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Domestic animals are unlikely to contract COVID-19, but may need special attention during the outbreak

PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Woodburn Pet Hospital has adjusted how it receives animals for COVID-19 safety precautions, but it is determined to stay open and serve the areas pet population.As national, state, and local state-of-emergency declarations affect everything from restaurants to schools, those in the business of taking care of animals are working to minimize how pets are affected.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) frequently-asked-questions slate on COVID-19 has one that discusses how the coronavirus affects pets — if it does at all. While novel viruses such as this do appear to emerge from animal sources, there is no indication that it will affect animals in the U.S., including pets.

"At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals — including pets — can spread COVID-19. However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it's always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals," according to the CDC report.

The report did note that people who are sick with COVID-19 should limit their interactions with pets, just like they would with other people. While no pets have been sick with the virus, there has been a "weak positive" test on an animal who belonged to an infected person.

"There's one dog in Hong Kong that has tested positive," said Beth Nguyen, DMV, of Woodburn Pet Hospital. "That was several weeks ago, and it belonged to a woman who had tested positive. The dog was quarantined and tested on later dates, and it still tested positive, but that dog has not shown any critical signs at all."

Nguyen cited an article from a pet diagnostics lab that further illustrated the low risks.

"Idexx is the reference lab that we use for our blood testing. This article (of reference) says they have tested thousands of dogs and cats in the U.S. and had only negative results — so that is positive," she said.

Pet-care company Rover.com also researched and furnished information surrounding dogs and the virus to provide answers for "pet parents."

"There is no evidence at this time that dogs or cats can become ill due to the novel coronavirus," said Gary Richter, DMV, a veterinarian on Rover's Dog People Panel and author of "The Ultimate Pet Health Guide." "There have been cases of dogs testing weak positive when they have been living with an infected person, but it is not suspected these animals can pass the virus to humans."

More than the virus itself, peripheral consequences such as closures are more likely to affect pets. Nguyen said Woodburn Pet Hospital has initially adjusted clinic procedures to ensure that is not the case there.

Nguyen pointed out that while there hasn't been a run on pet food or supplies like there has with toilet paper and hand sanitizers, the more significant concern is accessibility.

"I think people are more worried about (WPH) closing and not having access. They worry about getting prescriptions or supplies they need for specific conditions or diabetic pets and not getting treatments," Nguyen said. "I think supplies are more of a distribution (issue). I haven't had any trouble getting food or medical supplies from my distributors."

She said WVH has changed the way they receive pets in that people pull up in the parking lot and then call, and staff comes out to get information and bring the pet inside.

"We do what we need to do and take the pet back out," she said. "Having a mobile credit-card reader helps. My goal is to stay open as long as possible, because the staff, the community and our community's pets need us to be here."

Nguyen added that despite all efforts to keep regular hours, WPH would have to make some hourly adjustments.

"Since as of tonight (Wednesday, March 18) the governor is requiring us to stop all non-emergency work to preserve gloves, masks, and gowns, (and) we will see a change in our hours and ability to provide some services for an unknown period of time," she said.

Some places, such as the Willamette Humane Society, have had to shut down and suspend activities due to the virus.

As of March 19, WHS has established an appointment-only basis for adoptions and intake, closing the shelter to the general public. Normal activities such as humane education, youth programs, volunteer orientation and community outreach events have been suspended, but the spay and neuter clinic and thrift store remained open and behavior training classes continue with heightened precautions in place.

"The news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been fast and furious over the past few days. It seems we are living in a new reality where each day brings more uncertainty, yet we are coming together in new ways," Oregon Humane Society President and CEO Sharon Harmon said in an outreach to advocates, which celebrated adoptions, fostered pets and other successes in the face of adversity.

"In the past 152 years, we have been through a lot. But I am confident, with your support, we will get through this, together," Harmon said.

Dogs and Coronavirus: FAQ

Courtesy of Dr. Gary Richter a veterinarian on Rover's Dog People Panel and author of "The Ultimate Pet Health Guide," these are some frequently asked questions about pets and the coronavirus.

Should I be concerned about my dog or cat picking up the novel coronavirus infection?

There is no evidence at this time that dogs or cats can become ill due to the novel coronavirus. There have been cases of dogs testing weak positive when they have been living with an infected person, but it is not suspected these animals can pass the virus to humans.

Should I be cleaning my dog/cat more often? Should I sanitize my pet in any way?

There are no particular precautions regarding keeping pets clean relative to the coronavirus.

If the pet was exposed to an infected person, it is theoretically possible that virus particles on their fur could be picked up by a human as a result of petting (although this is unlikely).

If a pet is suspected to have been exposed to an infected person, bathing the pet should resolve any concerns about them carrying virus on their fur.

Should I change my behavior around my cat/dog while this disease is going around?

There is no evidence to suggest this is necessary.

Should I be afraid of petting other dogs, going to the dog park, or gathering in large groups of other pets?

The concern here is from people, not other animals. Going to the dog park might expose people to other infected humans. There is currently no evidence to suggest that transmission from dog (or cat) to human has occurred.

— Rover.com


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