Disinfectants aren’t very important for your average pet owner. They are more of an issue for kennels and veterinary hospitals, but there are situations where disinfection of an area contaminated by a pet might be needed.This is particularly true for certain microorganisms that can persist in the environment for a long time. The "poster bug" for this in dogs is canine parvovirus.
As many pet owners know, canine parvovirus is a very hardy virus. It can live in the environment for years and is resistant to many commonly used disinfectants. Careful cleaning and disinfection may be required in some situations where an infected animal has been in an area, particularly if it has passed diarrhea. Choosing an appropriate disinfectant can be a problem.
Bleach is a good disinfectant and can kill parvovirus, but it’s noxious and isn’t a good option for many surfaces. At our hospital, we use accelerated hydrogen peroxide, an excellent disinfectant that can kill parvovirus, but it’s more expensive. Many other disinfectants are out there, and many have claims on their labels that they can kill parvovirus. Unfortunately, many (or most) cannot. Some just have claims that aren’t based on any evidence. Others provide somewhat misleading information that can confuse buyers.
A good example is a product I was asked about today. It was a quaternary ammonium disinfectant, a common class of disinfectants with variable and often poor killing effect on parvovirus. The product claimed to kill parvovirus, but on closer reading, there’s a major issue. The disinfectant is supposed to be used at a dilution of 4.5 ounces per gallon of water, yet the parvovirus-killing claim was for a dilution of 18 ounces per gallon. So, it might really kill parvovirus, but if it only does so at 4 times the typical concentration, how useful is it?
Do people that are using it under the pretense that it kills parvo realize the issue? Probably not.
Would people actually use it at 4 times the regular concentration? Perhaps. But that makes it 4 times as expensive, at which point it might actually be cheaper to use a better disinfectant like accelerated peroxide.
Is this fair advertising? That’s questionable. Yes, all the information is there, but you shouldn’t have to read the fine print. If the product says it kills parvo, it should be proven to do so at the regular recommended concentration. If it only kills parvo at high concentrations, that should be written right alongside the statement that it kills parvo.
(Photo credit: Uwe Gille [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)