In these uncertain times during the national lockdown, the one thing we can be certain of is the unconditional love we’ll receive from our pets. But in the wake of widespread misinformation, many animal welfare organisations have had to issue a plea for pet owners not to abandon, dump or kill animals due to rumours that domesticated animals may carry the coronavirus. To set the record straight, we’ve compiled all you need to know about your pets and COVID-19.
ALSO SEE: How To Combat Your Pets’ Allergies
National Geographic and CNN recently reported that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York has tested positive for COVID-19. This news left many pet owners feeling concerned for their pets’ safety. The virus’ spread to a big cat was disconcerting and has raised many questions about pet safety at home.
Nadia, a 4-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York has tested positive for coronavirus. This is the first known instance of a tiger being infected, the USDA says. https://t.co/RKptRdY4ap
— CNN (@CNN) April 6, 2020
Staying on top of the facts
The COVID-19 status quo keeps changing and it can be difficult to put your finger on the facts at any given time. What we do know is that hygiene is key. And while we’d all like to believe that our pets are of the same ilk as a tiger, it’s important to stay informed.
Johannesburg-based veterinarian, Dr Matthew Robertson, says that, “One constant challenge remains the spread of misinformation on social media around Coronavirus and pets. Misinformation and misguided advice to pet owners have raised concerns about how to safely interact with pets. As well as whether pets expose owners to additional risks.”
Dr Robertson and the team at Canine & Co. have compiled some handy need-to-know information about COVID-19 and your pets. This information has been sourced from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Centre for Disease Control (CDC), World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), and our government’s online COVID-19 resource and news portal.
The World Organisation For Animal Health states that there is no evidence that dogs play a role in the spread of this disease or that they become sick. The CDC seconds that opinion, stating that: “At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19.”
All we can do [for now] is keep an eye on our pets, minimise their contact with others, and keep them in tiptop shape.
How to ensure your pets and family stay healthy
Dr Robertson outlines the following as the fundamental of keeping everyone (including your fur-babies) safe:
- All family members should maintain good hygiene practices including washing their hands when interacting with their pets, their pet food or animal waste.
- Just like human skin, pet fur can act as a surface for COVID-19 to adhere to, so pet parents should refrain from allowing unknown persons including delivery people to touch, stroke or pet their fur babies as part of their precautionary protocol.
- Pet-owners should contact their veterinarian if they have questions or concerns.
- Pet-owners can postpone any vaccinations (an important part of protecting pets against many other diseases) that can wait until the end of the national lockdown.
- Continue feeding your pets quality cat and dog food brands. Try to prevent unnecessary changes in their diet during this time.
ALSO SEE: Understanding COVID-19
A pet preparedness plan
The Humane Society also suggests that you develop a pet preparedness plan, just in case you fall ill. You’ll need to know who will look after your four-legged friends, should you or a family member require hospitalisation.
Some of the steps you could take include:
- Identify a close friend or family member who could look after your pet if need be. At the moment, none of us are sure how this pandemic will play out, so it’s best to cover all your bases.
- Have crates, food and extra supplies on hand for movement and relocation of pets if necessary. Having everything prepared means you can maintain a certain level of flexibility on the fly.
- Try keep all animal vaccines up to date and have copies of those records available in case boarding becomes necessary. If you don’t have these records on hand, consider contacting your regular vet for these.
- Ensure that all medications are documented with dosages and administering directions. It’s a good idea to include the prescription from your veterinarian with the medications and your pet’s to-go bag.
- Pets should have proper identification: a collar with ID tag and a microchip with current, up-to date contact information. This is pretty handy advice, pandemic or not. Make sure information is correct, especially if you’ve changed address or gotten a new phone number.
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The doctor’s orders
Dr Robertson recommends that, in this time of doubt, you practise increased hygiene, before and after handling your pet. It’s really solid advice for basically anything (and everything) we do during this pandemic.
Ultimately, we are learning new things about this pandemic daily. It can get pretty overwhelming, and it’s difficult to keep track of. What’s important is that you practise good hygiene habits and prepare yourself and your pets with adequate documentation, food, and a support network.
By Features Writer Ashton Kirsten