Information surrounding the COVID-19 disease is constantly changing. We receive safety recommendations for people but what about our pets? My goal today is to update you about what we know at this point regarding COVID-19 and our furry family members.      

COVID-19 is a potentially deadly respiratory illness and believed to have originated from exotic animal food markets in Wuhan, Chinadomestic dogs and cats themselves do not appear to be carriers.      

How is the virus spread? 

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person - between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.      

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by transmission, which is touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not the main way the virus spreads.      

There is no evidence that dogs can become sick with COVID-19.      

The last thing we need to do is create mass hysteria about the possibility of dogs being infected, and therefore potentially transmitting this virus when there is absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever      

While it’s clear we’re still learning about this virus, at this time the WHO (World Health Organization) maintains this particular type of coronavirus is transmitted from human to human. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.      

The CDC does recommend that if you are sick with the virus, restrict contact with pets and animals, just like you would with people.      

Just like if you get the flu, don't be hugging and kissing all over your dog and cat and then other people in the house.  If somebody who has the coronavirus coughs into their hand and then pets their dog, there is a very low likelihood of transmission.Your pet can be a transmitter just because maybe of something that's on their fur.      

If experts believe it is unlikely for a dog to get COVID-19, how did a dog test “positive” in Hong Kong?      

The Hong Kong government began testing the pets of coronavirus patients in an effort to better understand the transmission process of Covid-19.This canine patient was in close contact with an infected human, who was likely shedding large quantities of the virus. This led to the virus being in the dog’s nose. There is no indication that the dog was sick or showing any symptoms.      

Scientists have concluded that pet cats and dogs can test positive for low levels of the pathogen if they catch it from their owners who are infected.  To the best knowledge we have currently available, pets can't get sick from the virus nor spread the virus that causes COVID-19. Please don’t panic.       

Helping Your Dog Survive During a Quarantine       

Although our pets aren’t getting sick, Covid-19 is changing the lives of pets across the country, especially for dogs and in particular those living in apartments.       

Quarantine means no one goes out — and that includes your pup, unless you have a private outdoor space for them. Here’s how to help your dog thrive while you’re both stuck indoors.   

Prepare properly

If you are not yet quarantined and have time to prepare, think beyond toilet paper and instead, about supplies for your pets that you need to have on hand.      

Forget about the toilet paper! Many pet owners weren’t going to be prepared with the supplies that they might need if they weren’t able to leave their homes for a couple of weeks. Pet food and cleaning supplies should be at the top of your list for things to stock up on. Plan to have extra items for conditions like flea and tick, prescription medication, and specialty diets that your pet may need. If you are not yet needing to quarantine and your pet hasn’t been to the vet in a while, now is a good time to go and make sure that your pet is up-to-date on all vaccines.      

The potty problem      

A primary issue for urban dogs who are quarantined with their owners is the inability to go outside to relieve themselves. This is particularly concerning for dogs who live in apartments and who, under normal circumstances, must be walked multiple times a day, as opposed to dogs in other parts of the country who are able to use their private yards. Under quarantine dogs in apartments are going to need to do their business inside.       

Walk your dog to the area where you want them to go during a time when you think they need to potty. For cleanliness and to protect the area of the floor of your apartment that you are designating as the potty area, you can use newspapers, commercially available pee pads.      

Keep them enriched, indoors      

Although you might not be able to keep your dog as physically active while under quarantine, you can still keep your dog mentally exercised. Consider getting puzzle toys or treat dispensers to use in the house. You can “feed all meals from food toys,” which would make mealtime more enriching for your dog.       

Looking to distract yourself and your dog? How about getting in some training? Training goes a long way toward stimulating and exercising dogs who were stuck inside during a quarantine. Maybe saving one of your dog’s daily meals to use as rewards for training sessions. Dogs who are used to a lot of physical activity can handle more physically demanding training such as physical tricks like spins, rollovers, sitting pretty or weaving between an owner’s legs.       

The challenges of isolation      

Like people across the country and around the world whose lives have suddenly been turned upside down by Covid-19, dogs who are stuck in quarantine with their owners may experience stress and even depression.      

We might see an uptick in depressive behavior like trouble sleeping, losing their appetite, not wanting to play or seeming listless.  Some dogs might also become more destructive and anxious, exhibiting behavior like increased reactivity, increased barking or difficulty settling. Increasing enrichment and structured playing inside the home could help. Most of the time, dogs want something to do, and when that’s taken away, they can struggle. The same goes for their human companions.      

Recommendations if a pet lives with someone ill      

If you are ill with coronavirus follow the recommendations of the American Veterinary Medical Association or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.      

According to the CDC:      

1. It is not believed pets can be infected with COVID-19 nor is it believed they can spread the disease. However, pets may “temporarily harbor the virus” on the coat or other areas of the pet’s body.      

2. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, allow a family member to care for your pets. If no one is available, maintain a safe distance from your pet and frequently wash your hands before and after contact with your pet.      

3. If you are hospitalized and family members cannot provide care, check with your local veterinary clinic, boarding facility or with a public animal shelter on availability for care.      

4. Anyone who cares for a pet that has been in contact with an infected human, bathing the animal with a pet shampoo immediately should remove virus particles from the coat of the pet. Isolation from other animals is also recommended. Wear gloves and a face mask.      

Remember, in the event of an emergency, it is wise to have a pet plan as you would have a game plan for your family. If possible, keep extra food and medications on hand. Also, wash your hands before and after handling your pets, their food, and supplies.