In these scary and unprecedented times, many pet owners have expressed concern about the current situation involving the worldwide spread of corona virus (COVID-19) and how it may involve our pets.
This fear and confusion has been exacerbated by media reports of a dog in Asia testing “weakly positive” for the virus. The animal was part of a household in which the owner had been diagnosed with the virus. Experts studying this situation in Hong Kong believe that the virus may have spread from the infected people to the dog, and not the other way around. This pet is one of two dogs under quarantine (the other tested negative for the virus), and neither dog has shown any signs of being ill. At this time, infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is NO evidence at this point to indicate that pets can spread COVID-19 to other animals, including people.
Regardless, this situation is still impacting all of us, on a daily basis. To help keep yourself, your family, your pets, and our communities safe, there are steps you can take. The AVMA has released a COVID-19 Resource page that is continually updated. As of the time of this writing (March 16, 2020) the salient points are summarized here.
Important points to be aware of regarding COVID-19:
- Transmission primarily occurs when there is contact with an infected person’s bodily secretions, such as saliva or mucus droplets in a cough or sneeze.
- Transmission via touching a contaminated surface or object (i.e., a fomite) and then touching the mouth, nose, or possibly eyes is also possible, but appears to be a secondary route. Fomites can include porous (i.e. clothing, money and pet fur) and non-porous surfaces (i.e. doorknobs and countertops).
- There is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.
- If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would, including walking, feeding, and playing. You should continue to practice good hygiene during those interactions (e.g., wash hands before and after interacting with your pet; ensure your pet is kept well-groomed; regularly clean your pet’s food and water bowls, bedding material, and toys).
- Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet.
- If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a facemask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.
- There are currently no antiviral drugs recommended or licensed by FDA to treat COVID-19, and there is no immunization available.
- The best way to avoid becoming ill is to avoid exposure to the virus. Taking typical preventive actions, such as careful handwashing, and other infection control practices (such as social distancing) can greatly reduce the chance of spreading any disease.
- If you do become sick with COVID-19 and your pet needs medical care, call your veterinarian’s office to inquire about the use of telemedicine, or have a healthy family member or friend bring your pet in to the clinic.
This situation is continuing to evolve. Remember that, whatever the future brings, we are all in this together. For more information, or for the most recent updates, click the link to the resource below.
COVID-19: WHAT VETERINARIANS NEED TO KNOW. Updated as of 2:00 PM on March 16, 2020.