Life has definitely changed in the past several of weeks. Daily we hear of more and more store, restaurant, and beach closures and of event cancellations. “Social distancing” has become part of our everyday vernacular. In St. Petersburg, for now, we are still allowed—among other things—to go to the grocery store and to the park. We are allowed to walk outside freely (with the very strong recommendation that we endeavor to keep a distance of at least 6 feet from another person). Those are a few of the things that those of us with pets, particularly dogs, still need to do.
Is your pet prepared for a COVID-19 “shelter in place”?
We don’t know if a total “shelter in place” is coming to our community, as has happened in other countries and even in U.S. cities and states, but the good thing is we still have time to prepare. By this time we probably have a sufficient stock toilet paper, but what about supplies you may need for your pets? Experts recommend having at least a 2 week supply of food and kitty litter, and/or bags for picking up waste, and at least 1 month’s supply of any necessary medications, including flea and heartworm prevention.
Keep on hand at least a 2 week supply of food, kitty litter, and/or “potty” bags. Also, keep on hand at least a 1 month supply of medications, including flea, tick, and heartworm prevention.
Do you know when your pet’s next vaccinations are due? Remember, you can access your pet’s vaccination reminders on our Pet Portal (AllyDVM’s Pet Page) to view his or her upcoming vaccination due date(s). This is especially important if your pet will need boarding, or will be staying with friends or family that have pets, in the event you do get sick. Have a plan in place now for those who can take your pets in the event of a hospitalization, or just so your pets can get the care they need while you get the rest you need if you are home sick. You can also order medications, pet food, and other health supplies from our online pharmacy.
The challenges of isolation
Many of us are already starting to feel the effects of social distancing, and our dogs are no different. Dogs may also experience stress, depression, loss of appetite, listlessness, excessive barking, or destructive behavior, especially if they are used to going on excursions with you or to doggy day care. Dogs just can’t understand why their favorite activities are suddenly gone, so it’s important to keep them busy in a new way.
Dogs that are used to going on excursions with you or to doggy day care will likely not understand why they can’t enjoy their favorite pastimes.
Banish the boredom of staying inside
Just what do you do with a dog when you’re under quarantine, or just can’t be out and about like you were before? While your pets are probably pretty happy you’re home more, you may not be able to keep them as physically active as they once were. However, you can still keep them mentally stimulated. Consider using puzzle games or treat dispensers to keep them challenged and engaged.
Looking for something to do yourself? Try teaching your dog a new trick, or work on those obedience commands you have always been meaning to instill. This is a great way to increase your bond with your dog, while also providing mental and physical exercise. YouTube is a great resource for videos if you aren’t sure how to train a dog.
Keep your pet mentally stimulated while sheltering in place. Use puzzle games or treat dispensers to keep them occupied. And while they have your attention, try teaching your dog a new trick, or work on obedience commands.
Can my pet get sick with COVID-19?
Right now, the good news is that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19. And both the CDC and WHO (World Health Organization) agree that there do not appear to be any meaningful signs that our pets can get the virus or spread it. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
The CDC and WHO acknowledge that, at this time, there is no evidence that our pets can contract COVID-19 or spread it to other people or animals.
“But,” you may say, “wasn’t there a dog in Hong Kong that had coronavirus?!” Yes, there was a 17 year old Pomeranian that tested “weakly” for coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, which the dog’s owner had already been diagnosed with. Unfortunately, while that dog did sadly pass away soon after being returned to its owner from quarantine, experts do not believe the death was related to the virus. Health officials in both New York and Hong Kong have said they don’t believe domestic dogs and cats can be transmitters of the virus.
Why are some people still concerned pets may be able to transmit COVID-19?
There are some coronaviruses that can infect animals that also go on to infect humans, and subsequently spread between people, but that is a rare occurrence. SARS is an example of a coronavirus disease that made its leap to people that then spread person-to-person. That is also what is suspected to have happened in the current outbreak. It is known that the first infections were linked to a live animal market in China, but officials are still working hard to positively identify the source of COVID-19.
Some coronaviruses infect animals and then go on to infect humans. They subsequently spread from person to person, but these occurances are rare.
Then why are those sick with COVID-19 told to limit contact with pets?
Given the unknowns about the virus, experts recommend that people infected with the coronavirus stay away from pets, just as they should from people. Because people can be asymptomatic, the most conservative approach would be to refrain from touching other people’s dogs altogether until more information is known about the virus.
If you are sick with COVID-19, have another member of your household care for your pets when possible, or arrange for a friend or family member to take them. If you have no other option than to care for your pet yourself, avoid whatever direct contact you can, including petting and being kissed or licked, and wash your hands before and after interacting with them.
Experts recommend that people infected with COVID-19 stay away from pets and companion animals, just as they should stay away from other people.
Facts and recommendations about pets and COVID-19 from the experts
From our friends at the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association):
Out of an abundance of caution, the AVMA recommends that if you contract COVID-19 you take a common-sense approach when interacting with your pets or other animals in your home, including service animals. You should tell your physician and public health official that you have a pet or other animal in your home. 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 your pet or service animal. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. While we are recommending these as good practices, it is important to remember there is currently no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19 to other animals, including people.—AVMA.
If your pet or service animal needs to go to the veterinarian – what should you do? The AVMA recommends, if you are not sick with COVID-19 or any other communicable disease, to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for your pet just as you would normally. However, if you have contracted COVID-19 or other disease like cold or flu, please stay home and maintain social distancing with your family and friends while at home, until you are well again. In addition, “if you are sick with COVID-19, and you believe your pet or service animal is ill, please seek assistance from your veterinarian and public health official to determine how to best ensure your pet or service animal can be appropriately cared for while minimizing risks of transmitting COVID-19 to other people.”—AVMA.
Here are some other key facts from the CDC to help clear up some of the confusion we may still have:
- Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people and others cause illness in certain types of animals.
- Coronaviruses that infect animals can become able to infect people, but this is rare.
- We do not know the exact source of the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
- We do not have evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19.
- We do not have evidence to suggest that imported animals or animal products imported pose a risk for spreading the 2019 novel coronavirus in the United States.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause cold-like illnesses in people, while others cause illness in certain types of animals, such as cattle, camels, and bats. Some coronaviruses, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals and do not infect humans.—CDC.
We hope that this information helps you navigate these uncertain times. If you have any questions, please reach out to us at 727-822-8501. We are still seeing pets at our 1401 4th Street North location, Northeast Animal Hospital, for their appointments, and filling prescription and food orders, through curbside service only. Our downtown location, Downtown St. Pete Vet Clinic, remains closed until further notice.