Of all the new worries we Louisianans have added to our lives, the health of our beloved pets can be found near the top of the list. But what is a pet owner to do when there is so much new information to comb through and understand about taking care of our precious friends? These days, advice about pet care and dealing with the Coronavirus comes from a variety of sources. Fortunately, SB has combed through the research and the rumors found in the latest information and is here to alleviate the concerns of pet owners.

The great news is that humans cannot contract COVID-19 from animals! Whether or not animals can contract the disease from us is still under investigation. The Center for Disease and Control (CDC) wants people to know that there are no reports of pets sick with Coronavirus Disease, that is caused by SARS-CoV-2, in the United States. The understanding is that pets can have other types of coronaviruses, like canine and feline coronaviruses, which are types that cannot infect people and are not the COVID-19 virus. Every kind of Coronavirus can cause infection in certain species. So, there is a very small possibility that your pet could catch COVID-19 from you or another person. Scientists are conducting studies to understand which animal species are susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. 

Knowing that humans can’t contract COVID-19 from animals is such a relief. This knowledge has come from many diligent American scientists who are working to reassure everyone that humans are safe with their pets, and research on pets and other animals will help combat the outbreak. IDEXX, an American laboratory testing company, announced on March 13, that it found no evidence of disease in an evaluation of thousands of canine and feline specimens. As of April 10, the CDC has investigated a number of dogs and cats reported to have Coronavirus outside the United States. Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) has investigated reports of two pet dogs, a Pomeranian and a German shepherd, that were thought to have COVID-19. Both dogs have tested negative for the virus on numerous tests and are showing no symptoms of the virus. The AFCD also conducted tests on 17 dogs and 8 cats who live in households with confirmed COVID-19 human cases and found no infection in the animals. However, some findings from laboratory studies of laboratory animals indicate cats are the most susceptible species tested so far.   

In the United States, the first case of an animal testing positive for COVID-19 came in the form of a big cat, a tiger at a zoo in New York City. Health officials believe the tiger and some other large cats housed in proximity became sick after exposure to an infected zoo employee. All animals are in quarantine and are continuing to be monitored and tested. The summary of this animal research indicates that the Coronavirus may be spread from people to animals in certain situations.

So, the encouraging news is pet owners only have to worry about their pet’s health if the pet’s family members are infected. The scientific information shows evidence that pets have a small chance of contracting COVID-19 from humans. Fortunately, practice makes perfect, and we already know how to protect others and ourselves from contracting COVID-19. The CDC advises taking the same precautions with our pets as we take with people. The advice for pet owners is a list of simple tips for interacting with animals. Keep your pets healthy by keeping them separated from people and other people’s animals who are or might be infected with COVID-19 or showing symptoms. Also, pet owners need to add another hand washing session to their routines; protect your pets by washing your hands before petting and playing with your pets. 

In order to keep pets healthy, pet owners who are ill with COVID-19 need to follow a few strict guidelines from the CDC for taking care of pets during self-quarantine. If possible, restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick. Perhaps a healthy member of your household could take care of your pet. If you have to take care of your own pet for any reason, it is recommended that you wear a face mask and avoid kissing and hugging your pet. You should wash your hands thoroughly before and after interacting with your animal, including petting, walking, feeding, or playing with your pet. Do not share towels or bedding with the pets or people in your home. These practices can ensure that your animals stay healthy.

Even though, there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with the disease in the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) agrees that anyone sick with COVID-19 should apply the common-sense approach that the CDC recommends. The AVMA also recommends that if you get infected with Coronavirus, tell your physician or public health official that you have a pet or other animal in your home. And the AVMA also suggests animals belonging to sick owners should be kept from contact with other pets and animals as much as possible. The idea is just like social distancing between people but keeping animals apart that live in the same household might take some creative thinking.  

What should you do if you suspect your pet is sick? First, remember that there are no suspected cases of pets with COVID-19, so your pet most likely has some other kind of illness. The next step is to call your veterinarian or a telemedicine veterinarian service so that you and your pet can possibly stay at home to conduct the vet visit. Before you call, write down a list of symptoms that you notice in your pet and any other concerns you might have. If you have concerns that your pet is sick because of exposure to someone with COVID-19, be sure to tell the veterinarian. Tests have been made available for COVID-19 in pets, but the test request must be submitted by a veterinarian along with a rationale for the test. The CDC does not recommend testing pets, and there is not a vaccine for COVID-19 at this time.

On the bright side, our pets are waiting to play with us, and all the COVID-19 information about pets and pet owners is advice that we can all manage and deal with if we have to. Pets offer many pet owners a way of relieving stress. Pet lovers can be thankful while we have time to stay home and spend time interacting with our animal friends that offer us unconditional love. Just remember to pause and wash your paws before and after you take a break and take the time to pet your pet today!

The information in this article as of April 11 and more information can be found at:

www.cdc.gov

www.avma.org/coronavirus 

www.afcd.gov.hk/english/index.html

www.usda.gov/coronavirus