In light of the current uncertain situation, you likely question whether your pet can be affected by COVID-19, if you should care for her if you become sick, and if she can carry the virus from one person to another. Although information is everywhere you turn, not everything you read is factual, especially on social media. To help out, we have compiled the most critical facts about COVID-19 and your pet.
#1: COVID-19 is caused by one of many coronaviruses
Coronaviruses belong to a family of viruses that cause a variety of illnesses in people, and many animal species. Coronaviruses are responsible for causing the common cold, as well as more severe conditions, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which have been scary in the past. COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that recently emerged in Wuhan, China, and is believed to have mutated and jumped species, from a bat to a human.
#2: Pets do not become infected with COVID-19
Although the new coronavirus was first transmitted by a bat, it has since evolved to person-to-person transmission, and further transmission to pets seems unlikely. Two dogs in China, who lived with owners infected with COVID-19, tested positive for the virus, but neither developed illness. One dog subsequently tested negative, and the other dog remains in isolation for observation. A major U.S. veterinary laboratory, IDEXX, has tested thousands of dogs and cats to prepare a COVID-19 test, but received no positive results. The test remains ready, but seems unlikely to be needed. This information has prompted world health organizations, including the CDC, WHO, and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), to declare that pets do not seem to be affected by COVID-19 at this time.
#3: Pets cannot transmit the novel coronavirus to people
Pets have not become infected thus far, and the virus is unlikely to develop this capability. Fortunately, this means that pets do not serve as an infection source for people. However, dogs and cats can become infected with other, species-specific coronaviruses that are also not transmitted to people. Dogs and cats can be affected by an enteric coronavirus strain that causes mild, self-limiting gastrointestinal signs, and dogs can be infected with a respiratory strain that is related to some cases of kennel cough. In cats, the enteric virus sometimes mutates to cause a deadly condition known as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).
#4: Pets may carry the virus from a sick person to others
The main transmission method of the new coronavirus is through aerosolized droplets projected into the air when an infected individual coughs, and a person nearby breathes in the virus The virus can also settle on surfaces and serve as a less-common infection source. Although pets don’t develop COVID-19, they can potentially carry the virus on their fur, collar, or leash. If an infected person coughs near your dog, she can act as a fomite, and carry the virus to others.
If you become sick, you should self-isolate from your family and pets, and avoid handling, cuddling, and sharing food with your dog or cat, to prevent spreading the disease. If another family member develops COVID-19, wash your hands before and after handling your pet, to prevent possible virus transmission.
#5: Pets also need quarantine supplies
As you stock up on canned goods and toilet paper, don’t forget your pet’s vital supplies for the next few weeks. Gather a month’s worth of food, treats, litter, and any medications your pet may need. If you use a food delivery service, consider placing an order now, as service may be backed up, and your next order may take longer than usual to arrive. If your pet needs heartworm, flea, or tick preventives, or medication for a chronic condition, call us for a refill.
#6: Liberty Veterinary Hospital will remain open for your pet’s health care needs
As a vital part of the healthcare community, we will remain open, so your pet will continue to receive important health care. Although our plans and protocols may change as this situation continues to unfold, we will remain focused on keeping pets and their families healthy and safe. We have currently implemented the following changes to meet these goals:
- Sanitation — We have added to our already rigorous cleaning protocols, and are more frequently wiping down surfaces, door knobs, and commonly used items.
- Sick individuals — Team members who are feeling under the weather, or who have an elevated temperature, will remain home and contact their doctor.
- Social distancing — We are limiting traffic inside our hospital to team members only, in most situations. When you arrive, we ask that you call us, and a team member will come to your car to get your pet. Please be prepared to remove your pet’s leash and collar, as we will place a slip lead on her for transport into the hospital. We will communicate via phone about your pet’s visit, and any necessary diagnostic tests, results, and important instructions.
- Sick clients — If you are sick, we ask that you call us to reschedule your pet’s appointment, or relay instructions before sending her with a family member. Please let us know that you are not feeling well, so we can take extra precautions while handling your pet.
- Medication and food pick-up — Please call ahead, and let us know that you will be coming, so we can have your supplies ready. When you arrive, please wait in your car, and call to let us know you are here, and a team member will bring out your supplies.
- Payment — We will be accepting credit card payments only, to prevent money exchange.
#7: Up-to-date, reliable information is only a click away
Since this is a rapidly changing situation, stick to reputable sources for up-to-date information, such as:
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
- World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)
As always, you can also call us with any questions you may have. We are closely monitoring information from health officials, to ensure our actions are appropriate and effective. You can also follow us on Facebook for our latest protocol updates.