In these times of uncertainty, it’s natural to worry about your pet’s, and your family’s, health and safety. With the COVID-19 threat escalating, as more people fall ill around the world, a great deal of misinformation based on personal opinions is running rampant. To help separate the myths from the facts, we’ve answered pet owners’ most frequent questions about COVID-19.
Question: Are coronaviruses new?
Answer: Coronaviruses, which are a large family of viruses that cause illness in people and animals, have been around for a long time. In fact, the common cold is caused by a coronavirus strain.
Q: What is COVID-19?
A: COVID-19 is a newly discovered coronavirus that is thought to have originated from bats, before making the leap to people. COVID-19 is believed to have jumped from an animal to a person in a large seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the first major outbreak. Since then, the virus appears to spread only through person-to-person contact.
Q: Can my cat or dog get a coronavirus?
A: Yes, your dog or cat can fall ill if infected with a coronavirus, as can a horse, bird, pig, or many other species. Yet, coronaviruses in dogs and cats are different from COVID-19, in that they are alphacoronaviruses, whereas COVID-19 is a betacoronavirus. Dogs tend to experience one of two coronavirus strains—enteric and respiratory. The enteric form can cause diarrhea that is generally self-limiting, but still highly contagious, while the respiratory form has been linked to some kennel cough cases. Cats can also develop an enteric coronavirus form, which can lead to mild diarrhea. In rare cases, this coronavirus strain can mutate and cause feline infectious peritonitis, a fatal disease.
Q: Can my cat or dog get COVID-19?
A: The short answer is no, your pet cannot get COVID-19. Despite its origins in bats, COVID-19 has since evolved to infect only people. Coronaviruses tend to be highly species-specific, and rarely jump from species to species without years of viral mutations.
Q: Can my pet transmit COVID-19?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other leading health organizations have declared there is no evidence indicating pets can become ill with COVID-19, or serve as an infection source to people. Yet, their fur, leashes, and collars can act as fomites, harboring virus particles, and infecting a person through contact. COVID-19 transmits most easily through direct person-to-person contact, but can also be passed through contact with contaminated surfaces. Fur, leashes, and collars are porous materials, so they pull the virus deep inside and trap it, making infection through contact difficult, yet possible.
Q: Why would my dog be coughing if she can’t get COVID-19?
A: During these times of turmoil, many people think their coughing dog may have COVID-19. At this point, pets cannot become ill with this coronavirus strain, according to the CDC, but the situation is rapidly changing. If your dog is coughing, it’s more likely caused by a variety of other conditions, such as kennel cough, congestive heart failure, or a collapsing trachea, but you should contact us if your pet has any respiratory illness signs.
Q: How should I care for my pet if I’m sick?
A: Although there is no indication that pets can become ill with COVID-19, you need to prevent your furry friend from becoming a fomite, and potentially infecting other people. Out of an abundance of caution, the CDC recommends finding someone else to care for your pet if you are sick. If that is not possible, wash your hands before and after touching your pet, and avoid kissing, hugging, snuggling, or sharing food.
Q: What should I do if my pet becomes sick after I’ve been sick?
A: If your pet develops any respiratory issues, such as coughing, sneezing, or difficulty breathing after being in contact with someone who is sick, contact us.
Q: What are the best sources to stay current on the latest COVID-19 information?
A: A large variety of conspiracy theories and myriad opinions are easily available, and sorting out accurate statements about the latest COVID-19 developments can be difficult. Rely on the following websites for current, accurate information:
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
- World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)
Q: Will the Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center still care for my pet during the pandemic?
A: Although the situation is rapidly changing, our team is still here to care for your pet. In these difficult times, the health of your beloved companion is more critical than usual for reducing stress, and we are dedicated to sticking true to our best-care standards. As the pandemic develops, our operating policies may change, so call before heading to our hospital.
Veterinary care is an essential service during a pandemic, especially if your pet is suffering from illness or injury. If your pet needs critical care during these troubling times, reach out, and give us a call.