedures, flushing the area with plenty of fresh water. Be very thorough – soiled areas overlooked during cleaning can continue to be a problem source.
Disinfectant choice and application, combined with good ventilation, play a role in odor control. As your boarding numbers increase, the potential for odors will increase as well. Some things that will help include:
- Good, frequent housekeeping
- Using a good disinfectant
- Keeping enclosures dry
- Keeping enclosures free of urine and feces
- Changing kitty litter boxes often
- Keeping pets dry
- Storing foods properly to prevent spoilage
- Keeping dishes, buckets, and equipment clean
- Keeping sinks and drains clean and clear
If you detect an odor that shouldn’t be there, investigate. Try to find where it’s coming from so you can take care of it. It could be coming from a sick pet!
Provide Proper Ventilation/Cooling/Heating
Many infectious microorganisms are airborne, transferring from animal to animal as they are carried by particles floating in the air. Controlling ambient air, thereby lowering the number of floating particles, reduces the chance that animals will breathe infectious bacteria, viruses and fungi.
To successfully control these particles, keep the air dry. By doing so, the microorganisms will dry up and die. Dry air is difficult to maintain in a pet care facility because of frequent water use, animal respiratory vapors, urine, etc., and a relative humidity that is sometimes like a tropical rain forest.
However, a good ventilation and HVAC system will help decrease the relative humidity through the process of bringing in fresh air and exhausting moist air.
No matter how basic or how sophisticated a ventilation system is, it is only as good as the person operating it and the overall cleanliness of the area to be serviced. To maintain optimal conditions, understand how the HVAC system works and know how to use it. Only then can environmental management make a positive contribution to an overall disease control program.
Maintain Strict Policies on Requiring Current Vaccinations
Every pet entering your facility should have an up-to-date vaccination record.
This record should be presented to you in writing or call the pet’s veterinarian directly to obtain the records. Pets not properly vaccinated are at an increased risk to become ill because they have not built up immunities. By requiring vaccinations and only accepting healthy pets, the facility is protecting all the pets in its care and preventing the spread of illness.
It’s important to know and understand the vaccinations that are required by your facility and the potential strains that they are protecting against.
Enforce a Policy of Accepting Only Clean and Healthy Pets
Another factor in disease control is that of a pre-entry exam. Pets should be checked for external parasites and for any existing abnormalities. An animal that is dirty or infested with external parasites should be groomed and parasite free before entering your facility.
In addition to abnormalities, a visual check of eyes, ears, genitals, and teeth (if can be done safely) should be done. This is to detect a pre-existing or potential problem and it can also provide a baseline of the pet’s health. If you note anything unusual, it can be watched and monitored during the pet’s stay. Always communicate with the owner if you have any concerns or even notice anything that might not be of urgent nature but should be checked.
Once an animal is in the care of your facility, maintain careful monitoring and observation. If a disease or condition manifests itself during the pet’s stay, it will be readily noticed and the necessary steps can be taken to control it. There is also a secondary benefit; by monitoring and spending time with a pet, you will also reduce the pet’s stress level.
Carefully Monitor to Ensure All Pets are Healthy and Happy
A facility that is kept clean, odor-free, has good ventilation, and attentive employees will naturally decrease the amount of stress an animal may have to deal with when entering the facility.
The primary goal of any employee at a pet care facility should be to keep all of the pets in their care healthy and happy. Owners contribute to this by keeping employees educated and happy as well. When employees feel part of a greater purpose, it will show up in their work and contribute to happy and healthy pets, and happy pet owners.
Continued education and training for staff is important to maintain the highest quality of care and keeping the pets in your care happy and healthy. Keep staff focused on:
- Having a good work ethic
- Cleaning and following protocols for the prescribed methods for your facility
- Using proper animal handling techniques to assure everyone’s safety
- Paying attention to the safety and security of all pets in your care
- Being mindful of proper safety and security for the team
- Maintaining good observation, medication and tracking records
- Knowing the importance of vaccination requirements
- Being aware of potential parasites
- Providing proper nutrition
- Monitoring the pets in your care
- Being able to recognize the symptoms of possible illnesses and diseases, accidents, or injuries
- Knowing when to seek proper veterinarian care
- Being capable of administering emergency first aid to an injured pet.
As you already know, caring for pets is a great responsibility. By ensuring we execute these areas well, we’ll be creating a healthy population, and happy pet parents who want to keep coming back and spread the word that your facility is one of the best places to bring pets.
Outstanding Pet Care Learning Center is dedicated to protecting and growing the Pet Care Industry through World-Class Pet Care Training and Education. OPC Learning Center’s curriculum:
- Delivers necessary pet care training in the convenience of your facility,
- Saves training, time and energy of owners and managers
- Provides convenient, technically-advanced format for immediate access
- Offers immediate on-line testing to give you assurance that the material was understood
- Reduces potential injuries to your staff and guests
- Can increase health and happiness of the pets in your care
- Protects you, your staff, and your bottom line
For more about our courses, visit: www.OPCLearningCenter.com
1 Zoetis Inc. CIV Defense Handbook Canine influenza disease information, tips, and guidelines for clinics and pet owners (2016).
2 Crawford C. Canine respiratory infections in animal shelters. Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, 2011. http://sheltermedicine.vetmed.ufl.edu/shelter-services/tools-tips-fact-sheets/canine-influenza/ Accessed January 2016.
3 UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Koret Shelter Medicine Program. Developing infectious disease policies and protocols in an animal shelter. 2012. http://www.sheltermedicine.com/library/developing-infectious-disease-policies-and-protocols-in-an-animal-shelter Accessed January 2016.