COVID-19 and Pets: Best Practices

COVID-19 and Pets
We are all living with constant changes and challenges as we circumvent COVID-19. Shelter in place is part of the normalcy of our lives, but what about COVID-19 and pets. Our dogs and cats love having us home to dole out extra attention. Many of us take our daily walks with our dogs in tow, but are we doing the right thing by walking our dogs? Like us, they have cabin fever and need a breath of fresh air, but again is it safe to walk the dog? Here is what the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in connection with the CDC recommends for COVID-19 and pets.

COVID-19 and Pets

Thus far, there have been several reports of animals with the virus. The first being a tiger at the New York City zoo. On April 22, the CDC and the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) declared the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection in two pet cats in New York. These cats both showed signs of mild respiratory illness and are expected to make a full recovery.

At present globally, the only pets exposed to COVID-19 that tested positive, with confirmation, for SARS-CoV-2 are two pet dogs and a pet cat in Hong Kong, and the two pet cats in the United States. At present, no data exists indicating that pets might be a source of infection for people with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Since the CDC is aware of a small number of pets, including cats and dogs infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, they found these cases occurred primarily after close contact with people with COVID-19.

The CDC states that pets should be treated the same as other family members. Avoid having your pets in direct contact with people or animals outside your household. If someone inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.

Signs of COVID-19 in Pets

Currently, signs of COVID-19 are not clearly defined in animals by the veterinary community, but the following symptoms in pets are compatible with SARS-CoV-2 infections.  If your pet has a combination of these indicators, please contact your veterinarian:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Lethargy
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

AVMA Recommendations

Although there is no correlation between pets and humans getting COVID-19, the AVMA suggests the following for pet owners during the pandemic.

  • Your pet should avoid interaction with people or other animals outside the household.
  • Keep cats indoors, if possible, to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining social distancing of at least 6 feet from other people and animals unless they are members of your household.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
Walking your Dog
Walking your Dog

COVID-19 Safety Tips

The following guidelines are for those who have COVID-19:

  • Restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like they would with other people.
  • Have another member of their household care for their pets while they are sick; and avoid contact with their pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.
  • If people need to personally care for their pets or be around animals while they are sick, they should wear some form of face mask, whether it be a cloth mask or bandana, and wash their hands before and after they interact with those pets.

Remember, since so little is still unknown about COVID-19, further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by the virus that causes COVID-19 and the part our pets may or may not play in the spread of COVID-19.

Distancing Yourself
Distancing Yourself and your pets

Common Safety Practices

With little evidence between animals and the COVID-19, it is best to be safe and stay healthy. Animals like each one of us carry germs, so it is best to take precautions as we do for ourselves. These practices should occur routinely.

  • Wash your hands after handling any animal, their food, waste, or supplies.
  • Practice good pet hygiene by cleaning up after pets properly and constantly.
  • Talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health.
  • Be aware that children five years old and younger, people with weakened immune systems, and people 65 years of age and older are more likely to get sick from germs some animals can carry.

Another good practice is to have a pet emergency kit ready with two weeks of food and your pets-medications, if any, especially if one has to quarantine or self-isolate.

Have your veterinarian contact your state public health veterinarian if you see a new illness in a pet that has had close contact with a person with COVID-19.

Finally, if your pet is sick, contact your veterinarian by phone first because today many vets take certain precautions when seeing pets and their owners to ensure social distancing and safety of their staff, and all people concerned.

It is better to be safe than sorry, so please treat your pets like you would yourself, they should shelter in place and maintain social distancing when you take them to the vet or for a walk.