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The Coronavirus outbreak has the veterinary community and pet owners still dealing largely with mysteries and unknowns, but most of what they do know might come as a relief to pet owners.
COVID-19, a potentially deadly respiratory illness, is believed to have originated from exotic animal food markets in Wuhan, China (which is probably a disinformation) — but domestic dogs and cats themselves do not appear to be carriers.
“At this point, we’re encouraging people to interact with their animal as normal,” West Village Veterinary Hospital‘s Dr. Daniel Smith tells The Post, adding that as a precaution, pet owners should “keep interaction between your pet and other people to a minimum.”
The American Veterinary Medical Association is currently advising, “If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally do.”
The World Health Organization reports there is “no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus.”
Here’s everything you need to know about how the coronavirus interacts with cats and dogs so far, and what should you do:
“There is no evidence that animals or animal products imported from China or other countries pose a risk of spreading coronavirus in the US,” the New York State Veterinary Medical Society declares in a new pamphlet on COVID-19. “At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread the coronavirus.”
Those who are sick with the coronavirus should “restrict contact with any animals just like you would around other people,” the VMS pamphlet continues. If you're (potentially) infected, a healthy household member should take care of the pet, or if that's not possible, the infected individual should wear a face mask and wash their hands thoroughly before and after feeding, walking, or any interaction with the pet.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol, ensuring the correct amount of gel is applied. However, 20 seconds of washing with “soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing certain kinds of germs,” the agency reports.
In late February, a Hong Kong coronavirus patient’s pet dog tested “weak positive” for a “low level” of the virus after oral and nasal tests on Feb. 26 at an animal care facility. The dog, which did not exhibit any symptoms, was put into a two-week quarantine, after which it tested negative.
“The repeated earlier test results support this being a true infection,” J. Scott Weese, a professor at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College, told the Washington Post. “It wouldn’t be surprising for this to be a low-grade infection because dogs are not thought to be very good hosts for this virus.”
However, Hong Kong health officials report the dog may not have actually been carrying the virus but tested positive due to “environmental contamination.”
NYC’s Smith again stresses that “there’s no evidence at this point that there’s transmission from animals to humans.”
While there is not yet solid evidence that animals can carry the virus, they still may be fomites for it.
“A fomite is a surface that can transmit disease,” says Smith. “Anything can be a fomite.”
A door handle, a tote bag, a phone screen — and your guinea pig. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that people affected by COVID-19 have live virus in their stool, so it can spread through fecal matter as well as droplets from sneezing and coughing.
“So, if somebody who has [the coronavirus] is coughing on their hand and then petting their dog, there is the possibility of transmission,” Smith says. “But I think it’s a very low likelihood … we don’t know enough.”
German researchers report coronavirus can indeed live on inanimate surfaces such as metal, glass or plastic — for up to nine days. Published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, the study analyzed data from 22 previous studies on human coronaviruses including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and endemic human coronavirus (HCoV).
“It seems plausible to reduce the viral load on surfaces by disinfection,” study authors write, “especially of frequently touched surfaces in the immediate patient surrounding where the highest viral load can be expected.”
So, again, wash hands frequently when touching devices — and your pets. It is very important to kill the germs all over the house.
Concerned pet owners, Smith emphasizes, should contact their vets — but be patient: This virus is novel to everyone, and the situation is changing rapidly, with management protocols evolving daily.
“There’s a lot that’s not completely known. The vet community right now is still trying to figure out how to interact with the situation — give your vet the benefit of the doubt,” says the seven-year industry veteran. “I don’t think anybody has seen anything like this. It’s stressful for everybody.”
“The ASPCA is committed to prioritizing the health and safety of pets and their owners, and we are closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19,” Dr. Stephanie Janeczko, vice president of ASPCA Shelter Medicine Services, said in a statement. “A pet’s first line of defense is a well-prepared owner, and we strongly encourage pet owners to take the necessary precautions and incorporate pets into their preparedness plans to keep their family — including their pets — healthy.”
The ASPCA advises “emergency kits” that include a 30-day supply of pets’ medications, as well as at least two weeks’ worth of food and other supplies, such as kitty litter. Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification info: pet name, telephone number and urgent medical needs. Plus, write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on carriers.
The ASPCA also advises “proactively” pre-designating a family member, friend or boarding facility to help with short- or long-term care in the event you are unable to care for your pets. If your emergency caregiver’s assistance is needed, ease their burden by compiling all info in a “dossier.” List habits, food preferences, medical conditions and meds taken, veterinarian contact info, medical and vaccination records and behavioral tendencies.
Click to see the New York Post original article.