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  • Pam Llewellyn

Keep Your Dog Healthy!

On the Rachel Ray show a while back, there was a nice segment with two vets sharing tips on keeping your pet's environment clean and healthy. It's worth taking just a few minutes to look at. I'm copying the article from her website, but if you go to the link, you'll be able to see the video.


Married couple, veterinarians and hosts of the NatGeo Wild show "Heartland Docs, DVM," Drs. Erin and Ben Schroeder, stole our hearts when they were on our show last. They also brought some super cute exotic pets with them.

Now, the Heartland Docs are sharing preventative pet safety tips for those of us who have cats or dogs at home, based on their own experiences as veterinarians. (Translation: These cleaning tips could help you avoid unnecessary trips to the vet!)

Read on for their advice on how to keep your furry family member safe by avoiding common hazards to their health.

1. Get a chew-proof, waterproof cover for your pet's bed — or simply cover with a pillowcase.

The docs recommend getting a removable cover for your pet's bed that can easily be taken off, washed, and put back on. While sometimes the beds themselves are washable, be careful of loose fill, which can bunch up in the wash and be uncomfortable for your pet, Erin says. In a pinch, you can also use a pillowcase to cover your pet's bed.

2. Use scent-free, additive-free detergent or soap that is safe for babies.

In the event that your pet soils the bed, whether you're putting it in the wash or washing by hand, you want to use detergent that is safe for babies, Erin says. "Scent-free, additive-free, we don't want the pets to have so much fragrance. And any sort of chemical that's going to irritate their paws, their mouth… They're licking on their beds, they snuggle into them, so we want to keep it nice and safe."

3. Clean non-fabric toys in the dishwasher.

You can (and should!) put non-fabric toys in the dishwasher, Ben says. "Sanitize them, and you're done. We do these about once a week or whenever needed."

4. Put fabric toys in the washing machine.

As long as the toy doesn't have any holes, you can throw your pet's fabric toys in the washing machine at the same time as you're washing the bed or bed cover.

Bonus Safety Tip: While we're on the topic of pet toys, did you know that the opening in a toilet paper roll is about exactly the size of the throat of an animal, according to Ben? So you want to make sure that your pet's toys are bigger than that hole, to prevent choking hazards or accidental swallowing.

5. Clean out your cat's litter box regularly using a diluted disinfectant.

Ben recommends scooping out your cat's litter box every day. You should also disinfect it regularly, and when you do, Ben says you can use the same disinfectant at home that they use in the clinic. Just make sure to dilute it properly, using a dilution of one part bleach or vinegar to ten parts water, he stresses. "These little tiny lungs, these sensitive feet, they get very irritated very fast."

"You always want to wear gloves," Erin adds, "anytime you're dealing with fecal matter you want to protect yourself."

6. Always have two sets of stainless steel food + water dishes for your pet.

Stainless steel is Erin's favorite material for your pet's food and water bowls. They don't harbor bacteria, they're easy to clean and they're sturdy and hard to break, she points out. While plastic bowls are often cute, "those are porous, and they can harbor bacteria which can cause contact dermatitis with the chin, the ears, skin folds." The docs also recommend having two sets of dishes, so that even when one is in the wash, the other is always available for your pet to use.

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