Covid-19: What About Our Pets?

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Like not being able to awaken from a horrific nightmare, Covid-19 emerged its ugly head into our work places, homes, lives and our entire world.  A virus not ever seen before with no known treatment, fix or cure.  It took us with our guard down and moved swiftly and viciously throughout our existence.  Covid-19 had developed into a World Pandemic right before our very eyes. Life as we have known it to be was forever changed.  How we lived, worked and socialized would never be the same.  No one was safe, no one was immune, not even our precious pets. 

Scientists and doctors rushed to find answers and treat the victims that fell to this raging monster virus.  Many were becoming infected and dying. People were in fear and speculations had been spread that our dogs and possibly our cats could contract, carry and infect us with Covid-19 a type of coronavirus.  There was so little known and no real research due to the virus being brand new, that many people dumped their dogs and cats in shelters, roadsides and many to their deaths. At no fault of their own, our precious pets were falling victim and being blamed due to the lack of knowledge and human panic.  

In China, where this strand of coronavirus began from what is now believed to be a bat, dogs were being abandoned in such large numbers that they were destroying them on the streets and often inhumanely. Countless numbers of pets were being abandoned in many countries including the United States.

Dogs and cats can be infected with some types of coronaviruses that are most often specific to their species, but in rare cases can be human transferrable. At this point in time, it is not know for sure which animals are more likely to contract Covid-19.  However, research is showing that over 400 animal species are at risk of contracting Covid-19. Animals with all 25 Amino Acid residues matching the human protein are believed to be at the greatest risk according to Joana Damas, lead author of the study published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America).  This research points toward cats being more at risk than dogs to contract the virus with cats being in the medium risk category followed by dogs in the low risk group. 

Education and information are coming at a slow rateleaving people questioning what can we do to be safe and keep our beloved, loyal furry family members safe and remain with us.

To date, there is no evidence or research that supports that our animal pets can give us Covid-19 but sadly the opposite has been shown to be true.  The few animals that have been positive have all had contact with humans that tested positive for Covid-19. 

A Tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York tested positive which fueled the belief that cats could spread the virus.  It was later discovered that a zookeeper that cared for the tiger had tested positive.  

The first case of a dog that tested positive and may have died from Covid-19 had contracted the virus from his contact with his human owner that had tested positive. Buddy, the seven year old German Shepherd, also suffered from Lymphoma which made it difficult to determine if the virus or his underlying health issues were his actual cause of death.  

There are currently nine documented cases of Covid-19 infections on Mink farms in the United States and Europe.  It is still in research stages to determine if the minks gave the virus to the farm workers or if Covid-19 positive workers passed it to the minks.  The spread was rapid and a concern for the possibility of the minks passing it on to other animals on the farms are noted.  Research continues in hope to find more definite answers. It is believed that it is possible that the virus can be spread from one animal to another. 

According to the CDC, Covid-19, a coronavirus is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2.  Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart and lung disease or diabetes seem to be at a higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.  The CDC recommends social distancing of at least 6 feet in public or groups and for people to wear masks. Above all else wash your handsthoroughly and correctly often.   A sneeze can travel up to 26 feet which makes wearing a mask an intelligent, safe choice.  Keep gatherings down to 10 people or less while maintaining the 6 feet apart social distance rule.  If you feel sick, have a fever, headache or have came into contact with a person(s) that are sick or known to be positive for the virus then please remain at home.  Seek medical assistance and testing ASAP.  We now have new vaccines and have begun to administer them to people and must remain positive that someday we may even have a vaccine for our pets as well.  

As we consider our pets we must consider the same safety precautions.  Always consider the older, the sick, and those with compromised immune systems at a higher risk just as it is with people.  Go for a walk with your dog, it is both physically and mentally healthy for both you and your dog especially in these days of quarantines. Use the six foot social distance rule, wear a mask, walk on the opposite side of the street from someone else that is walking their dog, or keep a safe distance until they can pass.  Do not allow your pet to go up to another dog that is being walked from a different household and do not allow others to pet your dog. Please do not put a mask on your pet as it can restrict breathing and will cause anxiety in most pets.   If you are sick or test positive for Covid-19, please wear a mask and gloves while feeding, interacting and caring for your pet. If possible, have someone else care for your pet while you are ill.  Remember that almost all animals that have become infected with this highly contagious virus are believed to have caught it from a human that is infected.  As always, be sure to wash your hands after interacting with your pet.  Taking a few precautions such as those mentioned above could save you and your pet from having to deal with the nightmare of this devastating virus that is here to stay and kills relentlessly. 

As we have seen so many people leave their jobs and offices to turn their homes into a work place during the pandemic we have seen a rise in pet adoptions.  This is a glorious turn for so many animals that lost their previous homes and families.   People were at home and reached out to offer a home and love to pets in need.  As the owner of four rescue dogs and a long time rescuer, I can tell you there is nothing more gratifying.  As we offer these beautiful furry friends a new beginning, please be sure that pet adoption/ownership is right for you.  Each and everyone of these beautiful pets have a background and backstory with many missing pieces that we will never know.  We need to offer patience and understanding as they make the huge adjustment of entering a new family and environment. Please do not give up on them, and give them the time to trust and show you unconditional love.  With all that so many of these beloved dogs, cats and pocket pets have been through, we do not want them to suffer another abandonment because what was meant to safe a life and be a second chance turns into another disappointment that could cause them issues with depression, anxiety and even cost them their lives.

As a retired veterinary technician with over thirty-five years experience, a wife of a man that has had a kidney transplant and suffers from diabetes and heart disease, a mother to a son with severe food allergies and a pet owner, I feel it is imperative to follow every safety precaution that is recommended to have the best possible chance to stay safe in these uncertain times.  

We as people, pet owners and human beings are all facing the same ugly monster known as Covid-19, living in frightening times filled with uncertainty.  It is unknown to our entire world what the extent of damage of this pandemic will be before it is done with us.  Keep yourself informed, pay attention and follow all recommended safety tips and practice social distancing.  Keep in mind that wearing a mask in public was never meant to be a fashion statement, but to save lives.  Lastly, please remember that your dogs, cats and other pets are not a danger to you and need you to keep them safe.  After all, they are members of our families and they are our forever friends offering us unconditional love. We are all in this together and we must be vigilant and proactive each and every day. To quote H.E. Luccock, “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.”  Be safe out there and All the Best.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cheri Craft is a retired licensed veterinary technician residing in Louisville, Kentucky.  She has held licenses in Kentucky and Indiana while in active practice.  She has also worked in West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.  Cheri is a graduate of Morehead State University School of Veterinary Technology and Agriculture in Morehead, Kentucky. She also has studied Education through Midway College in Midway, Kentucky.  Prior to her retirement, she owned and operated Cheri’s Critter Care, LLC for nearly ten years which provided visiting veterinary nurse services as well as full service pet care in pet owner homes.  Today she enjoys retirement, writing pet related articles from a personal perspective to share on her website, social media and various publications.  Visit her website at www.petcetera4u.com    

You can contact Cheri by email at petcetera123@gmail.com

References:

Thanks to all listed links and writers that served as reference to this article.  Please be sure to read this wide selection of useful information.

http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/symptoms.html

http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/corona

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/05/us/tiger-coronavirus-new-york-trnd/index.html

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/07/first-dog-to-test-positive-for-covid-in-us-dies/

https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/videos.html

https://www.cnn.com/videos/hjealth/2020/04/10/sneeze-cough-animations-coronavirus-pandemic-eg-orig.cnn

https://theconversation.com/abuse-and-abandonment-why-pets-are-at-risk-during-this-pandemic-134401

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