AS at the end of March 2020, there was no evidence that suggests the Coronavirus can be transmitted to or from companion animals. But questions remain as to whether your pet can be affected by the virus; what will happen to your fur-kid should you be hospitalised, etc. To help out, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions around the Coronavirus and what it means for pets and pet owners.
• Can we get Covid-19 from our dogs?
According to the World Organization for Animal Health, there is no evidence that pets play a role in transmitting the disease to humans. Despite the highly publicised instance of a pet dog exhibiting a “weak positive” when tested for the virus, the consensus is that we’re more likely to infect them than they are to infect us.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds that the disease is spread to humans through person-to-person contact. There have been no reports of pets or livestock becoming ill or spreading the coronavirus.
• Does petting our dog expose us the virus?
Unlikely. According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA), “Because your pet’s hair is porous and also fibrous, it is very unlikely that you would contract Covid-19 by petting or playing with your pet.”
According to the AVMA: “Smooth (non-porous) surfaces (eg: countertops, doorknobs) transmit viruses better than porous materials (eg: paper money, pet fur), because porous, and especially fibrous, materials absorb and trap the pathogen, making it harder to contract through simple touch.”
However, they add: “It’s always a good idea to wash your hands before and after interacting with animals; ensure your pet is kept well-groomed; and regularly clean your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys.”
If you’re worried, wash your hands after horsing around with your pet, and try not to bury your face in his/her coat or get slobbered by his wet, wet kisses during this time.
• How should we prepare to care for our pets during this time?
As you stock up on toilet paper, rice and instant noodles, don’t forget your pet’s food supply too. The recommended is a two-week supply of pet food.
If your pet needs heartworm, flea, or tick preventives, or medication for a chronic condition, call your vet ahead and get a refill. Ensure all medications are documented with dosages and administering directions.
In addition, have a contingency plan and designate a caregiver early. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends creating a pet dossier for your caregiver. Put all your pets’ information in an easy-to-find place. Adds the ASPCA: “Consider including things like habits, food preferences, medical conditions and medications taken, veterinarian contact information, and any behavioural tendencies.”
Ensure that your pets are wearing a collar and ID tag.
• What if I get Covid-19 and have to be quarantined? What should I do?
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) in America says people with Covid-19 should tell their public health point of contact that they have pets or other animals in their home.
Specifically, they advise: “While these people are symptomatic, they should maintain separation from pets as they would with other household members, and avoid direct contact with pets, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.”
• Can I take my dog out for a walk?
Unless you’ve been told to stay in by healthcare professionals, take Fido for a walk, run or hike. Go out solo with the dog rather than with friends, and preference should be for lightly occupied areas with plenty of space.
• What can I do with my dog inside the house?
Many of us will be spending way more time at home than they’d like. Our dogs are likely to consider this a bonus, but it presents challenges too. Lots of stay-at-home time also may require new coping mechanisms and skills.
It is also a perfect time to teach your old dog new tricks: From “Shake” to “Roll-Over” and “Crawl” to mentally stimulating games like “Find It” (where Fido has to find his treats or gnarly toys). It’s a great bonding opportunity.
• Should we make (or keep) vet appointments?
Call ahead first to check. Vets too have systems that minimise person-to-person contact. Of course, if you feel like you might be coming down with something, we need to let the vet know that as well.
• I think my pet is ill—what do I do?
Call your veterinarian first and check. If your pet shows signs of illness, and they have been exposed to someone with Covid-19, tell your vet and ask if they can do a checkup.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there is currently no clinical test kit for pets. But the good news is that tests and testing capacity are being developed.
Finally, Dr Stephanie Janeczko, Vice President, ASPCA Shelter Medicine Services says: “A pet’s first line of defence is a well-prepared owner, and we strongly encourage pet owners to take the necessary precautions and incorporate pets into their preparedness plans to keep their family ‒ including their pets ‒ healthy."
GOOD HYGIENE PRACTICES
On our end of the leash, in addition to the ubiquitous “wash your hands after petting” advice, the CDC recommends pet owners practice good hygiene. Just like our phones, wallets, and backpacks, pets are just as liable to pick up some unintended stuff along the way. Good pet hygiene practices include:
• Washing your hands after handling your furry one
• Bathing your pet on a regular basis
• Reconsider kissing your pet at this time
• Wipe the paws down after his daily walks