Covid-19 and Your Pet
By Lorraine Ellwood, DVM
For all of us, the emergence of the Covid-19 virus has changed our way of life. We’ve been forced to spend much of our time isolated from other people, worried about human contact. No longer is it acceptable to give someone a hug or handshake. But we all still need love, and for many that love comes from our beloved pets. They are here for us when we need a friend, and we need that now more than ever. In fact, pet adoptions have increased significantly since the pandemic started. But is it safe to have a pet or adopt a new pet in these uncertain times?
With so much that is not known about this new virus, many people worry that their pets are at risk, or pets could pose a risk to them. It’s too early in the research of this new disease to have answers to these questions, but this is what is known at this time. Worldwide, millions of people have been diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19, but there have been very few positive tests in companion animals or in the animal world in general. In the handful of positive animal cases, it is believed that they were infected by owners who tested positive for the virus. So it is very important that people who have COVID-19 should avoid contact with all humans, pets and other animals. However there is no evidence that pets can spread the virus to people, even if it gets on their skin or fur.
Potential signs of the virus in pets include vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory disease, fever and loss of appetite. If the pet is showing any of these signs it is important to bring the pet to see a veterinarian. But if the pet’s owner tested positive for the disease, then someone else should bring the pet to the clinic. For these cases, samples from the nose, throat or rectum can be submitted to a lab for testing of COVID. Routine testing for this virus in pets is not advised.
The best advice is to treat pets as you would treat other family members. Try to limit interactions with other people as much as possible. Keep cats inside and walk dogs on a leash at least 6 feet away from other people. Try not to go to the dog park, but if it is a part of your routine, remember to wear your mask. Don’t try to put a mask on your pet because it could produce more harm than good. Try to clean and disinfect anything you bring to the park - toys, dishes and leashes, but not your dog. Remember that it is still important to take your pet to the veterinarian if it is sick or injured or for preventative care and surgery. Your veterinarian and staff are doing everything possible to keep you and your pets safe and healthy during this pandemic crisis.