What pet owners should know during COVID-19

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By ALEX SPONSELLER

As the world continues to learn more about COVID-19 and its effect on humans, there have also been questions as to how it affects animals and house pets.

Based on lab work as well as field studies, veterinarians have gathered encouraging information regarding pets, but still urge owners to make smart decisions when it comes to the disease.

As of now, it appears that animals that are infected with coronavirus do not spread the disease back to humans, and usually, can only spread it to their respective species.

“The animals themselves are not sick with this disease, that’s extremely uncommon. If animals were getting sick with this or capable of giving it back to humans, we would know that worldwide by now. There are very few cases in animals, but they have picked it up from humans. They’re a dead-end host, meaning that the virus stops there and does not spread back to humans,” said Christopher Hannafin, the department chair of veterinary technology at the New England Institute of Technology. “Don’t worry about your animals. The veterinarian community doesn’t want you to start dumping them off on the road or forcing them into the shelter system. If your pet is at home and is infected or is showing symptoms, there are sensible things to do. It is unlikely that the animal will have any problems and will not be a perpetuation of the problem.”

However, pets are able to contract the virus from humans. Because of that, Hannafin and other veterinarians ask pet owners to allow others to tend to their animals if they contract COVID-19, and also be aware of the other ways that pets can spread the disease to members of the household.

“If you are ill or someone else in your house is infected with the disease, have someone else care for your pet and try not to be the one who cares for it directly,” Hannafin said. “If you do, you should just be careful of how you do that – wear a mask, wear some gloves. Especially, what we are trying to avoid is snuggling, kissing, avoiding that direct contact with the animal. We don’t want the animal to contract it, but we also don’t want animals to pick it up, shed it into the environment, and if you are hugging and kissing your dog, it becomes almost like a handkerchief and it will act as a transport from one person to the next.”

Hannafin also asks owners to refrain from using other bacteria-killing devices when trying to wash their animals.

“Do not rub your pets down with disinfectants, peroxide, do not spray them with Lysol. We are actually seeing problems with that because people are doing strange things,” he said. “If you have an animal in the house, practice the same social distancing with your pets that you would with other humans.”

Overall, Hannafin would like local pet owners to know that he and his team are available to field any questions regarding pets, as well as to help any animals that could be sick from the disease.

“We want people to understand that veterinarians are here to help people and take questions, we’re here for that,” he said. “All of us are trained like human nurses and doctors to prevent the contraction and spread of this disease. The staff at the veterinarian hospital has the equivalent protocols and is prepared to see your animals and take care of your animals.”

For more information, the Rhode Island Veterinary Association can be reached at rivma.org or 751-0944. To reach the veterinarian offices at NEIT, call 739-5000.

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