Several animals have been infected by COVID-19 so far. Find out what pet owners need to do to keep the whole household healthy.
By Jennifer Aldrich, Better Homes and Gardens
A pug in North Carolina has become the latest pet to test positive for COVID-19. Previously, two cats tested positive for the novel coronavirus, as well as several lions and tigers at the Bronx Zoo in New York City contracted the disease. How these animals contracted COVID-19 still isn't known for certain, however, some pet owners are wondering: Can I get coronavirus from my dog or cat? "While we don't have all the answers, it's important for people to know that reports of human-to-animal transmission in pets remain limited, and there continues to be no evidence that domestic pets can be a source of infection to people or other pets," says Heidi Cooley, DVM, at Banfield Pet Hospital in Vancouver, Washington. There are, however, precautions you should take if you have a pet at home to keep all your family members safe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its guidelines to include advice for pet owners. It notes that although, "the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low," it recommends treating pets similar to humans for the time being. That means not letting pets interact with people or other animals who don't live in the same house, keeping cats indoors as much as possible, adhering to social distancing when taking dogs on walks, and avoiding dog parks and other crowded public places.
In addition to the CDC's guidelines, Cooley also recommends wearing gloves while picking up animal feces, routinely disinfecting animal contact surfaces, such as cages and feeding areas, and of course, washing your hands thoroughly and frequently. "Call your veterinarian at the first sign of illness in your pet," Cooley says.
However, these new recommendations do not mean you should keep your pet couped up all day. "Maintaining a daily exercise routine for pets, whether indoors or outdoors, is important for their overall health and wellbeing," Cooley explains. Plus, it reduces behavioral problems due to boredom, such as destroying items and excessive barking, she adds. "If state and local government regulations allow, and if pet owners are able, dogs should ideally be walked on a leash daily while ensuring to follow social distancing best practices," she says.
Playing fetch indoors, letting pets in the same household interact with each other, and teaching your dog or cat new tricks are also excellent ways to stimulate your animal, Cooley notes. Not only is the activity good for your pet, but it also can help you, too. "Quality time and interaction with pets can result in health benefits, as well as help strengthen the human-animal bond," Cooley says.
Basically, treat your pet's like your human family members (as most do), and your dog, cat, or another animal should be fine. Take proper precautions, ensure they're staying active, and give them lots of love.