What you need to know about pets and the coronavirus

Furry family members and coronavirus: Precautions?

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I have not seen any reporting regarding the coronavirus pandemic and pets. As members of families all across the globe, are there concerns for pets’ health as well?

My county health department offered a generality: “Coronaviruses are a family of viruses common in people and some animals.” But COVID-19 is being reported as a new bully on the block.

Labeling the coronavirus as “novel” implies a fresh development, thus there is not much we definitively know about it in order to feel confident. As it stands, there are no well-researched instructions to ensure pets’ health. Logically, then, taking precautions to keep our furry friends healthy should mimic the same measures we implement among humans.

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Since “novel” COVID-19 is a respiratory illness generally contracted via vapors from humans coughing and/or sneezing, it is logical and safe to protect pets in the same fashion recommended for humans—although a snout mask may not go over well. Quick confetti?

My county government website offered the following information and some safety measures to employ while we endure this pandemic:

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Currently, there have been no reports of pets or livestock becoming ill or spreading the coronavirus in the U.S. However, as communities take steps to keep themselves safe from COVID-19, there are ways to make sure pets stay safe as well:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you’re sick.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Disinfect all frequently touched surfaces.
  • Vaccinate your pets for potential diseases.
  • Limit contact with pets if you or someone you are close to contracts COVID-19

I disinfected pretty much everything I can think of, including my boy’s leash. (I got a chuckle out of that and an odd stare. His head tilted with that What the heck are you doing, dude? expression.)

That sixth tenet raises another question: If need be, are veterinarians open to provide inoculations, boosters, general animal health care?

I can tell you that my Siberian Husky’s veterinarian is “open and operating under regular office hours until further notice.” That “until further notice part” means until such time the county health department or state government declares certain limitations or outright closings are necessary (just like they recently did with bars and restaurants in many states).

I’ve not observed one example of an animal hospital or veterinarian’s office being shut down. My dog’s vet posted conventional recommendations for any clients planning a vet visit:

“First and foremost, we are taking precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as offering hand sanitizer and deep-cleaning the clinic each night. We ask that you assist us in this process by making use of the sanitizer available, and please, if you or a family member are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, we ask that you hold off on visiting the clinic if possible. If you are not sure if your pet needs immediate assistance, please call us to discuss your concerns.”

Given the circumstances in which we find ourselves, triage is fair and rational. As with many businesses during our newfound self-isolating mode, telephonic or online correspondence is available to mete out concerns, answer questions, and convey information. Definitely wise way to keep potentially contagious vapors away. Also wise for pet owners is to side with caution, since COVID-19 is classed as “novel” and hard to define with regard to pets/livestock.

“Iro Thor” (Photo Credit: Stephen Owsinski)

Today is my dog’s sixth birthday (pictured above). Not going out for a puppuccino…but I figure a meatloaf with six frankfurters (doggy candles) oughta keep the fella jolly. With social distancing, I refrain from dog park outings and walk him late at night when the streets are largely free of chance human encounters. And thank goodness I have enough yard space for him to burn pent-up energy and (ahem) take care of business.

Speaking of “business”: Good thing pets do not necessarily need toilet tissue. One less thing to bark about! I can think of no better way to spend self-isolation than to chill with a loving pet who doesn’t talk back. You?

meet the author

Stephen Owsinski is a LifeZette contributing editor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is also a columnist for the National Police Association.

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