How to Clean Kennels: The Definitive Guide to Kennel Cleaning

By Amy Milshtein

A dog sitting in a kennel.
An unclean kennel poses a threat to the healthy animals boarding there.

Kennel cleaning is definitely not the most glamorous part of running a pet business, but when it comes to setting your company apart, it is the most important. There are approximately 9,000 boarding kennels in the United States and Canada, according to, and that doesn't include breeding kennels, training kennels and veterinary hospitals. With all of these options, pet owners can be choosey about where they board their dog (or cat or even exotic.)

Keep your client's dogs and cats healthy and help your business thrive by following a kennel cleaning protocol. 

 Pet Services: A Growing Business that Keeps Growing

The robust pet services and products sector shows no sign of slowing down. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates that U.S. pet owners spent some $69.4 billion dollars on their companions in 2017, up from $66.8 the year before.  

APPA's 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey reports that 68% of U.S. households own a pet. Cats, at 94.2 million are still more numerous than the 89.7 million dogs, but more households--60.2 million--own a dog, compared to the 47.1 million who have a cat (or two or three!)

Pet parents (yes, that's a term) plan on spending $322 this year on boarding their dogs and $164 to board their cats. This adds up to an estimated $6.11 billion in boarding costs, compared to $5.76 billion last year. 

Kennel Cleaning Protocols: A Must for Health and Safety

Dirty kennels stink. But more than just unpleasant smelling, an unclean kennel poses a threat to the healthy animals boarding there. For instance, Canine parvovirus type 2, more commonly known as parvo, is highly virulent and contagious. The disease is spread from dog to dog by direct contact with feces. 

Kennel cough gets its name because the infection, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is easily spread among dogs in close quarters, like a kennel. There are viral and bacterial versions of condition. Both are spread through the airborne droplets produced by an infected dog's sneezing and coughing. 

Dogs should be vaccinated for both of these diseases. However, a vaccinated pup may still contract kennel cough, just like a vaccinated person may still come down with the flu. 

Cat owners should not feel superior or standoffish. Feline respiratory disease complex, or kennel cough in cats, may be rare but does strike cats living in crowded, unsanitary conditions. More chilling, kennel cough can be transmitted to people from their infected pets. 

The best prevention for all of these conditions is thorough kennel cleaning.

Kennel Cleaning Checklist: Choose a Disinfectant Wisely

The UC Davis Koret shelter medicine website provides a list of appropriate, animal safe disinfectants, with an important caveat. 'No matter what [disinfectant] is used, it won't destroy all pathogens.' They suggest changing product once a week and stress the importance of mechanical cleaning with soap and water. 'It helps a lot.'

The site offers helpful tips to on using disinfecting products:

  • Disinfectants MUST be used at the correct concentration.
  • Adequate dwell time is required.
  • Disinfectants must be applied to a basically clean, non-porous surface, free of organic matter.
  • Disinfectants and detergents can cancel each other's actions, and should not be mixed unless specifically directed by the manufacturer.

Using disinfectants incorrectly is a significant hazard that has lead to the harm and even death of boarded animals. 

How to Clean a Kennel 

Cleaning a kennel starts with removing the animal. NEVER leave a pet in the kennel during the cleaning process. Place the dog or cat in a separate holding area. Remove feeding and water bowls, bedding and toys. Clean bowls by soaking them in a diluted disinfectant solution. Rinse and dry or run through a dishwasher. Blankets and other soft bedding should be washed in a washing machine. 

Scoop all solid waste from the kennel and sweep up hair. Rinse kennel with hot water. 

Dilute disinfectant and cleaning agents according to manufacturers' instruction. Take care as improperly diluted products can corrode metal cages and hurt animals. Apply solution to all surfaces 

Starting at the top, scrub the entire kennel with a stiff-bristled brush. Don't forget the ceiling or the walls above dog height as disease can be transmitted from any unsanitized section. Pay attention to resting boards, the fronts and backs of doors, hinges, latches and any surfaces between the runs.

Let the solution dwell as instructed. 

Thoroughly rinse all surfaces with water. Dry as completely as possible using a squeegee. Fans or other ventilation can also be used. 

Replace clean food and water bowls, bedding and toys. The kennel is now ready for the animal.

How to Clean a Kennel Faster

Daily kennel cleaning is important, but the task is very time consuming. Old cleaning technology, like mops and rags, doesn't speed up the process. They also increase the risk of cross-contamination. 

Newer technology removes the risk of cross-contamination while getting the job done faster. This was important to Chris Henderson, Chief Operating Officer of The Pet Hospitals, a full-service veterinary clinic with seven locations in Memphis, TN. 'Efficiency is everything to me,' he says. 

To make cleaning more efficient, Henderson purchased a spray-and-vac system for their downtown location. The kennel area of this clinic was particularly hard to clean, as there were no floor drains. 'My staff was doing the best they could with mops and a shop vac,' recalls Henderson. 

Switching to spray-and-vac technology allowed staff to clean, sanitize and dry the area quickly and completely with just one tool. 

Jason Mesman, co-owner of Puppywood Pet Resort, agrees. 'By replacing mops and buckets…[this technology] helps produce a cleaner indoor environment in less time, significantly reducing labor while making cleaning easier on our staff.'

Find out more on how make kennel cleaning easier, faster and more complete here.

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. 

Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.

She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.

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