How to Clean Kennels: The Definitive Guide

by | Mar 7, 2018

Kennel cleaning is definitely not the most glamorous part of running a pet business. It is the most important, however, when it comes to setting your company apart.

There are approximately 9,000 boarding kennels in the United States and Canada, according to 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 animals.

Following a kennel cleaning protocol can help you keep your client’s pets healthy and help your business thrive.

 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. That is up from $66.8 billion the year before.

APPA’s 2022-2023 National Pet Owners Survey reports that 66% of U.S. households own a pet.

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 a bad smell, 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 spreads from dog to dog by direct contact with feces.

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, gets its name because the infection is easily spread among dogs in close quarters, like a kennel. There are viral and bacterial versions of condition. Both 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 transmit to people from their infected pets.

The best prevention for all of these conditions is thorough kennel cleaning with Kaivac Spray-and-Vac kennel cleaning system.

Kennel Cleaning Checklist: Choose a Disinfectant Wisely

The UC Davis Koret shelter medicine website provides a list of appropriate, animal safe disinfectants,. However, they offer 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 kennel cleaner 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 kennel cleaners incorrectly is a significant hazard that has led 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. First, place the dog or cat in a separate holding area. Remove feeding and water bowls, bedding and toys. Next, clean bowls by soaking them in a diluted disinfectant solution. After that, rinse and dry or run through a dishwasher. Likewise, you should wash blankets and other soft bedding in a washing machine.

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

Follow manufacturers’ instruction to dilute disinfectant and cleaning agents. 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, because disease can transmit 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. You can also use fans or other ventilation.

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 is faster and removes the risk of cross-contamination. 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.

Henderson purchased a spray-and-vac system for their downtown location to make cleaning more efficient. 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.

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 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.
Amy Milshtein
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