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Tip of the Week: Give Foot Baths the Boot

In theory, it's hard to argue with foot baths: When you step in the germicidal solution, infectious agents are killed before they can be tracked throughout the shelter.

That's theory. The reality? Foot baths can become cesspools that, according to the ASPCA's Dr. Stephanie Janeczko, Senior Director, Shelter Medicine Programs, "can actually spread disease rather than prevent it."

Four Reasons You Should Give Foot Baths the Boot

  1. Not enough contact time with disinfectants
    Foot baths are meant for quickly dipping your shoes in before walking in high-traffic and/or contaminated areas. But many pathogens, particularly parvo, require at least ten minutes of direct contact with the sanitizing agent before being killed. The quick nature of foot baths, er, "defeets" the purpose.
  2. Organic matter
    Foot baths become contaminated with organic matter like dirt and feces, thereby diminishing their effectiveness since many viruses and bacteria require organic matter to survive.
  3. Lack of scrubbing
    Foot baths are more effective coupled with the scrubbing of the bottom of the shoes. However, this takes additional time and creates a Catch 22, whereby you are adding more organic matter to the foot bath, thus rendering it less sterile.

    4. Water often not deep enough
    Frequently in a shelter setting, foot baths consist of litter boxes containing a towel soaked with a small amount of disinfectant. At best, these shallow foot baths are ineffective. At worst, the added moisture on shoes and floors might actually promote the survival and spread of pathogens.

Ready to step up to an alternative to foot baths? Using dedicated boots or disposable shoe covers is the recommended protocol to control highly contagious diseases such as parvo or ringworm.

Create a Free Parvovirus Protocol in Minutes

What do you do in your shelter to prevent the transmission of disease from foot traffic?

Related links:

Webinar with Dr. Stephanie Janeczko: "Parvo 101"
"Get Out, Parvo, and Stay Out!"
UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program: "How long are bleach foot dips active with respect to parvovirus?"

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Are disposable show covers impermeable? If the bottom becomes wet with contamination, does it soak through the the shoe? Does it offer 100% protection against contamination from parvo? I would like to get away from foot baths because I am constantly making staff correct incorrectly set up foot baths. If I can come away from them and know my clinic is protected by shoe covers, then I am willing to try them. But, I just have to know I am not adding a risk of contamination. Thanks!


Thanks for the great questions, Julie! We'll get those answers for you. Stay tuned!

- ASPCApro Blog Team


Great questions! How impermeable the shoe cover will be depends on the specific product you go with. The thin blue disposable covers that are frequently used for surgery can get wet easily, while the tyvek-type white covers are water resistant (though not impermeable). If you are planning to use them in an area where water is a concern you probably want to consider buying the reusable plastic shoe covers or boots. You could also use dedicated footwear that is limited to use in one specific area only (such as isolation). The degree of protection that will be afforded with any type of protective footwear (as is true for all PPE!) is dependent not only on the specific product but also on its appropriate use, such as how, when, and where it is put on and then removed so it’s important that everyone is adequate trained on its use.



Stephanie Janeczko, DVM, MS, DABVP, CAWA

Senior Director, Community Outreach Shelter Medicine Programs

Shelter Research and Development


I wouldn't use foot baths for this simple reason! They are just far too hazardous! I may not use them for the same reasons as you guys do but even when fitting a bathroom facilities in Hospitals and other medical centers, we have to ensure we leave the room impeccable!


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