Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Safe Handling Tips for Pet Products

by Jay P. Margedant

In the 17 years that I’ve been in this business, I’ve met all types of pet owners. But one thing that continues to amaze me is how casually people store and handle pet food. Pet food, treats, bones and chews are “food” items. Just because we aren’t the ones eating it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t handle it as a perishable item. You wouldn’t leave baby formula out, so why do some folks handle pet food so carelessly?

I would like us to all remember some of these issues the next time we feed our pets:

• Some companies add flavoring in the form of fats to their treats. Fats attract bacteria, dirt, bugs and the like. Some of this fat can get on your hands as you handle their food/treats. Wash with soap and hot water each and every time you handle your pets’ products to eliminate the possibility of passing the fats to other surfaces or to your face & mouth. Washing your hands after handling your pets’ food and treats will also insure that if there is a bacteria issue, you’ll eliminate risk by keeping your hands clean.

• Wash your pets’ food bowls. I’m amazed at how many folks just add more food to their pets’ bowls. Food bowls need to be cleaned & dry each time you use them. You wouldn’t use the same plate again without cleaning it, would you? Same with your pets’ dishes.

• Wash your pets’ water bowl out daily, too. Allow to be clean and dry before using again. Flint River Ranch has always suggested the use of filtered water too. Cats and small dogs could benefit from the use of distilled water; they just don’t need the chemicals from our city water.

• Wash your pets’ toys. Many toys will have extended life from a good cleaning every couple of days, and you’ll get rid of the salvia and dirt from when you pet last used it. Plush toys can be inspected, mended (if your dogs are like mine) and then washed like towels. I’ve found that they hold up pretty well and also when machine dried you’ll eliminate any bugs that may have found their way into the toy.

• Rubber chews, plastic throws and tug toys can be added into the dish washer and ran through a cycle.  We actually do this once a week along with their bowls so everything gets a really good sanitary cleaning. I would suggest that you monitor the heat setting to insure that nothing gets scorched with extra heating. I actually just turn off any heat settings and let them dry normally.

• Pet bedding and rugs. Best way to keep fleas and bugs down is to regularly vacuum and wash your pets bedding often.

• If you use canned food, store any extra in the refrigerator with a tight seal. 15 seconds in the microwave and/or some hot water will easily refresh it for the next meal (take it out of the metal can if you nuke it).

• Storage of dry foods; Flint River Ranch has always advocated keeping your pets food in the bag it comes in, rolled down and clipped shut. Keep the bag in a temperature constant, cool, dark room. I keep mine pets food in the pantry floor. When the bag is empty, throw it out.

• If you use a container for your pets’ food, insure that it is a “food safe” container. If possible, keep the food in the original bag and keep it in the container. Our bags are meant to keep your pets food safe, dry and stable until empty. Never add new food onto of old; you must completely use all of the food up, clean and allow the container to dry before adding more food into it. (which is why we suggest keeping the food in its original bag) It may still be the same formula, but never add new product into old.

Bones, Toobles and Bully Sticks all have a naturally higher amount of fat in them. Definitely clean your hands after handling them, and I suggest feeding these products outside so that your dog doesn’t leave a lot of crumbs around.

• Antlers are generally some of the cleanest treats available. However, it is good to pick them up after a few days, clean them under some running water and allow them to dry again before giving back to your dog. As with bones and other hard treats, properly supervise your dog as they are chewing on them to stop overly vigorous chewing. Dogs have harder teeth than we do, but if too vigorous they could cause some chipping or damage.

• Here’s one that a lot of us don’t think about but washing your pets paws before they come inside. If you keep your pet in a fenced-in area, the possibility that they can walk inside with gunk and germs on their paws is there. Not to mention the normal household kitty who has a litter box in your house. Wiping their paws off as they come out of their box will go a long way to controlling the dirt and bacteria that they are walking around in as they use their box.

None of this is really new and we don’t need to panic, but I hope this is a good refresher about safe handling practices concerning our pets and the items in their lives. Is salmonella an issue in our world? Sure, not just in pet food but in our own products that we come in contact with every day. But it can be dealt with by continued practice of safe food handling and including our pets’ products. And by insuring that we never, ever touch anything that we might put into our mouths until after we have cleaned our hands and any surface that our pets’ products may have touched.

 Keeping their world and ours clean is the most important practice we all need to adhere to. And when in doubt, clean it!

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