Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Spring Clean

Now is a good time to clean, refresh or replace your pet’s paraphernalia, from crates to grooming tools -- and everything in between

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

It’s spring! Time to throw open the windows, let out stale air and give everything a thorough scrub -- including pet care equipment. Crates, collars, litter boxes, hairbrushes, dishes and more may need a good cleaning, or repair or replacement if they’re looking faded, dirty, chipped or generally beat up. Spend a weekend on the following tasks to refresh pet belongings, then clean them regularly throughout the year.

-- Carriers, crates and beds. I noticed recently that my car was smelling a little doggy. Even though my dogs are bathed weekly, the linings of their car carriers aren’t always, and that can cause odor to linger. Plus, clean carriers are more pleasant for pets to ride in.

Unzip plush or faux sheepskin linings and run them through the washing machine, following manufacturer directions. Depending on their size and style, you can also throw in dog beds (or their covers) and soft, drooled-on chew toys. Use the bulky setting. A weekly wash in hot water with scent-free detergent will help to ensure death to parasites or their eggs, as well as odors. If beds can’t go in the washing machine, go over them every time you vacuum.

Whether your pet has a hard plastic crate or a soft carrier, use a hand vac to remove any crumbs or hair. Then scrub the interior with warm water and mild, unscented dish soap. (It’s best to avoid overwhelming sensitive pet noses with scented cleansers, even if they smell nice to us.)

Rinse thoroughly to remove residue that could irritate your pet’s skin. If the carrier needs a deeper clean because your pet threw up or had an accident in it, wipe it down with a mixture of a half cup of bleach and a gallon of water. Wait at least five minutes before rinsing thoroughly with plain water. Air dry linings, bedding, toys, crates and carrier completely outdoors for that fresh, sun-kissed scent.

-- Collars and leashes. Whether your pet’s collar and leash are made of nylon, leather or some other material, there’s a good chance they need to be cleaned. I wiped down Harper’s leather leash recently with a baby wipe because it had been dragging on the ground, and it came away filthy. Collars may be stained with skin oil and dirt. Keeping them clean not only looks more attractive and smells better, it also helps to keep pet skin and fur healthy.

Remove tags, then wash nylon collars and leashes in warm water with mild, unscented dish soap. Use Woolite for delicate collars with embroidery or other adornments. Let collars air dry completely before putting them back on your pet.

Clean leather items with saddle soap or Murphy’s Oil Soap and hot water. Wipe with a clean, dry cloth, and let the collar or leash dry flat. Rub with baseball glove oil, neatsfoot oil or a leather boot oil and buff dry with a clean cloth. Replace collars or leashes that look frayed or have broken hardware.

-- Litter boxes. Scoop at least twice daily. Dump litter every couple of weeks, and scrub the box with warm water and mild, scent-free dish detergent before replacing with fresh litter. Replace the box at least annually; plastic absorbs odors.

-- Food and water bowls. Wash food bowls in hot, soapy water after every meal or run them through the dishwasher on the sanitize setting. Refill water bowls daily, after giving them a wash, too. Replace chipped ceramic bowls or battered plastic dishes. Chipped or damaged areas can harbor bacteria that contribute to pet acne or other infections.

-- Grooming tools. Clean combs and brushes weekly or after every use in warm, soapy water. Dry thoroughly, bristles sideways or down, in the sun, especially if the item has wood parts. Clean pet toothbrushes after each use in hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly.


Fizz up? Not for

pet wounds

Q: I always used hydrogen peroxide to clean my pet’s scrapes or minor wounds, but I was told recently that’s bad for their skin. Is that true? If it is, how should I clean and disinfect scrapes or cuts?

A: Lots of us grew up watching the satisfying fizz when mom pulled out a splinter and cleaned the wound with hydrogen peroxide. Since it is used in some instances for making pets vomit when they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t, it seems like it would be a good choice for cleaning wounds as well to prevent infection.

The reason it’s not is because it can damage living tissue and delay healing. To clean most minor wounds, the best thing to do is to sluice the area with warm tap water or warm saline solution to remove any dirt and debris. Other good cleansers include povidone-iodine or a dilute solution of chlorhexidine.

You can, however, use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect minor wounds if you dilute it first. The proportions are 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 3 parts water.

What not to use? Definitely avoid witch hazel and alcohol, which sting like crazy. Tea tree oil is another substance that should not be applied to wounds. It and other essential oils can be harmful to pets when applied topically or given orally, especially at full strength.

Ask your veterinarian what he or she recommends to apply to wounds for healing. You might be surprised to learn that often the answer is “nothing.” Ointments and creams can sometimes interfere with healing. And it’s best to avoid antibiotic creams or ointments made for human use. While you might not lick or chew at your wound -- at least, I hope you don’t -- your dog or cat will. Ingesting some of these products isn’t good for them. -- Dr. Marty Becker

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Pets important

for senior health

-- It was the year of the coronapet. Between March 2020 and January 2021, 10% of all people between the ages of 50 and 80 brought home a pet, according to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation with support from AARP and Michigan Medicine. An update to an April 2019 report by the poll team, it found that older adults say having a pet helps them enjoy life, reduce stress, have a sense of purpose, stick to a routine, be physically active and connect with other people. Of older adults polled in 2019 who lived alone or were in fair or poor health, nearly 75% reported that their pet helped them cope with physical or emotional symptoms.

-- Warmer weather is bringing out hungry black-legged or deer ticks. They’re actively seeking a blood meal from white-tailed deer, dogs or humans, followed by a little romance to produce eggs that hatch into larvae to continue the life cycle. Protect yourself and your dog by performing a thorough tick check after hikes. Ticks are everywhere, year-round, so ask your veterinarian about the most effective tick preventive for your area and your pet’s lifestyle -- as well as a lesson on how to remove them without spreading Lyme or other tick-borne diseases.

-- Cats are popular in proverbs, in particular for their ability to bring good luck. A Scottish proverb avows that a strange black cat on your porch brings prosperity. Italians believe that a cat sneezing is a good omen for anyone who hears it. An English proverb states that if a black cat makes his home with you, you will have good luck. Another English folk saying is that if the cat in a home is black, the family’s daughters will have plenty of boyfriends. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.