Frequently Asked Questions about Pets and COVID19
Date: March 29, 2020
By Sarah Griffiths, DCH
COVID19 has forever changed the world as we know it and we are all trying to figure out how to adapt to this new reality and be socially responsible and safe. We want to address some of the frequently asked questions we’ve been hearing surrounding pets and the coronavirus. There’s a lot of false information flying around and we want to set the record straight with some credible answers from the World Health Organization, the CDC, IDEXX Labs, Cambridge University and other world experts to give you the information you need to make the best decisions for you, your family and your pets. We want to help you make the best of the extra time you have spending time at home with your fur family without stressing out.
Our Frequently Asked Questions:
Can my pet contract COVID19?
In short, the answer is no. Your pet cannot contract the COVID19 virus. Idexx, the USA’s leading veterinary diagnostics laboratory issued a statement on March 13, 2020 that they have tested thousands of pets with none testing positive for COVID19 (1). The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also states that there is no evidence that your animals can put you at risk for contracting COVID19 (2). The CDC also has a webpage stating the benefits pets have on our mental health. (3) So if you’re practising social isolation at this time, it’s a perfect opportunity to spend more time with your pet and get those stress-relieving benefits with them.
Can I still take my dog for a walk?
Absolutely, if you are healthy. Getting outside with your pet is a great way to relieve stress, bond and get some fresh air. But you will likely need to change some of your social habits in walking your dog. Try to choose walk routes that are less crowded so you can maintain the appropriate physical distance from other people.
The CDC states that COVID19 is a new disease and they are still learning about exactly how it spreads (4). It is thought to be highly virulent and can live on flat surfaces, possibly for up to 72 hours (5). This does raise the concern that your pet’s skin and fur could be a surface for which the virus can live. The chance of contracting COVID19 from your pet’s fur is slim but the CDC still advises that if you’re walking your dog, to keep them on leash and not allow them to wander or interact with strangers. It’s also important that if you’re sick, your pet should remain in quarantine with you for up to 30 days to ensure that you both do not infect others or, your pet should be cared for by someone else entirely if you are too sick to care for them yourself.
Cambridge University’s viral immunologist Dr. Sarah Caddy is researching COVID19 right now and sat down with Dr. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib to provide the latest and most accurate data about COVID19 and pets. You can watch their Facebook Live here:
Should I stock up on pet food?
Due to the current Canadian government advisory to stay home, we do recommend that you are prepared with up to 2 months’ worth of food at home. If you don’t have enough freezer space to accommodate that much, do what you can to ensure that you are limiting your need to go out and interact with others while we try to flatten the curve of this pandemic. Many stores are adding delivery services to help support their customers.
I’m concerned about the cost of feeding fresh food to my pet in these uncertain times. What do you recommend?
We totally understand that everyone is feeling worried and unsettled. During this time of stress and anxiety, a healthy diet is even more critical as a tool to maintain health and wellness of every member of your family. However, if you are finding your food budget shrinking, there are lots of options for reducing your pet food bills without compromising their health.
- Adjust your protein rotation to include more of the economical proteins. If you normally feed more expensive proteins, try feeding more chicken, tripe and herring which are lower cost. It’s ok not to be perfect while we wait out the storm. Do your very best and when you can, go back to a rotation with more variety.
- Make your own vegetables. You have the option of buying meat and making your own vegetable blends separately. This is often more economical than feeding the pre-mixed meals. For safety reasons, we highly recommend purchasing your meat from raw pet food manufacturers because they assume that the products will be fed raw, whereas grocery stores assume that their raw meat will be cooked. For example, Red Dog Blue Kat offers the “base” formulas which include only the meat and organs.
- You can add more raw meaty bone meals such as whole herring, whole turkey necks and chicken necks which are quite cost-effective.
- If you really need to stretch your dollar, for dogs, consider adding some well-cooked quinoa, oatmeal or brown rice to the bowl. You can replace up to 20% cooked grains for meat to add some bulk. Just make sure it’s well-cooked so it can be easily digested. Quinoa contains quite a lot of protein and most dogs love it so it’s a great option.
Are vets open right now?
Not all, but some of the provincial Canadian veterinary associations, including the College of Veterinarians of BC and the Alberta Veterinary Association, are considered, essential services (6) (7) . The Ontario Veterinary Association has made a statement that under the Ontario Emergency Management and Civil Protections Act, that veterinary services are not considered essential but that they are advocating for vets to stay open as long as they adhering to government safety protocols (8). The American Veterinary Association has also issued a statement that veterinary offices may or may not be considered essential services so veterinary availability will depend on where you live and what the situation is in your area (9). Many veterinary clinics are closed at this time but some remain open with very strict COVID19 protocols. One common protocol being followed is for you to drop your pet off and then wait in your car during the exam or procedure to practice social distancing. Many veterinary emergency clinics are remaining open at this time.
What should I do with my pet if I get sick?
If you are ill and test positive for COVID19, the CDC advises that you have someone else take care of your pet while you recover (2). This way, your pet is properly cared for and you can focus on resting and getting better. If you are sick, it is discouraged to keep your pet with you and then have someone coming and going to take care of them since it’s difficult to properly practice social distancing in this circumstance.
The CDC and the World Health Organization (10) remind us to wash our hands with soap and water every 15 minutes when we are out, or if that’s not an option, to use a 60+% alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Stay 6 feet away from others unless you live in the same household. Wear latex gloves if you are handling food or touching surfaces when you are out in public. Be sure that if you’re feeling sick or test positive for COVID19 that you isolate yourself and do not run the risk of infecting others. Only go out for essentials like food for yourself or your pets. Stay home as much as possible until government recommendations are changed. Keep yourself informed about the latest on COVID19 through credible sources such as the ones listed below.
Finally, PLEASE remember to STAY POSITIVE and to STAY SAFE. This is a stressful time for everyone so let’s all do our part to ensure that this unprecedented situation ends as quickly as possible. Hug your pets and enjoy the extra time you’ll get to spend with them! We are strong and we will get through this together!
Credible Resources for COVID19 and Pets:
- Idexx Laboratories: https://www.idexx.com/en/about-idexx/news/no-covid-19-cases-pets/
- CDC – Animals and COVID19: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/animals.html
- CDC- Healthy Pets: https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/index.html
- CDC – How COVID19 Spreads: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/transmission.html
- New England Journal of Medicine: Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoC-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1 – March 17, 2020: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973?query=featured_home
- College of Veterinarians of BC: http://cvbc.ca/CVBC1/Resources_Contents/Files/Essential%20Services%20info%20Mar%2017%202020.pdf
- Alberta Veterinary Medical Association: https://www.abvma.ca/site/public/covid19?nav=mainsidebar
- The College of Veterinarians of Ontario: https://cvo.org/About-CVO/News/Coronavirus.aspx
- American Veterinary Association Essential Services Statement: https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19/veterinary-practices-are-essential-businesses
- The World Health Organization on COVID19: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019