There’s no question that the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has taken over our lives. With numerous US cities and even some countries completely shutting down, and with people being urged to stay home and avoid public places, it’s important to remember how to deal with this illness and your pets.
The first thing to keep in mind is that although the virus came from animals, your pets don’t carry the virus. The second thing to remember is not to panic. The COVID-19 virus is serious, and all of us should be cautious of how we interact with others (in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, i.e. CDC) to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Most people who get COVID-19 will have only mild and moderate symptoms, but the reason more extreme measures are being taken is to protect those who are more vulnerable, given how contagious the virus is.
What is COVID-19?
Also called SARS-CoV-2, the transmission of COVID-19 is thought to occur when someone comes in contact with saliva, mucus or drops from someone who is infected. In its initial stages, individuals with the virus may not even know that they have it. The virus is most dangerous to people with secondary diseases, such as respiratory issues, immune disorders, diabetes, kidney disease, cancer patients, asthma, to name just a few, as well as the elderly.
The reason COVID-19 is so dangerous is because it’s a novel coronavirus, meaning humans have never been exposed to it before, so we have not developed an immunity to it. At the time of this writing, it has affected close to 154,000 people worldwide, with close to 6,000 deaths, and the numbers continue to grow.
The coronavirus is believed to have originated from bats, who passed it to an intermediary species (most likely the pangolin), who then passed it to humans. COVID-19 was first discovered in Wuhan, China in December 2019 after several pneumonia cases were reported (though some believe it goes back further, to November of that year).
No other animals are believed to be involved in the further transmission of the virus.
Are your pets at risk of catching COVID-19?
The majority of animal and veterinary authorities believe that there is not a high risk of passing the disease to pets, though this is a new virus and authorities are still learning as things progress.
IDEXX Laboratories, a veterinary diagnostics agency, stated on March 13, 2020 that after an evaluation of ‘thousands of feline and canine specimens’ that COVID-19 is ‘primarily transmitted person-to-person and supports the recommendation against testing pets for the COVID-19 virus.’ The report further states that if cats or dogs show signs of respiratory issues, that you should contact a veterinarian to test for any types of respiratory issues and pathogens.
The CDC also, as of 3/13/2020, have no reports of any pets contracting COVID-19. They also mentioned that there is no current evidence that the disease can be spread to humans from pets.
Other tests and reports from organizations such as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO) verify that it doesn’t appear that at the time of this writing that COVID -19 can be spread from pets to other animals and humans.
The American Veterinary Medical Association states that there is no evidence that pets can be affected by COVID-19. Yet the AVMA also recommends that if you do have COVID-19, you should limit your interaction with your pets until more information about the virus becomes available. This means no hugs and kisses for the time being. As the CDC has told us to wash our hands with great frequency, this also applies when dealing with your pets, such as before cleaning out their water dishes, petting them, cleaning out litter boxes, etc.
If you are sick with COVID-19, please ensure that someone else in your family can take care of your pets. If you live alone, and it’s possible, you may want to ask a friend to take care of your pets until you recover.
We’ve enclosed links above from some of the leading animal health authorities. It’s important to continue to check these resources as reports continue to be updated, to ensure you have the most up-to-date information.
Recent reports from Hong Kong have indicated that there was one dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, who was the first dog to test positive for COVID-19 (the dog contracted the virus from the owner, after the owner had become infected with COVID-19) recently passed away after having been retested and appearing to be negative. The owner opted not to have an autopsy done on their pet, and authorities don’t seem positive that the pet’s death was caused by COVID-19 infection.
So although the risk seems low of passing the disease onto your pet, if you are diagnosed with COVID-19, you may want to make arrangements to ensure your pet is protected until we understand more about how this disease interacts with our furry friends.
What Precautions Is ATX Animal Clinic taking at this time?
If your pets need medical assistance, ATX Animal Clinic is still open, but we’ve taken the following precautionary response measures for your safety, your pet’s safety, and ours:
- We are minimizing all person-to-person physical contact. We have asked our team to refrain from shaking hands.
- We have increased periodic cleaning and disinfecting of all high touch surfaces throughout our facility.
- In addition, all CDC guidelines will be closely followed by our team.
- Employees who feel ill are instructed to stay home and consult their healthcare providers.
- We are urging all employees to be extra vigilant about frequent hand washing, and all coughs and sneezes shall be covered.
- Our exam rooms will be disinfected between patients with healthcare grade disinfectant.
We are closely monitoring the guidance of the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and local authorities regarding the spread of the virus to ensure that the actions that we are taking are comprehensive and appropriate.
In the meantime, we cannot stress enough the importance of washing your hands and avoiding touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth as this is one of the major ways that the virus seems to be spread.