Your pets and the coronavirus: What you should know

These are challenging times for all of us. There are so many unknowns about the risk of COVID-19 and how this may affect us all. One great comfort many of us have is that while we are at home is our ability to spend time with our pets. The animals in our lives are a source of comfort in the most trying times, and I’m sure that all of our animal companions are happy to have someone home with them all day. At the same time there have been many questions and concerns about how to interact with animals during this crisis and whether they bring additional risks.  

We have compiled some questions and answers about animals and COVID-19 from sources like the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). There are many unknowns about this disease and things are frequently changing,  but this is the best information we have right now.  We will continue to update the community as new information becomes available.

Can my dog or cat get Covid-19?

According to the CDC Dogs and cats cannot contract the human Coronavirus (COVID-19). While each species has their own coronavirus, people cannot get the pet version, and pets cannot contract the human version. As long as everyone in the household is healthy, having pets close to us can bring us all comfort.  

Does my dog or cat pose a risk for coronavirus transmission?

Diseases like COVID-19 can be spread on ‘fomites’. A fomite is any surface that can carry infection; like countertops our door knobs. It may seem strange go think about our pets as a surface, but that’s what they are. An infected person can theoretically cough on a dog or a cat and distribute virus particles onto the animal’s fur. Someone could then come along and pet the animal, pick up virus particles and then touch their own face, transmitimg the disease. It’s important to note that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has not verified any situations where transmission from a pet to a human occurred. 

While the risk of this type of transmission may be low, we should be cautious. After petting an unknown animal, wash your hands, especially before touching your face. If you are bringing a new pet into your household, wipe the pet down with a damp towel or even preferably give the pet a bath. 

Should I get my pet vaccinated in case they have to be boarded unexpectedly?

The AVMA has recommended to veterinarians that all routine care be temporarily suspended. For this reason, our spay and neuter clinic has temporarily closed and we have suspended all of our vaccine clinics. Veterinarians need to be available to treat serious illness and injuries, and the CDC has asked that medical supplies be used judiciously as they are needed for the response to COVID-19. Vaccinations are vital to protect pets against many diseases, and once this crisis is over, it is important to ensure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date. 

What if my pet needs veterinary care during this crisis?

Veterinary hospitals are considered “essential businesses” and as long as their staff remains healthy, most veterinary hospitals are continuing to see sick and injured patients. If your pet needs care, please know that your veterinary professionals are doing everything they can to be there for your pet, but be aware that social distancing will require adjustments to how you interact with the veterinary team. Some clinics are asking clients to wait in their cars for staff to come get pets so the foot traffic in the clinics are limited. You might not be able to accompany your pet into an examination as you normally would, but this precaution is safer for everyone. Please be patient, and understand we are all in this together, and we will get through it together.  

What should I do with my pet if I or someone in my family gets Covid-19?

Your pets will not contract the disease so you do not be concerned for their health. The CDC has issued guidance recommending that sick people in the home should minimize contact with pets and primary responsibility for pet care should be provided by another household member.  

Healthy household members should isolate themselves to the greatest extent possible from infected persons. Remember that pets could act as ‘fomites’ carrying the disease from infected people in the house to healthy people.  Bathing your pet if someone is infected is probably wise, then limit interaction between pets and infected people. The CDC is very clear that this advice could change, because there is so much that is unknown about the disease and we really don’t know if transmission from an animal’s fur to a person is a serious risk. These are times when we should take the most cautious approach.

How can I help pets in the community?

This is a good time to reach out to friends, family and neighbors to find out how they are doing and create a pet care plan if either of you become ill.  It’s a good reason for a phone call or video call since we’re all feeling a little isolated right now. If you can get on video with friends, you can show them what your pets are like and exchange information about their care.  

This is a great way our community can come together to help each other. Now is the time to create mutual pet care plans with the people around you so if the time comes for someone to go to the hospital, their pets will have a place to go. If you do take in a pet from another home, make sure to bathe them right away.

How can I help shelter pets in need?

At the Potter League we have limited the number of people in our building to only essential animal care staff and volunteers. We are trying to minimize the number of animals we are caring for in the shelter. To do this we are continuing to do adoptions by appointment only for people who have identified a specific animal online and filled out an online adoption application.

We are also working on getting animals into foster homes. We have had an overwhelming response from people willing to foster animals so please be patient with us. While we may fulfill our immediate fostering needs soon, we will keep names of willing people if the need changes.

We ask you all to stay home with your pets, accept the comfort they provide,  keep safe and listen to the experts. While we cannot be physically together as a community, we can work together to share our responsibility to each other.

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