As we enter yet another week of quarantine, many of us are wondering when the heck life is going to be back to normal. The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic certainly changed our lives in a flash … to say the least.
I think we all miss the days of meeting up with friends at a restaurant to chit chat and laugh, feeling fresh after a hair/nail appointment, taking road trips and plane rides to somewhere new, and being able to meet with family for holiday meals (wasn’t Easter this year so strange?!).
But, despite all that, I’m feeling extremely lucky that I have a safe space to keep my family (both human and canine members) safe during these uncertain times. We all need to do our part and, if we’re being honest, our dogs are really enjoying having us around so much!
While we’re all glued to the news, I still wanted to share answers to some FAQs on CODIV-19 and dogs.
First, What Is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is short for Corona Virus Disease 2019. Corona Viruses are a large family of viruses that can cause a variety of symptoms depending on the type. Some forms can infect humans and other infect animals. COVID-19 is the type that’s wreaking havoc on the world right now and its target is humans. It’s a newer variety of coronavirus that medical and scientific professionals are working feverishly to understand. The research continues as the experts search for appropriate tests, treatments, and preventive vaccines.
Can Dogs Get COVID-19?
UPDATED: APRIL 28
A pet Pug in Chapel Hill, North Carolina tested positive for coronavirus. The pug named Winston is believed to be the first canine case in the United States. Back in March, Hong Kong health officials announced a Pomeranian and German Shepard had tested positive for the virus.
There have also been cases of cats testing positive. On April 22 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced two pet cats with SAR-CoV-2. Earlier in the month, they also reported on tigers and lions at The Bronx Zoo in New York had tested positive. Although none of the cats were cared for by anyone known to be sick, it’s believed they got the virus from an asymptomatic zookeeper. A 4-year-old tiger named Nadia, and six other tigers and lions have the virus. They are all expected to recover completely.
Listen to Dr. Paul Calle, Chief Veterinarian at The Bronx Zoo, as he explains what led up to testing Nadia, for COVID-19.
If I Have COVID-19, Can I Maintain Contact With My Dog?
According to the CDC,
“It is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the new coronavirus.”
Experts say one of their main concerns: You can shed the virus onto your dog’s fur, leash, collar, harness, etc. Just like any other surface, your pooch can pick up infected droplets. If you have COVID-19, it’s best to keep your distance from your dog. If you do need to interact with him, wash your hands before and after contact. It’s advised to wear a face mask to decrease the chance of shedding the virus onto his fur.
How Long Can COVID-19 Live on a Dog’s Fur/Hair?
At the moment, there is no definitive time-frame. But, since the virus only lives on softer surfaces — like cardboard — for 24 hours and harder, less porous surfaces — like stainless steel — for 72 hours, it’s thought the 24-hour timeline is more likely.
A regular bath with dog shampoo will remove the virus from the fur. NEVER use any household disinfectant on your dog!
Even Though I’m Healthy, Should I Have an Action Plan?
If you haven’t done so already, you should get a plan in place for Fido in case you become sick and can’t care for him. The one thing we all know is things happen when we least expect it and we need to be prepared.
Identify A Caretaker
Coordinate with family or friends to identify who’d be willing and able to care for your dog (or pets) in case you become sick. If possible, try and find someone who’s familiar with your pooch and who your pup knows.
Make sure all information on your dog’s tags are up-to-date and correct.
Check with the microchip registry that your microchip is in-fact registered and contains all your current contact information. FYI: All too often, people forget to register their dog’s microchip at all. If your dog’s microchip is not registered and up-to-date, it’s the same as not having one.
Make sure to have all your dog’s vet records available in one place. To help make this part easier, I’ve put together a free set of printable Vet & Medical Records Keeper forms that you can fill out and either print or save. I recommend you do both. Keep a hard copy set in a folder that’s ready if you need them and keep your backup on the computer. From there, you can easily update them with any additions or changes. Along with the vet records, it’s a good idea to include a picture of you with your pooch in the packet.
An emergency is no time to start looking for supplies. Have a bag packed and ready just in case. Items to include:
- Vet records complete with vaccine records and contact information for your veterinarian
- List of current medications with dosages and administration instructions
- Leash, harness
- Collar with ID tags including rabies tag (if your pooch doesn’t wear a collar in the house make sure it’s with him so the caregiver can put it on the dog)
- Picture of your pet
- Food for at least 2 weeks – a month is even better
- Food bowls, favorite toys, blankets, bed and anything that would make his time away from you more familiar therefore less stressful
- Attach a note to the packed bag listing anything you couldn’t pack and where to find it, such as medications or food that need refrigeration or items you use every day like a crate.
What Should I Do If I Test Positive for COVID-19?
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or you suspect you’ve been infected and already made preparations for a caretaker – it’s time to get that going. In case no one can help, or if the dog is a service animal, take sensible precautions. Maintain distance, refrain from cozy cuddles, no kisses, no face contact, don’t share food or dishes with your pooch, and wash your hands before and after touching your dog. If you must have direct contact with your pooch, wear a face mask during the interaction. Don’t put a face mask on your dog – you’re the one who should be wearing it.
If You Have COVID-19 And Need A Vet Visit?
This is not the time to take your dog in for a routine vet visit, but if your dog is sick or hurt and needs immediate veterinary care – contact your veterinarian and let them know you actively have the virus. Also, contact your medical team and public health officials. Together they will let you know how to proceed to get your dog cared for. The goal is to care for your dog without exposing any healthcare provider or other individual to this virus.
Can My Dog Pass COVID-19 if He Coughs or Sneezes?
No. This form of Coronavirus is passed from human to human through droplets that are released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Those invisible droplets remain in the air for approximately 3 hours and on surfaces they land on for 24 – 72+ hours, depending on the surface. Again, according to the CDC,
“At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection in the United States.”
Walking Your Dog During This Pandemic – Maintain Social Distancing
Since we’re all supposed to be keeping a social distance of 6 feet at this time, what about your dog? You may run into a neighbor walking at the same time as you and your pooch. Although you’re both 6 feet from each other – your leashed dogs probably aren’t. Be mindful to maintain a safe distance between the dogs as well. If a passerby wants to pet your dog during this pandemic – the answer is no.
Watch as Dr. John Whyte, MD, MPH, the Chief Medical Officer at WebMD interviews veterinarian Dr. Courtney Campbell for a discussion on pets and the Coronavirus. “Coronavirus in Context.”