coronavirus and our precious dogs

Pet owners have questions about the risk of their pets contracting or spreading the virus. While coronaviruses can infect animals, currently there is no evidence that pets or other domestic animals can be infected with this new virus. Further, there is no evidence that pets could be a source of infection to people.

What should pet parents do?

“Embrace your pets. “Pets play a vital psycho-psychological role for their owners, especially now when everybody’s feeling so isolated and alone.”  “This is the time to hug your pet but not your human loved one. So let’s keep the social distancing focused on human beings, and if you need to hug something, hug your dog.” It will be good for your pet too!
“The human animal bond is extremely important for animal health,” she said. “With so many people working from home, this is really a great time to sit back and enjoy your time with your pet. “Go for a walk, keep your distance, but go for your walk. Play ball in your backyard with your dog, play with your cats with their cat toys. Even fish, relax, enjoy your time with them because it is really, really good for our health to reduce our stress.”

Is it OK to take my dog for walks?

Unless you’re under strict self-quarantine orders, you’ll need to take your dog out for regular walks so they can go potty and exercise. That’s good for both you and your pet’s mental well-being ― just be sure to stay six feet apart from other people and pets you come across.

What if you need to self-quarantine and avoid the outside? If you live in an apartment or don’t have a backyard, you’ll have to train your dog to use pee pads (or make use of fake grass or sod patches).

You want to normalize the situation for your pup, so act like you usually do before going for a walk. Grab your dog’s leash and the poo bags and ask him if he needs to go pee pee (or whatever you normally say as a cue). Then, introduce him to the pee pads.

“Walk your dog to the area where you want them to go during a time when you think they need to potty.

(For most pets, that’s in the morning, after exercising or mealtime, or after a nap.)

If your dog isn’t getting the picture and refuses to go, don’t sweat it: Go about your day, then watch for signs that your dog needs to relieve himself and simply try again.

Is it OK to let my pets socialize with other pets?

Out of an abundance of caution, you might want to avoid that doggy get-together with your friends or doggy daycare. As with general social distancing, the goal right now is to limit all types of contact as much as possible.

“Just like we don’t want people mixing in large groups, we don’t want pets mixing in large groups

What if I am stuck at home and have no pet food left, what can I give to my pet?

That really depends on your pet. In many instances, you should use caution – if they are sensitive to dietary changes, if they have diarrhea or vomiting with changes to their diet, or if they have food allergies. It’s always best to discuss your individual pet’s needs with your veterinarian. If that isn’t an option, most dogs will tolerate and enjoy cooked rice mixed 1:1 with cottage cheese or cooked meat (especially chicken, turkey, or hamburger). Cats will generally be more receptive to canned fish, turkey or chicken (or cottage cheese) along with cooked rice. Many dogs can go for a short period of time eating foods generally similar to what we eat, although it’s important to avoid spicy or high fat foods and to carefully remove any bones and excess fat. Avoid grease or fatty drippings from cooking meats.

How should we handle our pets to ensure they do not become carriers of the virus?

  • Walk on a leash when outdoors.
  • Avoid contact with persons known or suspected to have been exposed to COVID‐19. If you are infected or have been exposed, include your pet(s) among those you do not have contact with, and wash hands before and after handling your pet(s).
  • Routinely clean and disinfect animal contact surfaces (e.g. cages, feeding areas) and immediately after contact with high‐risk species. What if my dog or cat is showing signs of flu‐like illness?
  • If your pet shows signs of coughing, sneezing, lethargy or otherwise, call your veterinarian at the first sign of illness and keep them indoors to prevent further spread.
  • Signs of illness in dogs and cats can be associated with various common viral and bacterial infections (e.g. kennel cough and canine flu) that are not transmissible to people. Are exotic pets, such as ferrets and rats, safe from the disease?
  • The practice of selling/consuming wildlife that may carry the virus has been implicated as the source of the current global coronavirus outbreak.
  • If you have recently acquired an exotic pet, it should be handled hygienically as indicated above, quarantined away from other pets, and your veterinarian should be consulted. Should we get rid of our pets to be sure they will not transfer the virus to our family?
  • No. There is currently no evidence that household pets like dogs and cats are involved in transmitting coronaviruses to humans.
  • Pet ownership can have health, emotional and social benefits, so practicing responsible pet ownership and hygienic practices is recommended to keep families and pets together and free from disease.

Should pets be groomed or cleaned more often?

Not necessarily. If there is no known novel coronavirus exposure in the household and no one in the home is sick, there is no need to adjust your regular grooming habits, unless you ordinarily have your dog groomed by a professional groomer. In the spirit of social distancing and for your own (human) protection, I’d recommend bathing your dog at home only during this time. This will help them avoid other peoples’ hands, faces, and possible coughs and sneezes which they could bring home to you (think about the favorite teddy bear example).

Does my pet need to wear a mask?

No, putting a mask on your pet isn’t something we’d recommend. Wearing a face mask could be distressing for pets and may affect their ability to breathe normally, particularly in flat-faced breeds. To help stop the virus spreading, make sure you wash your hands with warm water and soap (especially before and after handling your pet and their food).

Can my pet transmit a coronavirus infection to my family members?

The coronavirus strains that infect dogs and cats cannot be transmitted to people, and are unlikely to mutate to a form that can jump to humans. Viruses are most likely to mutate when they are new and unstable, and the canine and feline coronavirus strains have been around for decades without infecting humans, meaning they are stable and unlikely to mutate. There is no evidence currently exists that COVID-19 can be spread by companion animals, including dogs and cats.

Keep in mind that the coronavirus can live on surfaces for a short period of time, and if a person infected with the virus pets your pup, she could carry the virus on her fur. If coronavirus infection spreads to our area, you should prevent contact with people who may be sick. Follow the tips for preventing infection, which include:

  • Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • Using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Cleaning frequently touched objects, such as cell phones, purses, and computers, with disinfectant spray or wipes
  • Avoiding contact with sick people
  • Avoiding touching your face
  • Staying home if you are sick, to avoid exposing others
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then discarding the tissue in the trash

Is it true that hand sanitizers/anti-bac gel is poisonous to dogs?

We are aware of a false post being shared on social media that suggests hand sanitizers contain Ethylene Glycol, a chemical that is found in antifreeze and is extremely toxic to pets. This isn’t true – hand sanitizers contain ‘ethanol’ (alcohol), not ethylene glycol. Ethanol (alcohol) can be harmful if ingested in a large quantity (i.e. an entire bottle), but it evaporates quickly and IS NOT HARMFUL if it’s licked in small quantities from your skin, or your pet’s fur. Please do not let this false information put you off using hand sanitizer products at this critical time.

What if I have to self-quarantine because of COVID-19?

The number one recommendation is to limit contact with your pet. This includes, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.

Owners should also try to make alternate arrangements for their pets in case of illness, but if there is no alternative,  washing your hand before and after every interaction.

Service animals should be permitted to stay with their handler, but it is still recommended to wash your hands and limit contact.

Humane Society always recommends washing your hands and practicing good hygiene when you are handling or are around animals, and to contact your vet if you notice a change in your pet’s health.