CORONAVIRUS & PETS
The human coronavirus (COVID-19) is in the news a lot these days, and some reports are based on facts, others on speculations. Although we don’t have all the answers, but as a pet owner – or someone who spends a lot of time around pets – here’s what you should know:
- Follow current COVID-19 health official recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
- Based on what we know now, and what is known about other coronaviruses, there is no evidence that dogs or cats in a domestic environment can be a source of COVID-19 infection to humans or other animals – and limited evidence to support risk of the virus to pets.
- However, any surface with which a person infected with COVID-19 come into contact may transfer the virus or viral RNA, including pet fur or nasal secretions. As such, it is advised to keep pets away from infected people, and to confine pets of infected people.
- Always follow good handwashing and hygiene practices, especially before and after interacting with pets. Avoid contact with wildlife, including those kept as pets. Routinely clean and disinfect animal contact surfaces like cages and feeding areas, as well as immediately after contact with high-risk animals, such as wildlife and stray or free-roaming dogs and cats.
- If your pet shows signs of respiratory illness (coughing, sneezing, lethargy, or otherwise), call us at the first sign of illness, and keep them isolated associated with various viral and bacterial infections (kennel cough, canine flu, etc.) that are neither coronaviruses nor transmissible to people.
· Stay apprised to the latest information from reputable sources such as:
o World Small Animal Veterinary Association: https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/COVID-19_WSAVA-Advisory-Document-Mar-19-2020.pdf
o World Organization for Animal Health (OIE): https://www.oie.int/scientific-expertise/specific-information-and-recommendations/questions-and-answers-on-2019novel-coronavirus/
o U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf
CORONAVIRUSES & PETS: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Are dogs and cats at risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19?
Based on what we know now, and what is known about other coronaviruses, there is no evidence that domestic dogs or cats can be a source of COVID-19 infection to humans or other animals. There is limited evidence to support risk of the virus to pets, and testing pet remains unwarranted. In an abundance of caution, however, it is advised to keep pets away from infected people and to confine pets of infected people.
It’s also critical to follow current health official recommendations as this situation evolves.
But what about the reports I’m hearing of dogs and cats with low-level COVID-19?
According to reports, a small number of pets belonging to people infected with COVID-19 have been tested for the virus. There is still no evidence that pet-to-human transmission of COVID-19 can occur in a domestic environment, and the risk of human-to-animal transmission remains very small.
Any surface with which a person infected with COVID-19 comes into contact may transfer the virus or viral RNA, including pet fur or nasal secretions. As such, good hand and respiratory hygiene should be practiced when handling pets. It is also advised to keep pets away from infected people, and to confine pets of infected people.
Why does information about COVID-19 keep changing?
COVID-19 is a newly emerging disease, and the situation is still evolving. We are learning more about the disease COVID-19 and the SARS-CoV-2 virus every day.
How can I protect my pet from exposure to the COVID-19 virus?
While there is a limited evidence to support risk of COVID-19 virus to your pet, we recommend the following precautions regardless:
- Wash hands after handling animals or their environment; supervise handwashing for children less than five years of age.
- Keep pets away from people confirmed to have COVID-19, and confine pets of infected people to limit potential spread.
- Protect your skin from direct contact with animal feces by wearing vinyl or household cleaning gloves or using a plastic bag when cleaning up after a pet.
- Promptly wash bites and scratches inflicted by animals.
- Do not allow pets to lick open wounds, cuts, medical devices or the faces of young children immunocompromised people.
- Avoid contact with wildlife kept as pets, consumed as food and in the environment, and walk pets on a leash outdoors to prevent contact with wildlife.
- Routinely clean and disinfect animal contact surfaces (i.e cages, feeding areas) and immediately after contact with high-risk species (such as wildlife or free-roaming or stray dogs and cats) or raw animal-based food items.
- Help ensure your pets remain healthy with regular preventative care, including steps to control and prevent parasites. Call Pershing Animal Hospital at the first sign of illness in your pet.
Should my pet wear a mask?
No. There’s no scientific evidence that face masks protect pets from infectious diseases or air pollutants, and masks have the potential to be unnecessarily scary or uncomfortable for pets.
If pet fur can carry the virus, does that mean I should clean or wipe my pets down with bleach/alcohol/Clorox/Lysol, etc.?
No. While it’s easy to disinfect a doorknob or countertop with disinfectant wipes, alcohol or bleach, all these things can harm your pet. There is currently no evidence to support additional bathing of pets as a result to COVID-19. When you do bathe your pet, always use a mild shampoo specifically formulated for pets and lots of water to avoid causing skin problems with harsher soaps or shampoos.
Should I get my pet tested for COVID-19?
Currently, testing pets for COVID-19 virus is unwarranted. There is currently no evidence that domestic pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection to other animals or humans.
People who test positive for COVID-19 should be isolated from others including children, spouses, and pets to ensure that they do not inadvertently transfer infection, per World Health Organization recommendations.
What about hygiene and care of my exotic pets (including rodents and ferrets)?
COVID-19 is a human virus, and the greatest risk is transmission between people.
There is still no evidence that small exotic pets such as ferrets and hamsters can carry or transmit the virus that causes human COVID-19. As a precaution, we recommend keeping exotic pets in a safe enclosure and away from people infected with COVID-19.
Should I be worried about Hantavirus, given a man in China recently died following infection?
Hantavirus is not a newly emerging virus. Infections are rare and involve exposure to bites, urine or feces of rodents, rats and/or mice. Human-to-human transmission is very rare.
The symptoms for human infected by Hantavirus are like those present in patients battling COVID-19 and include shortness of breath, coughing, headaches and fevers. While this is being reported in the news, Hantavirus is not related to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
As always, pet owners should maintain good hygiene standards when handling pets, and caution should be taken to avoid exposure to non-domesticated rats and mice. Pet rodents should be kept in sanitary conditions not exposed to wild members of these species.
What if my pet’s not feeling well or is showing signs of flu-like illness?
If your pet shows any signs of illness, such as coughing, sneezing or lethargy, call us immediately, and keep them indoors as a precaution. Signs of illness in dogs and cats are usually associated with various viral and bacterial infections (kennel cough, canine flu, etc.) that are neither coronaviruses nor transmissible to people.
What if I’m not feeling well, recently visited a high-risk area and/or am quarantined due to potential COVID-19 virus exposures, but my pet still needs medical attention?
If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms or are quarantined due to potential coronavirus exposure, stay home and call your medical provider for advice on the next steps.
If your pet does not require immediate veterinary care, keep them at home and avoid contact with other people and animals; we’ll be happy to help you reschedule any appointments for your pets until you’re well.
If your pet requires veterinary care during this time, please call the office and we can arrange for a virtual visit for your pet with Dr. Jewell.
What is known about other coronaviruses in cats or dogs?
While there’s still limited evidence to support risk of COVID-19 virus infection to dogs or cats, there are other coronaviruses that do impact pets, none of which are transmissible to humans:
- Cats: Feline enteric coronavirus (FCoV) causes a mild or asymptomatic infection in domestic cats, and most signs are gastrointestinal-related. The widespread virus is more common in areas of higher cat numbers (catteries, shelters).
- Dogs: Two known coronaviruses exist in dogs. The gastrointestinal form can range from asymptomatic or mild diarrhea to severe debilitating inflammation of the small intestine, which in puppies, will occasionally result in death. Most dogs have a mild disease consisting of cough, sneezing, and nasal discharge.
What is the treatment for coronaviruses in pets?
There is no specific treatment for coronaviruses in dogs or cats, as mild clinical signs are unlikely to require therapy. Supportive care, including replacement of lost fluids, nutritional support, and anti-nausea medication, may be used for more severe cases. Hospitalization is rarely necessary. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses and therefore will not help treat coronaviruses.
Can manufactured pet food carry COVID-19 virus?
It is highly unlikely that dry or canned pet foods are potential viral vectors.