COVID-19 and pets: Owners should take precautions

By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer
While there is no definitive evidence that pets can contract COVID-19, or coronavirus disease 2019, pet owners should still be careful and take the necessary precautions.
Dr. Kitzel Farrah from San Juan Veterinary Hospital explained that both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention don’t feel like, at this point, pets can spread the virus.
“But it’s not known 100 percent yet whether that’s true,” she said. “There were a couple of cases in China in dogs that have the virus. But whether or not they truly were infected with the virus or were just carrying parts of the DNA and RNA from the humans that they were around that were sick is not clearly known yet.”
Those two animals tested positive for this particular strain of coronavirus, Farrah noted.
“Those animals were asymptomatic. They showed no signs of disease at all,” she said. “Those animals lived with people who are sick, and probably they contracted it from the people, not the other way around.”
It is also not certain that those animals were sick themselves; they may have just gotten contaminate virus from the people they were living around, Farrah added later.
“That’s what they don’t know. Were they just accidental cases? Were they just acting as a fomite?” Farrah said.
A fomite is described as an “object to carry a pathogen from one susceptible animal to another,” according to The Center for Food Security and Public Health.
Animals could potentially act as a fomite, Farrah noted.
The American Veterinary Medical Association suggests that if anyone is sick with COVID-19 it is best for them to “limit their handling” of pets, Farrah explained.
It is recommended that someone in the household who is not sick handle the pet, Farrah added.
“If you’re well, don’t worry about it. Feed and handle your animal per normal,” she said.
However, if you are a single pet owner and you’ve contracted the virus, it is recommended that owners don’t sleep with their pets, she added later.
“You would probably wear a mask, wash your hands before you feed your pet, wash your hands after you feed your pet,” she said. “But we wouldn’t be taking the pets out of the household or anything like that. They would stay at home with the people.”
San Juan Veterinary Hospital and other veterinary clinics will not be mandated to shut down in the case of the virus, Farrah noted.
“We will still be able to provide veterinary care. It may be more on a emergency-type basis rather than business as usual,” she said, “but there will be ways that veterinary care will still be available to animals.”
If someone has the virus locally and their pet has an elective surgery coming up, San Juan Veterinary Hospital will ask them to reschedule, she explained.
If clients have a sick pet there could be virtual exams held, she added later.
“We may come up with situations where we would have a non-infected member of their household bring animals to the clinic, but not come into the clinic,” she said. “We’re coming up with strategies following Colorado and American Veterinary Medical Association on how we should come up with strategies to continue to care for animals during the pandemic.”

 

This story was posted on March 22, 2020.