Pet owners may be wondering whether Covid-19, the coronavirus that has infected thousands of people worldwide, is a threat to dogs or cats or can be carried by them. So far, the short answer is no.
Unless you are in an area where the disease is spreading rapidly, then there is no action or preparation necessary.
Even if you are in an area where many people have been infected with the coronavirus, there’s no evidence that companion animals can be infected with it. Of course, veterinarians can’t be absolutely sure about the infection because it is new, so if you have the virus, or are in an area with many human infections, some precautions might be useful.
Here are some quick facts and recommendations based on advice from the World Health Organization, the World Organisation for Animal Health and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association.
Have any companion animals been infected by the virus?
Not as far as researchers know. One dog in Hong Kong that belongs to a patient with Covid-19 was tested for the virus and showed low levels of it in its nose and mouth. But the dog is not sick according to the Hong Kong health department, and the virus might be from contact with the patient or other surfaces. As anyone with a dog knows, their noses and mouths come in contact with just about everything.
Are there any precautions pet owners should take?
Not unless you are sick with the coronavirus or in an area where disease is spreading. The World Health Organization notes that it never hurts to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. There’s always the risk for salmonella and E. coli that can pass from animals to people.
If you are sick with Covid-19 and have a pet, the small animal vet association suggests that you wash your hands and wear a face mask around the pet, as you would around a person, and keep them inside, just to avoid any chance of spreading the virus.
What about advance preparation for a possible outbreak?
Experts have suggested having supplies of food and medications on hand for humans if you are concerned about an outbreak or other disaster. It can’t hurt to put pet food on the list, as well as any medications your pet takes.
What if my pet gets sick?
If you have an animal that becomes sick after contact with people infected with Covid-19, you should call your veterinarian. Don’t bring the animal into the vet’s office without contacting the veterinarian first to discuss the animal’s symptoms and its exposure. Remember, it’s highly unlikely that a dog or cat could be infected.
What about vaccinations that veterinarians give for other coronaviruses that do make dogs sick. Would it help to get those vaccinations just in case?
No. Those vaccines are for different coronaviruses that cause a contagious intestinal disease in dogs. They are not licensed for other uses and there’s no evidence that they work against other kinds of coronaviruses. The veterinary association says in its advisory to its members, “Veterinarians should NOT use such vaccines in the face of the current outbreak.”
What if I’m in a country where there’s no indication the virus is spreading?
Cuddle with your pets. Take them for walks. Keep them in your lap (if they fit) while the news is on. Animals can have a very calming effect. And they are always better off if their owners are relaxed. Then wash your hands.
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