What item do you grab numerous times a day but rarely, if ever, wash? Your dog’s leash. You head out for a walk every day holding a leash that is teeming with germs. “In the summertime, especially, we increase our chances of spreading bacteria not only to our dog, but to ourselves as well,” explains Jocelyn Kessler, dog specialist and author of The Secret Language of Dogs. Think of all the bacteria that start on your hands, plus what is already on the leash from dragging on the ground and from being in your dog’s mouth. All of these germs amplify once outside in the summer heat. Leashes of nylon, fabric and or rope are usually the worst culprits, and can eventually become Petri dishes that could infect both our dogs and us. “Bacteria such as Campylobacteriosis or E. Coli will start to breed, and there is no limit to where it can end up,” warns Kessler.
If your leash has been around a high bacteria area, like the dog park, there is an increased risk of fecal contamination. This can make your dog very sick if she puts the leash in her mouth. The easiest way to avoid spreading germs from your leash is to wash it once a week. Kessler suggests the following technique: “Fill the sink with exceptionally hot water and combine about a cup of apple cider vinegar and 3 tablespoons of tea tree oil. Let the leash soak for about 20 minutes or so, then rinse thoroughly and let dry.” Of course your dog’s leash and collar go hand-in-hand. Since you rarely take the collar off, it collects bacteria easily. Kessler recommends “replacing the collar once every two months if it’s made of nylon, rope or fabric, even if you are washing it regularly. The collar sits directly on the skin, and therefore the transfer of bacteria is much higher. This also will help to eliminate skin allergies and infections.”
While it’s true that you should pay attention to your pup’s leash and collar, his water bowl is one other area that deserves some cleaning care. “The safest water bowls are either stainless steal or ceramic, as they allow the least amount of bacterial growth,” says Kessler. “We so often allow our dogs to drink out of community water bowls and/or dog park water bowls, but they should be avoided if at all possible.” Cleaning your water bowls daily, either in the dishwasher or with a natural soap, will stop the growth of bacteria.
Just as we protect ourselves from germs with constant cleaning and hand washing, we must also take precautions with our dogs. Safeguarding them by cleaning their leashes, bowls and collars will make for a healthy and happier pet!
Stacey Brecher is a freelance writer. She has contributed to Animal Fair magazine, and her blogs have previously appeared on The Dog Daily.