How to clean a veterinary cage: Harder than you think!
By Amy Newfield, CVT, VTS (ECC)
The cage at the veterinary hospital is a hotbed of dirt and disease. I personally have had experience where a parvovirus puppy was hospitalized at a hospital and at discharge the cage was not properly cleaned. Fast forward one day later when another puppy with kennel cough was hospitalized in the same cage. The kennel cough puppy came down with parvovirus only one week later after it had visited the hospital. Likely it had contracted it by being in the same cage the parvo puppy had just 24 hours earlier.
• Wear Gloves! I often see veterinary team members cleanings cages with their bare hands. Veterinary patients carry plenty of zoonotic diseases, not to mention that bare-handling poop, urine or vomit is gross! You may think they left the cage “clean”, but they were walking outside at the veterinary hospital which is a landmine of poop and urine. Yes, I do know a technician who got roundworms. Wear gloves when you clean any cage!
• How many sides do you need to clean? All of them! There are SIX sides to all cages: Four walls inside the cage (left, right, top, bottom) and then the front of the door and the inside (back) of the door.
• After you have put on gloves, grab paper towels and your hospital’s disinfectant.
• Spray down ALL six sides of the cage. Remember that if you are spraying the front or back of the cage door make sure the spray doesn’t get sprayed into a neighboring cage where a pet is housed. You may need to soak the paper towel with the disinfectant and then wipe down the bars of the cage door.
• Remember that you need to clean ALL areas of the cage. The corners in the large dog run (mopping the floor of a big kennel is a step that can be done in lieu of spraying), ALL the bars of a big cage (top to bottom), the latches and the handles.
• Wait! Each disinfectant requires a certain amount of contact time. Too many times I see a veterinary team member spray and immediately wipe, not allowing for any contact time. Please check with the manufacturer of the disinfectant or read the instructions on the disinfectant to see what the appropriate contact time for the product you have in the hospital.
• Wipe up the residual or spray again to remove “streaking” that the disinfectant left on the first spray.
• Close the cage door and it’s ready for the next patient!
While there are not many steps, the steps that get often missed are:
• Cleaning all 6 sides (the door or top of the cage is often missed or barely done yet that’s where pets put their noses through, paws through and breathe on)
• Wearing gloves
• Contact time
Cleaning a cage properly takes 5-20 minutes depending on your disinfectant’s contact time and the size of the cage. While it is easy to rush through the process, please remember the story of the parvo puppy. Proper cleaning would have prevented the second puppy from contracting parvo from the cage. It’s simple to do, but also one of the tasks that rarely is done properly. Clean cages save lives.