Faced with a novel virus that has adapted incredibly well to infect people, it’s natural to worry about the health and safety of your entire family, whether they’re two- or four-legged. To minimize the risk of potential disease transmission, and ensure our community stays safe, we have implemented new procedures at our hospital. Read on for an outline of these precautionary policies, some key COVID-19 facts, and the most current information for pet owners concerning the pandemic, and their pet’s health.
#1: Use accurate sources to stay informed on the latest COVID-19 news
One of the most important methods of keeping your pet and your family safe is to focus on the facts, rather than hearsay. Rely on reputable animal and human health organizations for the most up-to-date, accurate information regarding COVID-19, and its potential effects on pets and people. The leading health organizations include:
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
- World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)
#2: Understand the difference between COVID-19 and canine and feline coronaviruses
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses known for causing illness in a variety of species, including cats, dogs, birds, horses, pigs, and people. The common cold is a coronavirus strain that infects people, and COVID-19 is a newly discovered strain that also infects people. Most coronaviruses are species-specific, although a few are zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to people. COVID-19 is thought to have originated in bats, and then to have made the leap from animals to people. COVID-19 has become so highly adapted to people, it is now considered a human coronavirus strain that is spread through person-to-person contact.
Although pets can get coronaviruses, too, there has been no evidence to show they can become ill with COVID-19. Dogs and cats can be affected by an enteric coronavirus form that is specific for each species, causing mild, self-limiting diarrhea in each, while dogs can also get a respiratory form that has been linked to kennel cough cases. These canine and feline coronavirus strains tend to cause only mild illness, but the enteric coronavirus in cats can mutate and become highly aggressive, leading to feline infectious peritonitis.
At this time, major health organizations have declared there is no evidence indicating pets can become sick from COVID-19, or serve as a source of infection for people or other pets.
#3: Stock up on pet essentials, in case your area is placed under quarantine
As more of the country enters lockdown mode, you should be prepared in case you are placed under a quarantine order. Many pet owners are already stockpiling supplies, which can lead to delayed deliveries, or out-of-stock food. Ensure you have a two- to four-week supply of pet food, treats, litter, waste bags, and medication on hand. If your pet is on a daily medication, or will need heartworm, flea, and tick prevention at the beginning of the month, contact your family veterinarian now.
#4: Devise new indoor activities with your pet to prevent cabin fever
If you have children home from shut-down schools, you understand how quickly cabin fever can set in. Get the entire family involved with creating new activities for everyone to enjoy indoors. Devise treat puzzles, design an agility course, teach new tricks, or create kitty lookout towers to engage your pet mentally and physically at home. Avoid heading out to crowded dog parks or pet stores.
#5: Follow the CDC’s recommendations for handling your pet if you have COVID-19
Although two dogs living with infected people have tested positive for COVID-19, they never developed illness signs. These two pets may represent a transient infection, or a potential mutation attempt by COVID-19. Out of an abundance of caution, the CDC recommends that you find someone else to care for your pet, if you are sick. If that is not an option, wash your hands before and after handling your pet, and refrain from kissing, snuggling, hugging, or sharing food. Although pets do not appear capable of transmitting the disease directly to people, they may serve as an indirect transmission source by carrying virus particles on their fur, collars, or leashes.
#6: Contact Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care if your pet becomes ill
While there have been no reported cases of a pet becoming sick from COVID-19, we are continuously learning more about this virus. If your pet displays any illness signs after being around someone with COVID-19, contact us immediately. The following signs are cause for concern:
- Nasal discharge
- Ocular discharge
- Decreased appetite
These vague signs can indicate many disease processes, so if you notice any subtle hint of illness in your pet, contact your family veterinarian or our hospital for assistance.
#7: Follow our new policies for your pet’s appointment during the COVID-19 pandemic
Despite these troubling times, the Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care team will continue to provide the same emergency veterinary services. We will continue to take transfers from referring veterinarians, and we will be open 24 hours per day for primary triage and treatment. To ensure your pet receives the highest quality of care, we will maintain enough staff to nurse our hospitalized patients. But, to minimize potential COVID-19 transmission, and keep our entire community safe, we are implementing new protocols, including:
- Allowing only team members and patients inside our facility
- Switching to carside service to receive and release pets—call 919-781-5145 for assistance when you arrive
- Putting all our required forms online, so you can access them prior to your visit
- Offering a video chat option to maintain client interaction, without compromising safety
As we take appropriate precautions to ensure the safety of our team, your pet, and your family, please bear with us through this coronavirus crisis. For more information about our new policies, wildlife drop-off, and emergency care if your pet is sick, and for updates on COVID-19 and your pet, contact our office.