Companion Animal: COVID-19 and local pet owners
March 25, 2020
A second dog in China has tested positive for the (human) form of coronavirus, COVID-19. The first dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, tested a weak positive on Feb. 27, after its owner became ill with the disease. The small dog never showed any symptoms of the virus, but it died March 16 after leaving quarantine. Veterinarians in China are convinced the dog died of natural causes due to its advanced age and the stress of the quarantine procedure.
On March 19 a two-year-old German shepherd tested positive for COVID 19; its owner was also confirmed to have the disease. A second pet dog in the home has consistently tested negative for the disease. The shepherd, too, showed no symptoms of the virus. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations all agree that there is no evidence at this time to indicate that pets are actually developing the disease or that they spread it to other animals or humans.
Thousands of pets all over the world have had COVID tests done (not using the same test that humans use), and none has been positive to date, according to Jay Mazelsky, president and chief executive officer of IDEXX Laboratories.
INDEXX, a veterinarian diagnostic company based in Maine, reports that after the frustrating failure to get human test kits distributed in a timely fashion here in the United States, should health authorities determine it is clinically relevant to test pets for COVID-19, IDEXX will be ready to make the test available.
To be clear—there is no evidence that dogs and cats can transmit the CORVID-19 virus to humans, and it is very rare for the virus to move from a human to a dog. The AVMA said that “out of an abundance of caution,” it is recommending that anyone testing positive with COVID-19 limit contact with their pets, getting another person to care for them during the time of their illness.
Statewide, most veterinarians have experienced some impact caused by the pandemic. Many have cancelled non-emergency surgeries, such as spays and neuters. Some clinics have donated their protective clothing and oxygen equipment to human hospitals. Westside vets have developed different ways of protecting staff from human contact, such as having technicians take pets from the customer’s vehicle and returning them when the exam is done. Owners do not enter the building, and the veterinarian calls later with results.
On March 19 the Department of Homeland Security declared veterinarian offices as “essential services” in their guideline to “Identifying Critical Infrastructure During COVID-19.” While it is not a federal mandate, it is a recommendation to state and local jurisdictions. This means that in most cases local veterinarian offices will be available for emergency care of pets during the pandemic.
Speaking to reputable breeders nationwide, many report holding off on breeding this spring due to concerns about obtaining routine veterinarian care and inability to take pups out in public for socialization, along with the crash in the economy.
The “Virus Garden”
During World War II, many people planted Victory Gardens. Speaking with friends and neighbors, it sounds like a great many people will be planting “virus gardens” this year in an effort to combat boredom while practicing “social distancing” and as a way to guard against food shortages in case of a slowdown in food production and delivery.
Cat owners—please be aware that cats are highly attracted to freshly worked soil. They find it an exceedingly desirable place to defecate. Spring means a rise in phone calls from irate neighbors complaining about neighborhood cats digging in freshly planted gardens and an increase in cats brought to the shelter in live traps.
Please consider keeping your cat inside during the planting season. This will not only protect your pet from angry neighbors, it will also protect your neighbors from the dangers of toxoplasmosis. This is a disease which is especially problematic for pregnant woman. Cats can pass the disease to humans by defecating in garden soil, sand boxes, and lawns. The CDC offers information on how to protect both humans and felines from this disease at: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/resources/printresources/catowners.pdf.
Tick season—coming to a field near you soon
As the weather warms, it won’t be long till tick season hits. Prepare yourself and your pets by discussing with your veterinarian which flea/tick treatment is best for your particular pet(s). These topical (pour on) or chewable treatments will kill ticks and fleas when given as directed. It should be remembered that for all intents and purposes, these treatments are poison—be careful with dosing, and don’t try to save money by buying cheap versions. Make sure your pet is old enough to start the treatment, and never give a dose on the same day a dog or cat receive vaccinations; it can cause temporary illness in some dogs.
Now is a good time to discuss the idea of heartworm preventative with your veterinarian as well. Every year more and more cases of heartworm are recorded in Oregon and Washington, due primarily to warmer weather conditions and the influx of infected dogs being trucked up from southern states and Mexico for resale by “rescue” groups.
Social distancing and shopping for your pets
For readers who may be immune compromised or otherwise at increased risk from COVID 19, I hope that you will consider reducing your social contact by buying your pet supplies on line and having them delivered, at least for the next few weeks. Chewy.com offers home delivery of a wide variety of pet supplies, and the prices are competitive. Dry or canned dog and cat food, toys, beds, even some medications can be purchased and will be delivered right to your door.
Until next week, please stay safe, everyone.