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Update on COVID-19 and our Pets: Where are we Now?

One thing is for sure, when it comes to the current Coronavirus, things change rapidly. Even the virus itself mutates…

Pets and COVID-19: What’s the latest?

One thing is for sure, when it comes to the current Coronavirus, things change rapidly. Even the virus itself mutates and changes while our medical professionals deal with bizarre manifestations believed to have stemmed from the initial COVID-19. The news of how the virus affects our pets and the relationship with our pets changes as well. Back in March, when we published our first blog regarding COVID-19, we were concerned that two dogs in China had tested a “weak positive” for the virus. One was a pug whose picture we saw flashed across our TV screens. Now the news is that the pug never really had the virus. What is the most current – and reliable – news regarding our pets amid the Pandemic?

Cats and COVID-19

The first report in the United States of a pet testing positive for COVID-19 was on April 22 when two cats from two different areas in New York state were tested. Fortunately, their respiratory symptoms were mild and they are expected to make a full recovery. This report was confirmed by the CDC and the USDA. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has reported that cats that have tested positive for COVID-19 may be able to pass along the virus to other cats. Recent research shows that ferrets and golden Syrian hamsters can be infected with the virus and can spread it to other animals of the same species also. There is still no evidence cats – or any common household pet – can transmit the virus to humans, however, but there are confirmed cases where cats and dogs were infected by humans.

Dogs and COVID-19

Just this past week, the USDA announced the first case of a dog in the United States testing positive for COVID-19. A German shepherd in NY was tested after he showed signs of respiratory illness. As was expected, the dog’s owners tested positive for COVID-19.

Another dog in the German Shepherd’s household tested positive for coronavirus antibodies… What does that mean exactly? Testing positive for antibodies differs from testing positive for the virus in that the presence of antibodies indicates that the dog is likely to have some immunity against the virus. It may be that he had COVID-19 in the past, or he may have simply had a related virus from the same coronavirus family. As we discussed in our first blog, the coronavirus family of viruses is nothing new. These viruses have been around for a long time with many strains and are commonly circulated among humans and animals.

The CDC currently reports that a small number of pets worldwide have tested positive for the coronavirus, but it is most often after the pets have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. Now the focus is on how to keep your pet safe, when previously, it was all about protecting ourselves from the possibility that our pets could infect us. The recommendation is the same as it always should be: Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands. Clean up after your pet. Talk to your Veterinarian if you have any questions about your pet’s health. And if someone in your household becomes sick, treat your pet as your would any member of your family: Wash your hands before (and after)touching your pet; Avoid snuggling and kissing; Wear a mask when you are with your pet. One message that is consistent is that the risk of our pets spreading COVID-19 is low.

Help for Those in Need

Recent stay-at-home orders prompted many folks to adopt or foster a pet to help ease the loneliness and boredom of being home. It was probably one of the most positive outcomes of our shelter-at-home experience. But now, as businesses are reopening and people are heading back to work, the concern is that some pets will either be unintentionally neglected or returned to shelter. Furthermore, some people are facing job losses or a cut in hours and are now unable to afford their new pet.

Fortunately, businesses such as Holiday Barn Pet Resorts have reopened, providing services that help ease the guilt of leaving a new pet at home alone. With services such as staycations, daycare, and even grooming, people can go to work and still feel good that their pet is receiving all of the mental and physical stimulation that they have become accustomed to while they were at home.

Families in the greater Richmond area that are facing a financial crisis can turn to local animal shelters such as the Richmond SPCA and Richmond Animal League to temporarily provide pet food and cat litter via their Pet Food Pantries. Virginians are also eligible to apply for ACAP (Animal Care Assistance Program) funds to help with basic, preventative, and interventional veterinary needs during their COVID-19 financial crisis. The goal is to encourage these families to keep their pets in loving homes rather than relinquish them.

How do we get the word out to those new pet owners and fosters that will help them make the most beneficial decisions for themselves and the pets? That is up to all of us. We will do our part and we ask that you help as well. If you know of someone who is struggling, let them know of the services available to them so that they can continue to enjoy the many wonderful benefits of animal companionship.

Safety for Pets and their Humans

We have seen an unprecedented response by the pet industry to reassure the public that they are safe to return to their favorite pet care businesses. Impressive and sometimes creative precautions have been taken to safeguard animals, their owners, and the employees of these establishments.

Veterinarians across the country have been adamant in following the CDC guidelines for treating companion animals during the COVID-19 response by developing curbside visits, making use of “telemedicine”, retrieving pets from their owner’s automobiles rather than having them come into the lobbies, and so on.

At Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, we continue to develop ways to keep our customers and employees safe and healthy during this challenging time. Currently, we have scheduled arrival and departure times, payments made on the phone by credit card only, the use of no-contact pet portals, stringent protocols for disinfecting and sanitizing, and daily health screening of all employees.

It is not over yet

Until this virus is eliminated and the pandemic has passed, we should continue to do what we can to keep our pets safe. The AVMA, American Veterinary Medical Association, provides some guidance:

• Keep cats indoors.
• If you are sick with COVID-19, restrict contact with pets, and follow the CDC’s guidelines we covered above.
• Make preparations for the care of your pets should you need to quarantined or hospitalized due to the virus.
• Always maintain at least two weeks of pet food and medicine on-hand in case of emergency.
• Resist allowing your pet to come in contact with other pets that may not be current on their vaccinations and/or showing signs of illness.
• Contact your Veterinarian at the first sign of symptoms in your pet, especially a pet that has been in close contact with a person with COVID-19.

Contact our Glen Allen or Midlothian location to let us know how we can help you through this crisis.

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