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There are all kinds of nasty little things you or your visitors can inadvertently drag into your home on your shoes, like Parvo.
To help keep your puppies safe, it's important to have a biosafety protocol in place. With some of these microbes, once they are in your home or kennel, they are really, really hard to get rid of. So your best bet is to just keep them out in the first place.
My main biosafety measure is to use a qualified disinfectant on any shoes that enter your home. That means a disinfectant that has been proven in laboratory tests to kill pathogens, especially parvo (these are called parvocides).
While I love essential oils and natural solutions for many things, there are none that I've seen any independent laboratory studies that show they are a proven parvocide (if someone knows of such a study, I'd love to hear about it). So, until we have some proof, please don't risk your puppies.
And just because a disinfectant is effective, that doesn't mean it's unsafe or full of harsh chemicals. There are many that are, but the one I'm going to talk about here is hydrogen peroxide based and assuming you don't drink it or get it in your eyes, is one of the safer options out there.
What We Use
It's important to know what it means to be a disinfectant so that you can select the right kind of product.
There are a few terms you should know so you can pick the correct product. These are categories that are defined clearly by the FDA and EPA, so be sure to use a product category that fits your needs.
Cleaning product. A cleaning product simply removes dirt (or in our business, often poop). This is basically soap and elbow grease. You can use soap and elbow grease all day long, but that won't necessarily kill pathogens to the level you want for peace of mind and puppy health (which is Disinfecting).
Sanitizing product. A sanitizing product will reduce the number of pathogens to an acceptable level. This is basically what you do if you use a clorox wipe in your kitchen after working with raw meat.
Disinfecting product. A disinfectant kills or inactivates pathogens (not including bacterial spores, such as the ones that cause Anthrax). Rescue i
Sterilization. Sterilization kills everything. Please be aware that it's impossible to truly sterilize surfaces in your home and kennel. This refers more to the type of sterilization that's done on surgical tools before use (and interestingly, most operating rooms are cleaned only to the level of sanitization, but that's another story...).
So what we want to look for is a disinfecting product that includes proof it disinfects parvo and distemper. A good kennel disinfectant will list on the label the pathogens it kills. Note that FDA doesn't allow companies to claim that their disinfectants kill parasites, so you won't see that type of claim on a label.
We use Rescue (formerly Accel), which is an accelerated hydrogen peroxide disinfectant.
It's as safe as we can find, much safer than bleach-based disinfectants, Parvocide 99, or Trifectant. (Just be sure to follow directions and keep it out of your eyes and mouth and wash your hands after using so you don't accidentally get it in your eyes or mouth. And the concentrate can irritate your skin if left on undiluted, so rinse if it gets on you. As with any chemical, call poison control immediately if you do, they will tell you what to do.)
Rescue is also safe for your dogs and puppies, when used correctly, with no GHS classifications (that's good) for skin sensitization, reproductive toxicity, offspring development, sexual function and fertility, lactation, or germ cell mutagenicity.
The label gives dilutions, such as 64:1 and 128:1, but that's always a pain to calculate when you have puppies pulling on your pants, the phone ringing, and someone at the door. Or even on a good day. Math is not something most of us love to figure out. So here's my cheat sheet for dilutions. Print it and post it where you make your disinfecting solutions!
Use the label below and first measure out the amount of water you want to use (top row, so that would be cup, liter, etc). THEN add the amount of rescue for your required dilution. If you add the rescue first, you'll get a ton of foam.
You need to give the Rescue time to work, so don't just spray it on and wipe it dry. In most cases we let it air dry, but when we do wipe it up we wait the recommended amount of time.
How to Use Rescue Concentrate
Rescue comes in a ready-to-use liquid, a concentrate, and wipes. We always keep the wipes around in case we need them, but they are pricier, as is the ready-to-use, so we use the concentrate as much as possible.
The tricky part of the concentrate is knowing how to dilute it, how long it lasts, and how long to keep it on a surface for disinfecting. That's on the label, but it's hard to work through, so let's go over that here. Please just note that I am basing this on the label on the bottle I currently have and if you get a different product or the company changes the label, this might not be accurate, so please check your label.
I emailed Virox, the maker of Rescue, a couple of years ago and they told me to use a dilution of 1:16 for a disinfecting foot bath and to refresh it daily or more frequently if it gets cloudy oe contaminated. They also said to be careful with wet shoes as surfaces can become slippery, which is good advice since you don't want someone suing you for slipping in your house or kennel.
Where and When to Use It
We use Rescue to clean our puppy pens, crates, toys, all of the floors in our house, and we use a disinfecting mat at the door. We use this mat.
It holds about 1/2 gallon of liquid and we use the 1:16 dilution, per the Virox recommendation. There are other mats that are more like sponges you step on, but we have found the one with the little nubbiest also helps get any debris off shoes so microbes have fewer places to hide.
We refresh the solution in the mat daily, and everyone needs to step in it to come inside. Again, take care with people slipping on wet shoes. You can provide a mat to help dry shoes.
We put our rescue solution in 1-liter pressure spray bottles around the house so that we can disinfect any time we need.
We also keep Rescue in a 1-liter pressure sprayer in our car in case we go to any dog-heavy areas, like a pet shop or a boarding kennel.
Need more help?
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