Orex in his baby blue doggles for dusty and brush situations
Most people will look at this article and the first thought is, “I won’t need to do that.” Sorry, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Have you ever thought about what is on the sidewalk or driveway or grass your dog walks in? In winter there is road salts in the summer you have no idea what chemicals have been spewed and where they have fallen – think wind drift. Think your neighbor’s weed free, bright green lawn. You don’t have to be the source for chemicals to land on your grass or property. Your dog runs, plays, practices obedience and then comes in and flops in the corner. After a few minutes, listen and you will hear it licking its feet. If you haven’t decontaminated, all those chemicals just got ingested.
Hopefully it won’t be a problem; the amount will be so small you won’t have to worry. Just in case you are interested, keep reading. Decontaminating your dog’s feet is really pretty easy.
How to Decontaminate
I got exposure to decontaminate my dog at a USAR (Urban Search And Rescue) aka disaster search training. It was pretty straight forward. Get 3 kiddy pools, mix a solution of Dawn dish liquid or Prell shampoo and water in each. Walk the dog in the first one, work the solution in and around his pads and toes, walk him out and hose his feet off, into the second pool and repeat the process, then the third. After each pool, the amount of contamination was reduced. Since the contamination was left in the pool, we didn’t return and re-use a pool as it would have negated the effectiveness of our cleaning. Most of us walked into the pool with our boots, so we weren’t tracking the contamination out into the rest area or changed foot gear as soon as we were out of the search site.
Having 3 kiddy pools and doing the walk through to decontaminate a single dog can have logistical issues. If it is just the feet that need cleaning, a bucket and solution, which is dumped and rinsed, works just as well.
If you have been in nasty air situations, decontaminate with baby wipes around their nostrils, muzzle and eyes. We have worked with the dogs to wear doggles in dense brush or dusty atmospheres but plain and simple, they hate it. Here are the FEMA guidelines if you really are in a bad place. If you think you will need this on a regular basis, start desensitizing your dog to people in full decontamination suits ASAP.
Use your own judgment on washing the dog’s coat. Certainly coming off a disaster site the coats will be wiped down if not hosed off. Just remember if you soak the coat to the skin, you have to dry it to the skin to prevent irritation, rashes and fungal development.
When to Decontaminate Your Dog
Pretty straight forward – when you think they have walked somewhere contaminated with harsh chemicals. Technically, according to software for veterinary telemedicine visits, most cleaning products are chemical based so I am not advocating decontaminating your dog if it walks across your freshly mopped floor. Certainly I would decontaminate your dog’s feet if you think it has been around, weed killer, chemical grass fertilizer, anti-freeze, motor oil, rodent treatments, bleach, etc. If in doubt, decontaminate. The cost and time is minimal compared to treatments to heal/save the dog. The effectiveness of those treatments is limited and reduces the longer the chemical works on the dog’s system before being neutralized.
Who Should Decontaminate Their Dogs?
Everyone should be prepared to decontaminate their dog. This is not limited to working dogs like police, fire and search and rescue dogs. It is not a difficult process and does not cost a lot of money. I would recommend you get your dog comfortable with the process long before you need it. Trying to decontaminate a squirming, upset dog is no fun.
Train Your Dog to Accept Being Decontaminated
The easiest way I know to train a dog to accept the process is start outside where splashing soapy water isn’t a problem. Make it a fun game with a reward after each foot is washed, rinsed, and dried. Make sure you play with toes and nails. An upside to this is the dog gets so used to their feet being handled that trimming nails and removing burrs is a breeze. My dogs are to the point if I say “foot” and touch a leg, they hand me their paw to work on
When it rains and your dog gets the nickname “muddy paws” practice your decontamination skills. It will save your house and keep your dog comfortable if you have to decontaminate.