When the global pandemic was in the height of its newness, it brought out a lot of calamity. March felt like the worst panic attack known to humanity. April was the longest year ever recorded. And while we’ve all sort of gotten used to the new normal, there’s still lots of concerns and uncertainities. Will there be a second wave? Is it airborne?
What many in the dog (and, respectively, cat) community are also wondering is: can our doggos get COVID-19?
Dogs, cats, tigers, a mink
A few months ago, there were stories of pets and other animals that were reportedly experiencing respiratory problems. Dogs in Hong Kong, two cats in New York, and a tiger in a Bronx zoo, Winston the pug had a cough, a mink in the US displayed symptoms: all tested positive for COVID-19.
Undeniably, it caused all of us with dogs to panic and added another layer of concern to an already stressful situation: can dogs, literal walking hugs that none of us deserve, actually get COVID-19?
So, can they or can’t they?
Based on what we know now and what is known about other coronaviruses: Yes, in some instances, it can spread from people to animals if that animal comes into close contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19.
Keep in mind: COVID-19 it is still a rapidly evolving situation, and researchers and experts are learning and trying to keep up as they study a very new disease. At the time of this writing, the WHO has updated its scientific brief, “Modes of transmission of virus causing COVID-19: implications for infection prevention and control (IPC) precaution recommendations,” to indicate that a number of studies are underway to better understand the susceptibility of COVID-19 in different animal species.
Equally as important to note is that every pet is different. According to the CDC: “Infected pets might get sick or they might not have any symptoms. Of the pets that have gotten sick, most only had mild illness and fully recovered.”
Protecting your dog from COVID-19
Healthy pet parents should follow basic hygienic precautions just like they do on a regular basis: you know, wash your hands while singing the chorus to your favorite song; use soap and hot water; don’t touch your face. If you come into contact with any animal that isn’t in your bubble, try to wash your hands before you give yours a pat or a boop.
If you DO test positive for COVID-19 or believe you have been exposed to the virus, the CDC has provided guidelines for pet care:
- When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick
- Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding
- If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them
- To help reduce the spread of all germs, you may also consider wiping your pet’s fur and feet when they come in and out of the house with grooming wipes. Dogs do not need a face mask to protect against COVID-19.
If nothing else, treat your dog as you would any other human family member – don’t let them interact with people outside your bubble. If someone inside your house gets sick, isolate that person from everyone else – including your dog.
What do I need to have ready, just in case I do get sick?
It’s always good to be prepared for anything, and COVID-19 should be part of your plan. Here are a few things you can have ready to help ensure the safety of your dog and your household:
- Identify a trusted person to care for your dog if you become ill or are hospitalized.
- Make sure your dog has all of their proper identification. Ensure microchip information is up to date in case you and them are separated.
- Keep a crate, food and extra supplies on hand.
- Document all medications with dosages and administering instructions.
- Keep at least one month of food and medications on hand.
I think we were in contact with someone who has COVID-19 and now my dog appears ill. What should I do?
First, don’t panic – even though we know you probably will. Second, before you go to the vet, be sure to contact them first. Any advance notice you provide will help your vet determine if your doggo needs to be immediately seen; it’ll also give them adequate time to prep for your admittance, as they might need to give you both an isolated area.
When you contact your vet, let them know your concerns. Tell them the clinical signs you are seeing and be sure you tell them that your dog was exposed to someone who has been sick with COVID-19. If possible, they might even be able to do a consult via Zoom or FaceTime.
Okay, but: I feel fine. My dog seems fine. How can I maintain business as usual?
While things are opening up again slowly, it’s still a good idea to keep 6 feet apart from others on walks (that’s two Great Danes, four French bulldogs, and 18 Chihuahuas apart if you need a visual).
If you feel comfortable going to an open dog park and still maintaining a safe distance, go for it! If you feel more safe staying at home indoors, then by all means stick to doing just that. It’s all about what you’re comfortable with.
If you want to remain indoors, try dedicating that time to playing with your dog or teaching them new tricks – it’s a great way to bond and your dog will love the extra attention.
The bottom line is, we don’t know what we don’t know. The CDC and WHO have been fairly clear that there’s still a lot to learn about COVID-19, and until then, it’s best to continue to play it safe with you and your loved ones, fur and furless.
Until the CDC learns more, they recommend treating your dog like you would any other family member (duh, we already do that) to prevent possible infection. So, keep washing your hands, keep practicing social distancing, and take care of those doggos with some of the tips we’ve collected about COVID-19 and your canine.