As people worldwide hold their breath—and their coughs and sneezes—to see how the COVID-19 pandemic will pan out, many pet owners are worried about their beloved companions’ health and safety. With the variety of misinformation swirling around regarding coronaviruses and their effect on pets and people, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. To put your mind at ease about your pet’s safety in these troubling times, read on to understand COVID-19, and how it’s transmitted.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a newly discovered coronavirus that appears to have originated in bats, similar to SARS and MERS, two other betacoronaviruses. After cropping up in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, COVID-19 has rapidly spread across the world. While most coronaviruses are species-specific, some are zoonotic (i.e., they can jump from animals to people), as is the case with COVID-19. This new coronavirus, which is thought to have come from a large Wuhan seafood and live animal market through animal-to-person transmission, has since developed into a human-only virus.
How is COVID-19 transmitted?
Primary transmission occurs through direct, person-to-person contact, meaning that an infected person can transmit virus particles through respiratory droplets by sneezing or coughing near another person, who inhales the droplets, and becomes infected. A less-common, secondary transmission can occur when these infected droplets land on surfaces, such as door knobs or countertops, as touching a contaminated surface can result in infection. Smooth surfaces are more likely to transmit disease, because porous surfaces, such as money and pet fur, can trap the virus particles deep in their fibrous material. With this mode of action, it is highly unlikely you will become sick if you pet a dog who has been in contact with an infected person, but it may happen, so take appropriate precautions while we learn more about this disease.
Can my pet get COVID-19?
At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and multiple other human and animal health agencies have concluded there is no evidence to indicate pets can serve as a source of COVID-19 infection for people, nor become ill from the disease themselves. Despite this declaration, COVID-19 research is still in the early stages, so take proper precautions when handling your pet if you are sick. Ideally, have a family member or friend care for your pet if you are ill, but if that is not possible, wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your pet, and avoid kissing, snuggling, hugging, or sharing food.
Many people worry that their pets can get COVID-19, because they already are known to develop coronavirus infections. Fortunately, most coronaviruses are species-specific, so you can’t get a canine coronavirus and vice versa. In dogs, two forms of coronavirus are common—enteric, which causes mild diarrhea, and respiratory, which can develop with kennel cough cases. Cats are only afflicted with one coronavirus form—enteric —which also causes mild diarrhea. In rare instances, feline coronavirus can lead to feline infectious peritonitis, which is usually fatal.
What should I do if my pet becomes ill after coming in contact with a sick person?
If your pet becomes ill after coming in contact with a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, call us, and your local public health official. Respiratory issues are common in pets, and we will rule out other diseases first before considering COVID-19, which appears to infect only people. If you notice the following signs in your cat or dog, call us to schedule an appointment:
- Nasal discharge
- Ocular discharge
- Difficulty breathing
- Decreased appetite
How is Alpine Animal Hospital keeping my pet, and my community, safe?
When we became veterinarians, we took an oath, which states that each veterinarian will “use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.” Although we are deeply committed to protecting and caring for your pets, we also are devoted to promoting public health, by sharing our knowledge about disease transmission, and keeping pets and people safe and healthy. To protect our community and your pets, we are implementing precautionary measures to reduce COVID-19’s spread. As this situation is rapidly evolving, our policies may change, but currently they stand as follows:
- Appointments — We are encouraging drop-off appointments to reduce the number of people in close contact inside our hospital.
- High risk patients — If you are a client in a higher risk category with a compromised immune system, call us when you arrive. We will come out to your vehicle to bring your pet indoors, so you are not exposed to other people.
- Sanitation — On top of our standard disinfecting and cleaning protocols, we are enacting additional sanitation measures, including fully disinfecting exam rooms between patients, and focusing on “hot spots,” such as door handles and light switches.
- Rescheduling — If you are feeling ill or have traveled recently, please reschedule your appointment to keep our team and other pet owners safe. But, if your pet is sick or injured, contact us for guidance.
To keep up with the most current, accurate COVID-19 information, use these reputable sites:
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
- World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)
Although our team at Alpine Animal Hospital is always here for your pet’s health and well-being, we need to take proper precautions to minimize the community’s health risk during this pandemic. Consider rescheduling your pet’s wellness visit or elective procedure, if possible, but call us if your pet is ill or injured.
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