It’s a surreal world out there for everyone but it’s brought many of us closer to each other and our pets. The self-isolation and quarantining of millions of people around the world have also raised questions, not only about the human experience but about caring for our pets as well.
There is no crystal ball to tell us when this will all end. There is no shortage of information on the internet and much of it can be conflicting. This makes it challenging to wade through and find the right, or correct answer(s). Much of it is common sense. Stay home. Don’t panic. Don’t hoard….share. Remain in touch with family and friends through a variety of communication tools available (Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, etc.). You can even share some on-camera/screen time with your pets.
It’s impossible to answer every single question but after doing some research to find the most popular here is a compilation of the top 10:
1. What is the risk of infection in dogs?
COVID-19 is a human pandemic. It is spread person-to-person. There is no evidence the virus is or has been, transmitted from human to dog or from dog to human. The risk of infection in dogs or any pet is non-existent.
2. Can I use hand sanitizer to clean my dog’s paws?
In a word….no! Hand sanitizer is toxic to pets. It contains ethanol, a type of alcohol and when ingested can cause lethargy, vomiting, weak respiration, balance problems as well as dangerous drops in blood pressure, blood sugar and body temperature.
Wash your dog’s paws with special grooming wipes or a cloth soaked in warm water with a bit of doggy shampoo. There are antibacterial soaps and sprays specifically for dogs but these are NOT antiviral and will have no effect on any virus.
3. I know the coronavirus can live on just about any surface. What about my dog’s fur?
There are conflicting responses to this question since no one has in fact scientifically tested this theory. Fur or hair, like fabric, is porous. A porous surface tends to trap viruses more easily than hard surfaces….the virus actually gets “stuck” to the surface making transmission less of a risk. Porous surfaces also absorb fluids. Since the membranes of viruses are liquid, the virus will eventually become dried out and ineffective.
However, if you’re concerned about strangers petting your dog or you have someone in your home with COVID-19, wipe the dog down with a cloth soaked in warm water with a bit of vinegar won’t hurt and the vinegar will add a shine to your dog’s coat. You can also make your own ‘doggie’ shampoo with baking soda, vinegar and ordinary (unscented) dish detergent.
4. Can I walk my dog outside?
Yes, you can take your dog(s) for their daily constitution but stick close to home. Many community parks and gardens are now off-limits. A country-wide lockdown is in place and the “once daily” rule is being enforced. Piling your dog into the car and driving to your favourite strolling spot is out-of-bounds. Outdoor exercise and a breath of fresh air are important for both of you. Just make sure your dog is on-lead at all times, give other walkers a wide berth, enjoy and explore your own neighbourhood.
5. What should I do if I have to take my dog to the vet?
If your pet requires the urgent attention of a vet, you must call ahead first. Veterinary clinics are not accepting walk-ins…..appointments only please. Rather than having people share a waiting room with others, vets are meeting and triaging their patients outside of the clinic doors, curbside. This also keeps any potential contamination away from animals and other clinic workers. Remember, only emergencies please. Payment by credit card or online is preferred.
If you are suffering from a respiratory infection/illness or have been diagnosed with COVID-19, please advise the vet during your phone call. Your vet will recommend the best course of action for both you and your pet. DO NOT accompany your pet to the clinic.
6. What should I do if I think my dog has been exposed to COVID-19?
If you think your dog has been exposed to a person with COVID-19 and subsequently develops a respiratory illness, discuss this with your veterinarian. Dog and cats do catch coronaviruses but they are specific to the species and not transferable to humans. (see question 1) Neither can Fido “catch” a human coronavirus. The testing of healthy animals is currently not recommended.
7. I’ve heard pet ownership is beneficial and can help during these stressful and isolated times. Is this true?
Much has been written and studied regarding the benefits of having a pet. They are wonderful support, lower our blood pressure and decrease anxiety. Their companionship helps to manage loneliness and depression. They keep us engaged and divert our attention away from disheartening and sad situations. Enjoy and love your pet for they give us much in return.
8. How do I keep my pet occupied while quarantined or in self-isolation?
Hunkered down in close quarters, just you and Fido, for an extended length of time, can be challenging. To keep you both entertained spend some time teaching him new tricks, play tug-of-war, a game of catch or go fetch. Even a scavenger hunt for hidden treats will keep their noses and brains active. It’s the quality of interactions that matter most, not the duration.
Remember, they are simply thrilled to have you all to themselves, happy to simply curl up and cuddle or, with their head on your lap, keep you company while you finish that book.
9. How do I care for my dog if I am sick with COVID-19?
According to the CDC, although the risk of transmission from human to pet (and vice versa) is virtually non-existent, we should, however, accord them the same courtesies we do with people.
- Wear a face mask around your dog
- Do not put protective equipment, such as a face mask, on your pet
- If possible have someone else in the house provide basic care for your dog or reach out for help from a friend or neighbour
- Avoid close contact including snuggling, being kissed and sharing food
- DO NOT venture outside to walk your dog
10. How do I prepare both myself and my dog for COVID-19?
If you are in self-isolation or should quarantine be required there are a number of measures you can take to ensure the health and safety of both you and your dog.
- Stock up on a 1-2 week supply of food, medications and other supplies Grocery stores, chemists and other shops deemed essential remain open so there is no need to panic and overbuy. Just make sure you have the essentials on hand
- Practice good hygiene for you and your pet. Washing and drying hands thoroughly and ensure your dog is well-groomed and bathed weekly
- Don’t share dishes, bedding, towels or food
- If you are healthy, interact with your dog as you normally would and don’t forget to get some outdoor time, whether it’s a walk or playtime in the back garden.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay home.