Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Your Pets

by Barbara Murray

Pet owners expressing concern about whether animals are in danger in this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are being bombarded with tons of information, some of which is misleading and downright scary. Fortunately, major government agencies and veterinary associations are publishing the facts as currently know. However, we need to be aware that because this is a novel virus, scientists are learning more information almost daily and the knowledge changes.

Cat resting on a dogAs of May 10, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) both clearly state that the information we have on how this virus affects our pets is "limited." It is recommended that until more is known about how the virus that causes COVID-19 affects our pets, it's best to treat them as we would a human family member. This means social distancing for our pets, keeping them away from other people and animals and avoiding situations where our pets might interact with others without our knowledge. For example, cats should always be kept indoors if possible and dogs should always be leashed when we are walking with them and at no time turned free alone in unfenced spaces. In addition, during this time of uncertainty it's best to stay away from dog parks and popular walking trails where larger numbers of dogs congregate.

The USDA reiterates that until more is known there is absolutely "no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare." [3] The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has been following positive results in companion animals closely and reports that pets infected from us typically recover without complications. [4] The statement I like best from the AVMA is "In this emergency, pets and people each need the support of the other and veterinarians are there to support the good health of both." Agreed. Obviously, the AVMA based this on scientific facts. The number of positive cases in humans is in the millions, the number of positive cases in pets is currently less than 10.

If you or someone in your household is showing symptoms of COVID-19, the FDA recommends that you quarantine the sick human from your pets until more is known about how this virus spreads from us to our pets. Personally, I know this would be quite difficult for me, but to ensure the safety of our pets, it's best that we do not pet or snuggle them if we're showing symptoms of this horrible virus. The FDA and CDC also recommends not sharing food or bedding materials with our pets if we're ill. If you live alone and no one else can care for your pet while you're ill, wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands and wear a mask when taking care of your pet's food and water.

The CDC reminds us that young children five and under, older adults, 65 plus and anyone with a weakened immune system are more susceptible to germs any animal carries.

Remember, as of now, the risk of spread between our pets to us is considered to be low. We do know that some cats and dogs have tested positive after close contacts with sick humans. One study has shown that cats are more likely than dogs to become infected with SARS-CoV-2, but whether the virus can then be transferred to humans from either species is largely unknown. The fact is we just don't know yet. The USDA is posting confirmed positive results of animal testing on its website.

As always, when in doubt about your pet's health, call your veterinarian and most importantly at this time if WE are sick, it's vitally important that we do not take our pets to the vet, we can call ahead and let the professionals provide us with the best decisions.

[1] FDA: Questions and Answers about Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Your Pets
[2] CDC: Coping with Coronavirus for Pet Owners
[3] CDC: COVID-19 Cats in New York
[4] American Veterinary Medical Association on COVID-19

Additional Resource: CDC: What to Do if You are Sick

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