Understanding the role of disinfectants in the control of dangerous organisms ("germs") can be difficult. This is because each disinfectant tends to kill different organisms. However, they all have two features in common; they need TIME to work, and they will only work on surfaces WITHOUT particles of dried food or feces. This is why soaking food and water dishes before cleaning and disinfection is important. Also remember that no disinfection program will work if contaminated hands are replacing the food and water dishes (contaminated water pitchers may also be a problem).

The time factor is best managed by having available a double set of dishes (and perches, when replaced each week) and plenty of spare cages. This is less labour intensive than a frantic scrub, and will allow for time to clean and disinfect items (24 hour turnover is usual). After soaking and cleaning, most items must be left in the disinfectant solution for 2 hour, then rinsed and dried overnight.

CHLORINE BLEACH: Household bleach is a most effective disinfectant and is normally used at a dilution of one ounce bleach to one quart water. Hot water will increase its effectiveness. Active against most bacteria and viruses. Must be used on a clean looking surface.

PHENOL DISINFECTANTS: (ie. Environ One-stroke) Excellent products for use in the pet store. Active against most bacteria (including the difficult Pseudomonas group) and viruses, as well as fungi, yeasts, and tuberculosis organisms. The only good disinfectant for wooden perches (clean first).

CHLORHEXIDINES: (ie. Nolvasan) A very non-toxic disinfectant and quite effective against viruses. However, not quite as broad spectrum as bleach and phenols. It is not effective against Pseudomonas (an important pathogen of reptiles and birds). However, it is another possible disinfectant for wooden items.

QUATERNARY AMMONIUMS: ("Quats", Roccal) These are good against some viruses and many bacteria, and are somewhat more effective against chlamydia (the organism that causes psittacosis) than the others. It does not mix well with soaps, so items must be rinsed well before disinfecting.

AVAILABILITY: If any of these products are not readily obtainable ask your store veterinarian for the name of a supplier. "Pine" type or household disinfectants are not recommended.

TYPICAL PROGRAM: All feed and water dishes or feeders are pulled (carefully, without spilling) and placed to soak in hot soapy water, minimum one hour. (Cages are all cleaned, then the alternate set of dishes and waterers are placed). Then staff may clean/rinse the soaked dishes, then place them in the disinfecting solution for 2hour+, then place on newspaper or a clean rack to dry. These now become the alternate set, ready for tomorrow.

Louise Bauck BSc, DVM, MVSc.

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