Welcome to the second installment of the “Germaphobe Chronicles,” which covers the secretly gross objects hiding in plain sight around your house. Because no matter how fanatically you clean, a few places still play host to a myriad of bacteria. And these unchecked organisms could make you and your loved ones sick, whether those beloved family members are human or animal.
Yup, you might be surprised to learn that one of the main places in your home that can act as a germ superspreader is your dog’s bed.
“The Environmental Health Department at the University of Arizona has named dog beds one of the top germ spots inside a home because of the bacteria, MRSA (a type of staph bacteria), and fecal matter that can be found there if left unkempt,” says Sarah Jameson of Green Building Elements.
So we’re covering everything you need to know about the gross factor of the place where your dog curls up to dream. And we spoke with several dog germ experts to discover every last detail when it comes to keeping Fido’s favorite sleep spot a clean and healthy retreat.
The health risks of a dirty dog bed
We’ve all seen the things dogs like to get into (trash and dead animals, to name a few), so it isn’t surprising that their beds become a fairground for potentially harmful bacteria.
Besides a host of other bacteria you might not be able to pronounce, you could also find fleas, mites, ringworms, salmonella, and listeria there, according to Jameson.
Germs and bacteria are an unhealthy risk for you, and a soiled dog bed could also be problematic for your pup.
“Fecal matter is likely to be on a dirty dog bed, even if you can’t see it,” says veterinarian Michelle Lugones, of Best Friends Animal Society. “If a dog has gastrointestinal parasites, the feces may carry giardia, roundworms, or hookworms. Some of these can be transmitted to people and other pets. Likewise, if a dog has fleas or ticks, they may also be on that bed.”
The lowdown on washing your dog’s bed
Regularly washing your dog’s bed is essential, given how gross it gets. But how often should you wash it?
“It typically takes an average of two weeks for dog beds to be infested with germs,” says Jameson. “However, this could also depend on how long your dog spends outside.”
The best way to keep your pooch healthy is by including their bed in your regular cleaning regimen.
“Deep-wash your dog’s bed on the same day you change your bedsheets to establish some habit or routine around it,” suggests Jameson. “And opt for a lighter clean, like vacuum or sponge down, once a week.”
How to keep your dog’s bed clean
Does washing your dog’s bed as much as your bed sheets sound like a lot? Then there are a few things you can do to keep a dog’s bed cleaner for longer and possibly squeeze a few extra days out of your cleaning schedule.
First, wipe their paws every time they come in the house. The less dirt they bring in, the less often you’ll have to give their bed a deep clean.
Ditto for their fur. Use pet wipes after every walk, and don’t forget to give them a good brushing as recommended by your vet.
Pick the right dog bed
You can also ditch your current dog bed and start fresh.
“Make cleaning your dog’s bed easy and practical by using one that’s easy to wash,” says Lugones. “This may mean using a simple folded up cotton blanket that you can thoroughly clean and skipping on one from the pet store that may not be so functional from a hygienic perspective.”
When looking for a new bed, choose one with a cover you can easily wash every few weeks.
Or consider fashioning your own cover if you have a fancy dog bed that won’t fit in the laundry machine. You could use a plush blanket or towel that you can swap out once the fabric gets dirty.
How to wash your dog bed
“The best approach to deep-cleaning your dog bed involves soaking it in hot water and leaving it for half an hour,” says Jameson. “Baking soda is a great natural ingredient to eliminate odors. And use mild soap instead of detergents, given that dogs may develop allergic reactions.”
If the bed is too large to soak, wash Fido’s bed by hand.
And remember, the best cleaning regimen is the one you’ll stick with regularly.
“Forming a routine or habit around cleaning your dog bed is the best way to reduce the chances of germ infections significantly,” says Jameson. “Find a schedule that truly works for you.”