For most of us, pets are family. It doesn’t matter if they have fur, feathers, scales — or, in some cases, none of the above — we cherish the animals that we are lucky to call ours. This is why, understandably, pet owners around the world have raised concerns about the safety of their pets during the coronavirus outbreak. Confusing matters further, reports from Hong Kong that a lone dog tested positive for ”a low-grade infection from the coronavirus” as well as earlier reports that the virus originated from an animal source have only added to pet parents’ worry.
Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asserts that there is ”no reason to think that any animals, including pets in the United States, might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus.” Additionally, the CDC affirms that it has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 or spreading the virus.
While pet owners can confidently believe their dogs, cats or other animals will not contract the coronavirus, knowing how to address pet illness can offer them some peace of mind year-round.
PC360 asked Dr. Steve Weinrauch, chief veterinary officer at Trupanion, a medical insurance provider for pets, to provide some clarity around pet sicknesses and the precautions humans should take. Here’s what he had to say:
PC360: What are the common signs of sickness in a pet, and what should pet owners do if they believe their pet has fallen ill?
Dr. Weinrauch: According to Trupanion data, including more than 1.5 million pets over 20 years, the most common signs of illness are vomiting and diarrhea. As always, if you notice these signs or any signs that don’t seem quite right, you should reach out to your family veterinarian to discuss.
PC360: Are there precautions pet owners should take with their pets to prevent the spread of any illness?
Dr. Weinrauch: To be clear, there is still no evidence to suggest that dogs or other pets can become ill from or spread COVID-19 any more than an inanimate object, such as pillow could.
Even before COVID-19 was a thing for humans, there were many basic hygiene reasons not to let your pet lick your face or mouth. And there is certainly no reason to get smooches on the face or mouth from your pet now.
Basic common sense and hygiene should prevail. Hands should be washed correctly and often. You probably don’t let your dog eat off of the same plate as you while you are still eating. And that shouldn’t change.
Dogs eat poop, sniff poop, and walk through poop. And that poop can carry stuff that gets us sick.
In humans, it has been found that 5% of the U.S. population has been infected with roundworm eggs called “Toxocara.” And people are more likely to be infected with Toxocara if they own a dog. In addition, Salmonella and Campylobacter can be passed back and forth between pets and families. And these are just a few examples of “zoonoses” (diseases or infections that can be passed between animals and people). Doggie “kisses” don’t help.
So get proactive, scoop that poop, deworm your pets, wash your hands, cuddle but don’t kiss and stay as safe as possible!