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Q: Should I regularly wash my pet's bed?

A: There aren't hard and fast rules about how often to laundering pet bedding, but there are some things to consider. The most important may be the sensitivity of your nose.

If you notice that your home is starting to smell too much like your pets — and not in a good way — part of the reason could be that pet bedding is starting to develop a stale odor.

You probably wash your sheets at least weekly to remove the accumulation of body oils, hair, perspiration, dead skin cells and bacteria that build up on them. The same thing happens when your pets lie on their beds. And it builds up more rapidly because pets don't wear PJs and they don't shower daily — although cats, of course, would argue that their tongue baths are much more cleansing than our ablutions.

It's not going to hurt your pets to sleep on bedding that hasn't been washed in a while, but it's fair to say that dirty bedding can be the source of bacteria, parasites and viruses from other pets who share that bed.

If you're concerned that your home is garnering surreptitious sniffs of disapproval from visitors or your mother-in-law, you can clean up your act by washing pet bedding weekly and cleaning crates weekly with warm, soapy water.

Read the label to find out how to care a bed. Generally, covers can be removed and machine-washed. Unless the label advises otherwise, use hot water to kill any microbes and dry thoroughly to prevent development of mold or mildew.

For beds that aren't machine-washable, give them a good going-over with the vacuum cleaner when you have it out, or use antibacterial wipes to freshen it up.

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