Although there are thousands of cases of COVID-19 infection among humans, there have been fewer or none cases in pets such as dogs and cats. Simply put, your pets are less likely to contract COVID-19, however, they are prone to different types of coronaviruses, but that has nothing to do with the current outbreak of COVID-19.
Coronavirus disease 2019 or popularly known as COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2).
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no animals in the US have been identified with the virus, and there is no evidence that dogs or other pets can spread COVID-19.
How worried should a pet owner when the pet gets infected?
Dr. Andrew Pickerstein from Stamford, Connecticut clarified that,
“Dogs do not get this novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Although a couple of dogs in Asia did test positive on a surface swab, they weren’t actually infected with it.”
There aren’t any concrete cases of COVID-19 infection in pets; hence, until there is any information, the experts suggest that the pet owners can feel confident that the virus won’t spread between pets. However, there is a greater likelihood of certain bacteria on animals spreading between owners and their pets, so diligent hand washing is recommended.
What about the dog in Hong Kong?
The news of a Pomeranian contacting COVID-19 hit the news on February 28. This sent a caution to the pet owners around the world. Hong Kong health authorities announced that a dog belonging to a woman sick with COVID-19 also tested “weakly positive” for the new coronavirus, the virus that causes the disease.
Experts called it a “low-level infection” –suggesting it was surface contamination, with the dog picking up traces of the virus in its nose and mouth rather. Although this was likely to be the first reported case of human-to-animal transmission of the disease, the experts nullified any chances of serious illness in the dog.
What does that test result mean for the pet owners and family members?
Although pets are prone to other types of coronaviruses, pet owners can be relieved that their pets are safe from the novel coronavirus.
Previous experience with SARS suggests that cats and dogs will not become sick or transmit the virus to humans.
Experts from the University of Hong Kong, City University and the World Organization for Animal Health had been consulted, and all “unanimously agreed that these results suggest that the dog has a low level of infection and it is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission.”
Pet owners should practice caution whenever around an animal such as regularly washing hands before and after petting the dog, covering mouth with a tissue or a mask, and distancing oneself from the pet if there are any signs of infection.
How Pet owners keep their animals and family’s safe?
The preventive measures for COVID-19 are as follows:
a. Wash your hands frequently
To keep yourself and your pets from contracting COVID-19 or any other form of Coronavirus, you should thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Washing your hand prevents easy transmission of the infection.
b. Maintain Distance
If you have any symptoms such as coughing or sneezing, maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and your dog. Sneezing or coughing often sprays small liquid droplets that may contain the virus.
c. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
To ensure the safety of your family and pets, do not fidget with your eyes, nose, and mouth before or after petting your dog. Most infections occur when a person incessantly touches their nose, mouth, and eyes.
d. Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure to cover your mouth or nose when sneezing or coughing. Use disposable tissue and mask whenever around your pets
e. Seek medical care early
Stay home or indoors if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. It’s essential to quarantine yourself and keep your pets away from you.
f. Stay informed
Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow the advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
What about the reports that an animal was the source of the virus?
A research team investigating about COVID-19 outbreak said COVID-19 may originate in bats. The genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus is as high as 96 percent identical with a type of coronavirus from bats, the team said, adding that the new coronavirus enters the receptor using the same cells with SARS virus.
Many experts suggested that the COVID-19 originated in the Wuhan’s Seafood market in China. Analysis of genomic data from 93 samples of the novel coronavirus suggests it was imported from elsewhere and the Chinese seafood market boosted its circulation and spread.
What should I do if my animal came in contact with someone who is later diagnosed with COVID -19?
Animals spread viruses between one another that are genetically distinct from human viruses. The genetic distinction makes it extremely difficult for humans and their pets to pass diseases on to one another including COVID-19.
There isn’t evidence that COVID-19 can spread through pets, so don’t worry. If your pet gets sick after interaction with someone with COVID-19, first call your veterinarian.
What if I or someone in my family develops COVID-19 or I am placed in quarantine because of close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19? What should I do about caring for my pet?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend limiting contact with pets or other animals if you develop COVID-19. In such a case, you should appoint someone else in the household to care for your pet if you are sick.
If you are in quarantine, but not sick, technically, your pet is in quarantine also, and you should find some way to care for the animal in the confines of your home, says veterinarian McKenzie.
Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek and the East Bay SPCA recommend that
- Take precautions similar to common flu prevention.
- Seek out reliable sources for updated information. The Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov; World Health Organization, www.who.int; and World Small Animal Veterinary Association, www.wsava.org, are good places to go for information on the virus.
- If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, the CDC recommends you minimize contact with your animal companions. Identify a family member or friend who can care for your pet.
- Have crates, food, and extra supplies, including medications, on hand for quick movement of the pet. Two weeks’ worth of food, medicine, and other supplies is recommended. A pet first-aid kit is also good to have for any unplanned situation.
- Ensure your animal’s vaccines are up-to-date in case boarding becomes necessary.
- Document all medications with dosages and administering directions, including prescriptions from your veterinarian if a refill becomes necessary.
- Pets should have identification such as an ID tag on their collar and a microchip. But remember, a microchip is only as good as the contact information registered to it.
- Follow CDC and WHO guidelines: Wash your hands with soap and water for the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice; avoid touching your face; stay home if you are sick; cough or sneeze into your elbow; wash your hands before and after handling pets.
- Pets don’t need masks.
- If your companion animal has been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19, contact the public health worker involved with the patient’s care. They will contact state veterinarians and direct you from there. If you are told to bring your pet to your veterinarian, call first so they can prepare isolation areas.