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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

Coronavirus and Pet Care: Safe Practices During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Our furry family members bring us comfort during these anxious times, but do we need to worry about their health? Can they catch COVID-19? Can they spread it to us? Is it safe to let neighbors pet our pooch? Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus and pet care.

Dogs, cats and coronavirus

Coronaviruses are zoonotic diseases, meaning they can be passed from one animal species to another. Between people, the virus passes when one person inhales droplets that another person exhaled by coughing, sneezing or breathing. The virus can also pass from person to person through contaminated surfaces. These facts are the reason we are encouraged to wear masks and frequently wash our hands.

Can your pet be infected with coronavirus? In March 2020, a tiger and several other big cats at a New York zoo tested positive for the virus. It was later determined that the virus was passed to the animals by a zoo staff member. The animals had a dry cough and some loss of appetite but were not significantly impaired. A few household pets have also tested positive. A Chinese study indicates that cats may be able to spread the virus to other cats through respiratory droplets. Cats seem more susceptible to the virus than dogs, but their symptoms are mild. It appears that cats and dogs can test positive without becoming ill.

Pet-to-human transmission

As of late May 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state that there’s no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. The CDC’s website states that “[b]ased on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.”

Since at least theoretically the virus could be transmitted through human respiration droplets on an animal’s fur, be thoughtful about coronavirus and pet care. It’s advisable to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your pet. If you begin to feel sick, do not touch your cat or dog and distance yourself from them. This not only protects her health but prevents contamination of her fur, which could cause your family to become infected.

Dog walking etiquette

One of the challenges of coronavirus and pet care is encounters with other people. Despite social distancing measures, your neighbors may be unable to resist your adorable dog when you are out walking. The next thing you know, the neighbor is standing too close to you and is handling your pet. You don’t want to be rude, but you want to stay healthy and want your pet to as well. What to do?

Try changing your walking schedule to times when you’ll pass fewer people. If you still encounter walkers who want to be friendly with your dog, ask as nicely as possible if you can visit each other after the pandemic has subsided and times are safer.

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