Orchard Vet's Blog

Hygiene habits revealed!


Nearly half of pet owners let their furry friends sleep in their bed with them, in spite of a third of pets never being washed according to a recent survey by pet insurance firm Animal Friends.

The survey of 2,000 dog and cat owners, conducted across the UK, reveals some interesting statistics:

  • 18% of pet owners let their cat or dog eat from their family's plates.

  • 32% admit to regularly finding animal hairs in their food.

  • 25% do not wash their pet's food and water bowls regularly.

  • 30% wash their pet's bed or basket

  • 31% never wash or clean their pets.

  • The average spend on pet cleaning products is just £6.91 a month.

  • 12% of dog owners have admitted to being told their house 'smells of dog'.

The survey found that pet owners from Chelmsford were least hygienic, with 46% admitting to never washing their pets: the corresponding figures for Birmingham and Wolverhampton are 24% and 39% respectively.

As sensational as some of these statistics sound, however, it is not easy to formulate hard and fast advice on 'animal hygiene'. Cats groom themselves and so do not need to be washed unless there is a specific problem. For example, if they've been lying under a car and have had oil drip on them, this will need cleaning by the owner as it is poisonous if ingested by a self-grooming cat.

Dogs will need occasional bathing, but doing so too often can be detrimental, washing out natural oils from the coat. If your pet has spent the day rolling around in things outside, he or she is going to need a bath, whereas if they're spending all their time indoors they may only need a few baths a year to help control odour. So a straight answer to 'how often should I bathe my dog?' is 'it depends'! Dogs should, however, be groomed regularly by their owners: this allows for inspection of the coat and skin for parasites or changes in texture.

Likewise, there is no universal rule on the washing of bedding - but it perhaps makes sense to wash your pet's bedding with the same frequency as you wash your own. As long as plates and bowls are washed properly afterward there is no harm in letting your furry friend eat leftovers from your own plate. Their own food and water bowls should be washed regularly to prevent the development of stagnant water and bacteria (as you would your own).

While it is true that both cats and dogs can pass on infections to their owners (zoonotic infections) such as roundworm, this is uncommon. The biggest risk is with children handling animals or getting their hands dirty in gardens where a pet may have defecated and then not washing their hands and putting their fingers in their mouths. That regular contact takes place with both animals and their beds suggests that there is little increased risk in cuddling pets. Any risks are far outweighed by the psychological benefits of keeping them. ยง