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We finally made it to spring and the sun is shining, bees are buzzing and birds are chirping. The transition out of winter often inspires people to do a deep cleaning of their home. But this can seem like a daunting task when you have pets, so here are some spring cleaning tips for dog owners:
Spring is a season of shedding. No matter the breed or fur type, all dogs shed their winter coat, which is replaced by a lighter one that allows more air circulation and prevents overheating. Brushing and bathing your dog helps maintain a healthy coat. Brushing is important to remove knots and tangles and prevent matting. Make sure to get the right brush for your pup, as different coats have varying requirements, and bathe your dog using a pet-friendly shampoo. And remember that some dogs will need extra grooming, such as winter breeds and those with double coats.
Pro Tip: If you brush your dog outside, you can avoid fur collecting indoors and allow birds to use the strands for nests.
Your dog's ears may also require extra care during spring. This is because the changing season can cause ear infections and other seasonal allergies that affect your pup's ears. Use a dog ear cleaner (recommended alcohol-free, non-oil based and non-stinging) and wipe excess liquid out of the ears with a rolled up paper towel.
As the weather improves and temperatures rise, people spend more time outdoors with their canine companions. But more outside time, means more grooming. Wipe down your dog with a damp towel or pet-friendly wipe to remove allergens, bacteria, grass, dirt, urine, feces, and other debris. Dogs sweat through their paws and often lick them, so it's important to keep them clean. In addition, wipe downs allow you to check your pup for fleas and ticks.
Pro Tip: Keep pet-friendly paw wipes or a towel by the entrance of your home for easy and immediate wipe downs after time outside.
It's important to clean dog beds regularly, but spring provides a great opportunity to do so. Especially since dogs can bring in extra allergens, dirt and more during this season. Follow the instructions on the bed, as they vary based on materials. That being said, it's recommended you wash the bedding on high heat if possible to kill the most pathogens. If your pet has sensitive skin, use a hypoallergenic detergent and an extra rinse cycle. Also use the highest heat setting to dry any bedding that is safe for the dryer and hang dry any filling or materials that aren't.
Cleaning your dog's food and water bowls regularly is important because they can collect and house a variety of pathogens and bacteria. In fact, a study by the National Safety Federation (NSF) ranked pet bowls as the fourth most germ-filled items in the house. So it's recommended that you wash and sanitize your dog's bowls every day or close to it (and even more frequently for big droolers). Most can go in the dishwasher. But springtime can be good motivation for a deeper clean. To do so, use hot water and a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar.
Pro Tip: Owning several bowls is useful so you always have a clean one for your pup while you're washing others.
According to the same aforementioned NSF study, pet toys ranked seventh on the list of germ-filled items. Because of this, toys should be washed monthly (or more for frequent players) and spring cleaning is a great time to start.
Hard toys, like rubber and rope ones, can usually be placed in the dishwasher. The safest way to wash them is with hot water alone, but you can add white vinegar for extra power. If you choose to wash them by hand, use hot water and a mild soap or white vinegar solution. Allow toys to dry completely before returning to your pup.
Stuffed toys can typically be put in the washing machine on the delicate setting, using a mild detergent or baking soda and white vinegar. If your dog has sensitive skin or allergies, use a hypoallergenic detergent. Make sure to completely dry toys. If you use the dryer, put them on the delicate, low or air-only setting.
Pro Tip: You can wash squeaky toys with any of these methods and they should still work after cleaning.
It's hard to remember that we need to wash our dog's collars, but springtime is a great reminder. Dirty collars can cause chafing, as mud and debris may get caught between them and your dog's fur. This is one reason that regularly washing is recommended, especially after messy walks. Soak collars, leashes and harnesses in warm water with pet shampoo (to avoid skin irritation) for 15 minutes. Let them air dry to avoid damage from the dryer.
Pro Tip: Keep your pet indoors or use a back-up collar during cleaning to make sure he or she stays safe.
Collars aren't the only thing that dogs wear - some wear clothes, especially in the winter. This is an excellent time to clean all the winter clothing your dog wore when it was cold. Most will come with instructions you can follow, but any are machine washable. Just make sure to use the delicate cycle and mild or hypoallergenic detergent. For those that require hand washing, place them in hot water with pet-safe detergent. Air dry to prevent shrinkage and make sure they are completely dry before your dog wears them to avoid skin irritation.
1. Inspect Items
Spring cleaning is a great time to go through and inspect your dog's items. It's best to dispose of anything torn or broken, as it can be a safety hazard. Also throw out anything that has a strong or bad odor (like mildew) that you can't remove by washing. Toss any dog toys that have sharp edges or are so worn down, they're too small for your dog to safely enjoy. Also throw out any weakened or frayed collars, as they can cause irritation or fall off when your dog is out.
2. Dog Perishables
Although pet food and treats last for a while (usually between four months to a few years), they do eventually go bad. Spring is a good time to go through and throw out anything expired.
For example, opened dry food loses its nutritional content when exposed to air for too long, so use it by the expiration date or toss it. Canned food, if unopened and stored properly, can maintain its nutritional value for a year and often more. But toss it if there are punctures, rust or bulging. How long food and treats last depends on the amount of preservatives in them and the quality of the packaging. For instance, organic pet food is low in preservatives and thus expires more quickly.
Pro Tip: Store dog food in air-tight containers to extend its shelf life and maintain nutritional value for longer. Make sure they are stored in a location that is dry and room temperature to avoid the development of mold or rust.
3. Prescriptions & Medications
Like food, medicine also has an expiration date. Although some medications can last a little while after this date, their potency will begin to degrade. Make sure to inspect meds before using and toss any with new or strong odors, discoloration, or changes in consistency. Medication needs to be properly disposed, which your vet or pet store should be able to do. Avoid flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the garbage, as that can impact the environment. The best way to preserve medicine is to store them at the proper temperature (room temperature or refrigerated, as directed), keep them dry and out of direct sunlight.
Pro Tip: Talk to your vet about whether the expired medicine you have is still good. Also use a calendar to mark down when medication will expire.
Going through items doesn't mean you have to either keep or toss them. There is a third option: donate. As long as items are not overused, broken or dangerous in any way, they can make great donations. Many shelters need supplies and will happily accept hand-me-downs. Just make sure to clean anything you plan to donate.
1. Organize Grooming Supplies
This time of the year is great for organizing your items, as well as your dog's. Use a box, bin or other storage device to hold all your dog's grooming tools - from hair cutters to shampoos to nail trimmers and beyond. You can also use this time to create and kickstart a grooming schedule.
2. Organize The Toy Box
Along the same lines, you can also organize your dog's toys. While you're doing it, you can inspect the toys and toss any that are broken or may cause safety issues.
3. Update Your Dog's Tags
Spring brings better weather and many opportunities to spend time outdoors. You may start going on more dog walks, running together, hiking or doing whatever else you two enjoy when it's nice out. But the more time you spend outside, the more chances for your dog to wander off. So make sure to update your dog's microchip and identification tags to increase the chances of reuniting if that does happen. The most important information to have is current contact information.
4. Restock The First-Aid Kit
Dogs are active animals that can be rambunctious, energetic and clumsy. This can lead to accidents, like scrapes or cuts, which may require some first-aid. Spring is a great season to go through your first-aid kit and restock items you're low on.
Pro Tip: If you don't already have a first-aid kit, you can buy one for humans and add items for your dog.
Between the increased shedding and extra grooming you may be doing during this season, it's likely that you have fur all over your home. Vacuums that are specifically designed for pets can do wonders. Not only can they clean up pet hair and dander, they can help you cut down the time you spend doing the chore. Another option is buying a robot vacuum, which runs on its own so you can do other tasks. Just make sure to clean out the filter after its done running.
2. Use A Microfiber Mop
Sometimes, vacuums don't do a sufficient job picking up pet hair, dander or dust. This can be a particular problem on hardwood or laminate flooring. In this case, you can try using a microfiber mop or Swiffer that uses static cling to grasp particles.
3. Remove Dog Hair From Upholstery
Removing dog hair and fluff from upholstery can be a frustrating task. Fortunately, there is a trick. Put on rubber gloves, make them slightly wet or damp and then slide your hand along the fabric. This should collect most or all of the fur. You can use this method on furniture, drapes and more. For larger surfaces, try a rubber squeegee for the same effect.
4. Try Non-Toxic Cleaners
Spring cleaning is a big task that warrants the best and most effective cleaners. But these often have ingredients that can affect our pets and some are even toxic to them. To avoid risking any harm, you can use non-toxic and pet-friendly cleaners. If you find that those aren't doing the trick, you can use stronger ones and just be careful with them. Try keeping your dog occupied in another room while you're cleaning and make sure all cleaners have dried before letting your dog near them. Clean up any and all spills quickly and store them in a place your pets can't access.