Foundation provides advice on coronavirus and pets
People should worry more about transmitting the coronavirus to their pets than getting the disease from them, the Animal Wellness Foundation said today following the report of a dog in Hong Kong that got the coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19, from a human.
The Los Angeles-based private charitable organization’s mission making veterinary care available to everyone with a pet, regardless of economic ability.
“The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) received a medical report on March 1 from the chief veterinarian from the Hong Kong Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation revealing the first documented case of COVID-19 in a pet. The pathway was from a person to a dog, and not the converse,” the foundation said in a news release that also contained a link to the report. According to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no evidence that companion animals can spread COVID-19, the foundation continued.
“We now know that people can transmit the coronavirus to their pets,” said Jennifer Skiff, director of international programs for the Animal Wellness Foundation.
“If you’re sick, you should protect your pets like you would any other family member. Keep your distance and be diligent in following sanitary recommendations. Pet owners should take precautions to protect their pets, but they absolutely should not relinquish their animals or deny them usual standard of care,” she added.
“People should not fret about contracting the virus from our pets,” said Sarah LaMere, a veterinary virologist and a member of the National Veterinary Council of the Animal Wellness Foundation. “We face much greater risks of contracting the virus from people.
LaMere added that pets contract the virus the same way that humans do — from contact with infected droplets from a person or infected surfaces.
“If you or someone in your household is infected with COVID-19,” said LaMere, “it makes sense to isolate the pet from that person to an extent practicable. But the virus, even if it passes to a pet, is unlikely to make your pets sick and deliver symptoms that will affect the animal’s quality of life.”
“I want to impress upon people that there isn’t any evidence right now that COVID-19 is going to be a concern in animals, even though a dog tested positive,” observed LaMere.
She recommends the following tips for protecting the health of animals:
▪ “Keep yourself healthy. If animals contract COVID-19, it is much more likely they will have picked it up from us than from each other.
▪ “Wash your hands with soap frequently before handling your pets, especially after being in public places with lots of people, like grocery stores, church, etc. Make sure you have contact with soap for at least 20 seconds. In vet school we were taught to sing the whole alphabet while washing our hands to estimate the time.
▪ “Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% ethanol when you are unable to access a sink for hand washing. It’s a good idea to carry these with you.
▪ “Avoid letting your pets lick you on the nose, mouth, and mucous membranes. This is important for preventing transmission of multiple diseases to each other, and not just COVID-19.
▪ “Keep your animals updated on their other vaccines. We don’t currently have vaccines for COVID-19 in any species, and so far, we don’t see evidence that the virus can make our animals sick. However, respiratory viruses cause many more problems when there are other pathogens present, so protect your dog from canine influenza, bordetella, etc.”