While household pets have not been infected with the virus, there are still ways owners can keep their pets safe during these difficult times.
Is Buster wondering why you are home so much? Is Spot hiding a little more because
so many people are around during the day?
While the majority of the world’s population deals with the COVID-19 pandemic and
the efforts to mitigate the virus’ spread – mostly staying home and keeping contact
with others at a minimum – there’s another aspect to the life changes: our pets.
Your dog or cat may be happy to have you home more, but they might also be wondering
why you are home more, something they are not used to that could affect their daily
routines. They also might be getting a few more treats and see you doing a lot more
cleaning than usual.
All these changes could have an effect on your beloved pet. But Bethany Schilling, one of the newest faculty members and an assistant professor of general veterinary
practice at the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo, provides advice on how best to ensure your pet’s health remains in top condition
while protecting your own.
In a general sense, what are the biggest threats to household pets during the coronavirus
At this time, the greatest threats may be stress and abandonment. Abandonment is a
big issue because it can lead to pet overpopulation and other public health issues.
Stressed pet owners change their schedules, which changes pet routines. Pets, like
people, thrive with routines. Dietary changes may occur. Pet owners may not be able
to pay for pet food or may change pet foods, resulting in upset tummies or hunger.
Pet owners, especially those with multiple pets, may not be able to afford pet food.
Unfortunately, this commonly results in neglect and abandonment. Finally, pets read
and respond to human emotions. They, too, can become fearful and exhibit unpredictable
There have been some conflicting reports, but can COVID-19 be transmitted to animals?
If so, what are the signs owners should look out for?
Up until earlier this month when a tiger from the Bronx Zoo became ill and demonstrated
respiratory signs, there were no known cases of animals becoming ill from COVID-19.
It appears that felines in particular have the potential to contract and develop clinical
signs associated with COVID-19. The two dogs and a cat that tested positive for COVID-19
before this showed no signs of illness, they were present in the home of a person
currently ill with COVID-19. This does not mean they are infected (ie: ill) with the
virus but that the virus was detected in/on the pet. They tested positive for the
same reason that a tabletop where a COVID-19 person sneezed would also test positive.
The dog in China that tested positive was released from quarantine after it tested
negative twice before being released. There is no documentation of domestic animals
transmitting Covid-19 to humans at this time.
Because people are more conscious about cleaning and disinfecting, can they go too
far and threaten a pet’s health? If so, how?
The most important thing regarding keeping a pet safe is to limit exposure of the
pet to the disinfecting agents. If someone is cleaning/mopping, the areas should dry
prior to the pet walking on the surface. Animals groom themselves as a normal behavior
and could potentially ingest these chemicals if allowed to have contact with them
before they dry.
It is not necessary to excessively bathe your pet. Unless otherwise prescribed by
a veterinarian, an animal should only be bathed every 10-14 days at the most. Animals
produce oils that protect their skin. Those barriers are stripped with excessive bathing,
which can lead to dry and itchy skin and potential secondary skin infections.
Outside of cleaning, what other dangers are posed for pets during the time when people
are staying home more?
Most likely the biggest risks for pets who are spending more time with their owners
are things like gastrointestinal upset or pancreatitis from ingesting too many treats,
human food or abrupt changes in diet.
Because of social distancing, do people need to alter their habits in terms of taking
pets for a walk, going to a park or being outside in general?
Getting outside and spending time with your pet are two things that can benefit your
mental and physical health during this time. Social distancing is important to minimize
human-to-human exposure. As long as you are maintaining the recommended 6-10 feet
from others, taking your pet for a walk outside should be perfectly fine. Parks, in
general, should be avoided as they tend to be places where people congregate.
What are the recommendations of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
for how to handle this crisis with your pets?
This is a very broad question about a dynamic situation. The AVMA has a webpage which
is updated frequently that asks and answers many specific questions. Visit www.avma.org
for the most up to date information.
Should non-emergency medical procedures, such as a normal checkup or spay/neuter,
be delayed or postponed during the pandemic?
While veterinary services are deemed “essential” businesses, it is important that
we do our part to help reduce the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such
as gloves, gowns and masks by postponing elective exams and procedures. This allows
more of these precious resources to go to first responders and those dealing directly
with the COVID-19 patients. Examples of these types of procedures are routine spays
and neuters, prophylactic dental cleanings, and non-malignant mass removals.
Regarding wellness examinations, if you have an adult dog or cat that has been seen
regularly by their veterinarian and is up to date on their vaccinations, rescheduling
their annual examination would be appropriate and recommended. For animals that are
not protected (puppies and kittens) or those that need vaccinations for public health
protection (i.e.: rabies vaccine), they should go ahead and be seen. Due to trying
to minimize human interaction, your veterinarian likely will have new protocols they
will follow (ex: having you wait in the car until your appointment time; limiting
the number of people in an exam room; if you or someone in your house is ill; taking
your pet from the car to be examined and then information be communicated over the
phone). Some veterinary offices may be able to provide telehealth services to meet
your needs. Please remember to be kind and extend grace as this is uncharted territory
Don’t panic. Practice good hygiene. Follow local, state and national health department
recommendations. We are all going through this together.