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Mar 25, 2020

A pet owner's guide to COVID-19

By Pawzy Team
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Last updated on Apr 22, 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic is changing our lives as we know it. In Canada, provinces are shutting down non-essential services and declaring a state of emergency. This leaves many pet owners wondering about the safety and health of their furry pals.

Although Health Canada says that "there is no evidence that pets or other animals can transmit the virus to humans," there are now reports that cats can become infected with COVID-19. Beyond this, our pets need access to vet clinics, supplies (e.g. food, treats, medication) and the outside world. We also need to balance maintaining our own social distancing with our pets' desire to be social.

To help answer some of your questions, we've put together this pet owner's guide to COVID-19. Plus, if you're bored at home, we always want to see photos of your pets. Tag us @pawzyco on Instagram or say hi on Facebook.

Can pets be infected with COVID-19?

Health Canada says that "there is no evidence that pets or other animals can transmit the virus to humans," but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) recently announced the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in two pet cats in New York State. This follows reports of a tiger becoming infected at a Bronx zoo. There are currently no reported cases in dogs in North America, and cats appear to be at a higher risk of infection. There are very few reported pet cases worldwide and it is not recommended that pet owners pursue routine testing at this time.

Can pets spread COVID-19?

The CDC, the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health and other public health bodies and experts agree that there is no evidence that pets transmit the virus to humans or have played a role in its spread. The COVID-19-infected cats contracted the virus through human-to-animal transmission. There is some evidence, however, that cats can spread the virus to other cats.

Are veterinary services still available?

Although veterinarian offices are listed as an essential workplace and still open, you might find that your vet has reduced hours or services. It's been advised by the The College of Veterinarians of Ontario (CVO) that "veterinarians are to use their judgement in reducing services that are not deemed necessary to support human and animal health at this time of public health emergency." You should check with your vet to see if a telemedicine option is available or contactless pick-up of medications or supplies.

Also, don't be offended if your vet asks you questions about your health before they make a house call or you enter their office. Ultimately, your pet isn't a risk to their health — it's you. The more you can 6-feet stay away from your vet, the less likely they are to contract COVID-19 and the more pets they can help.

Should I take my dog on a walk outside?

If you're not sick, infectious disease specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy gives us the green light to walk our dogs outside.

Coronavirus is not airborne, it's spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. If those droplets get inhaled, or if you touch something with the droplets and then touch your face, you're at higher risk. This means that you should stay 6-feet away from anyone when you're walking your dog. "It’s important to get fresh air, but remember, it’s not a social activity," Dr. Sharkawy told CTV News.

This includes other dog owners at the dog park. Even if people don't have symptoms, they could be contagious as health officials warn that the virus can take up to 14 days to be expressed. Furthermore, unless you've been tested or you've already had the infection, you don't know for sure if you're healthy. As much as we don't want to get coronavirus, we also don't want to spread it to others unknowingly.

For this reason, anyone who has travelled outside of Canada or had close contact with someone who has or is suspected to have COVID-19 should be self-isolating for 14 days. This includes not going outside. If you're in this situation, you should find a professional dog walker, friend or family member who doesn't live with you, to walk your dog.

What about dog walking when you live in a condo?

For dog owners that need to brave the hallway and lobby before going outside, we recommend taking more risk-eliminating measures. If you can, take the stairs instead of the elevators to avoid confined spaces with other people and buttons with germs. If you're too high, or have mobility issues, wipe down surfaces with a disinfectant and use your knuckle to touch the buttons. You should also wait if the elevator has another person inside. It might take more time, but better safe than sorry.

Do I need to cancel my dog walker?

Ultimately, the fewer people you're in contact with, the better. We encourage you to cancel dog walking services if they are not necessary. That being said, there might be reasons why you need a dog walker, like if you are an essential worker or are self-isolating. You know what's required for your pet and you can work together with your dog walker to find a solution that limits contact. If you get sick, or if they get sick, the service should be paused immediately for 14 days.

Can you pet other dogs or cats? Can other people pet your dog or cat?

The CDC recommends the following:

  • Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.

  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.

  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.

  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.

If a dog runs up to you or you can't resist, it's not as high risk as touching other surfaces. Gail Golab, the AVMA’s chief veterinary officer told The Washington Post, "...the virus survives best on smooth surfaces, such as countertops and doorknobs. Porous materials, such as pet fur, tend to absorb and trap pathogens, making it harder to contract them through touch.”

How can I take care of my pet if I have COVID-19?

If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), the CDC recommends that you restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would around other people. The CDC also says to:

  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.

  • Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.

  • If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.

In addition to these measures, ensure that you're stocked up on pet supplies. Your cupboards should have 30-days worth of pet food, medication, treats and anything else they regularly consume.

Because you shouldn't go outside when you're sick, it's a good idea to stock up on pee pads or dog grass potty like Pooch Patch. It's not a perfect solution, but desperate times lead to desperate measures. While you're at it, getting some pet odour cleaning supplies might not be a bad idea either.

Should I put a face mask on my pet?

No, it won't protect your pet (who can't get coronavirus anyway) and you run the risk of injuring them or unnecessarily restricting their breathing.

How can I effectively work from home when my dog just wants to play?

Dogs are getting unprecedented quality time with their owners these days which is great for them, but can be a challenge for anyone trying to get work done. Invest in some puzzle toys that can keep your pup engaged and busy. It's a win-win because the mental activity will also tire them out and soon they'll be crawling into their bed for a big snooze. Some of our favourite toys are: Hide a Squirrel by Outward Hound, the Dog Brick and StarMark Bob-A-Lot.

It's also likely that your dog has the right idea. Don't forget to take a break and play some fetch in the house. In these uncertain times, our dogs help us remember to fit fun time into our schedules and unwind with a good cuddle.

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