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National Tactical Officers Association

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COVID-19 Guidance on K9s

Do police K9s need to be bathed or wiped down on a daily basis in case they are harboring COVID-19 on their coat?

Evidence does not currently support K9s as a fomite or source of exposure. Spread of COVID-19 is still considered human-to-human, therefore, it is not currently recommended to bathe or wipe down your K9 on a daily basis over the concern of COVID-19. Most important is to follow the CDC recommended self-hygiene protocols before and after handling any animals.

For animal shelters responsible for the intake of pets from households where humans have tested positive for COVID19, current recommendations by the AVMA and other veterinary institutions do not mandate routine bathing of pets on intake.

“Do not bathe animals or use disinfectant topically on intake because of COVID 19 concerns. There is no need to bathe an animal because of COVID-19 concerns; at this time, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin or fur of pets. … Disinfectants licensed by the EPA must be used in accordance with their label directions. Many disinfectants have the potential to cause significant harm if direct contact with human or animal skin occurs. It is inappropriate (and potentially illegal if not labeled accordingly) to apply liquid disinfectants directly onto animals.”

https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19/interim-recommendations-intake-companion-animals-households-humans-COVID-19-are-present  

Additional Resource: K9 Hygiene DECON Practices

Guidelines for Bathing K9

If you elect to wash your K9, here are a few general recommendations:

To avoid cross-contamination from splashing or water spraying if the K9 shakes during the bath, be sure to:

  • Wear appropriate PPE
  • Use a low-pressure and low-volume of water
  • Wash your K9 in an isolated area to minimize exposure to other people and/or animals
  • Completely dry your K9 and consider allowing them finish air-drying in their kennel
  • Remember to allow a 5-10-minute contact time after you lather your K9 up with soap/shampoo, and then thoroughly rinse all of the soap/shampoo off of your K9
  • Thoroughly disinfect the bathing area and your clothes afterwards.

Summary: Do not bathe your K9 daily based upon the concern of COVID-19.; however, routine grooming (brushing) is okay and encouraged. The best prevention of contracting the COVID-19 virus is to follow CDC guidelines for appropriate hygiene.

What is the best product to use relating to COVID-19 virus when bathing a K9?

COVID-19 is a ‘wimpy’ virus that is easily destroyed by many common disinfectants, even soap and water.

If bathing for routine hygiene, bathe your K9 no more frequently than once per week (unless grossly dirty or contaminated or for a medical reason); longer periods are acceptable (1 – 2 x monthly) more frequent bathing may result in drying, cracking, eroding and infection of the skin.

It is not in the best interest of the K9 to use soaps, shampoos or disinfectants that are not specifically formulated for the K9 skin.

The pH of the skin plays a vital role in protecting the epidermis (outer layer of the skin). The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 where the middle of the scale, pH = 7.0, is basic or neutral; any pH < 7.0 (0 – 6.9) is considered acidic, while any pH > 7.0 (7.1 – 14) is alkaline.

K9s tend to have a more alkaline skin pH (pH ~7.5) whereas human skin is more acidic (pH ~5.5).

Soaps and shampoos formulated for humans tend to be more acidic which, if used frequently on your K9, these acidic products will damage the K9 skin leading to drying, cracking, eroding and infection.

Consider the pH of the following products:

  • Dishwashing detergents, pH 8 – 11
  • Baking Soda, pH 8 – 9
  • Soft or pH neutral dish soap, pH 7 – 8
  • Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo, pH 4.8 – 5.8
  • Vinegar, pH 3

If you are bathing your K9 on a frequent basis, consider adding in a moisturizing agent (e.g. conditioner) to help keep the K9s skin moist and hydrated.

Summary: When bathing your K9, use shampoos specifically formulated for K9s or a dishwashing soap that is a ‘neutral’ pH of 7-8.