By Kelley Kombrinck
2020 brought a lot of unrest and anxiety to people all over the globe, and the events that shaped that unease came in many shapes and sizes. One of the most harrowing for us humans has been the worldwide pandemic caused by Covid-19, otherwise known as SARS-Cov 2 or Coronavirus. It is an extremely contagious and infectious disease that can seemingly attack any system in the body. The effects can fall anywhere on a broad spectrum of severity that includes having no symptoms at all, feeling like one has a mild flu, or in the worst cases, death from complications caused by the virus. Social and physical distancing has become phrases we’ve come to hear almost daily. Humans are social animals and so it’s no surprise that we’ve had difficulty adjusting to this situation as a species. It’s hard for us to stay away from one another and to stay indoors. We crave face-to-face interaction and experiences beyond our front doors. What about other species’, however? When it comes to our dogs and Covid-19, what do we need to know? How has the coronavirus affected our animal friends and how do we protect them? Experts believe that Covid-19 originated in an animal (most likely a bat, according to the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html), but can it be spread from humans back to animals? Could we be spreading the virus to our pets? Can they, in turn, infect us?
The good news is the likelihood of us contracting Covid-19 from our dogs is very slim. The virus seems mostly transmitted through respiratory droplets, spread it via sneezes, coughs and talking in close proximity to one another. From the same page on the CDC website linked above:
“Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.”
What about us passing it on to our beloved fur-babies? What is the risk there?
In May of 2020, a German Shepherd named Buddy became the first dog in the US to test positive for Covid-19. His owner had contracted the coronavirus the previous month and noticed that the dog was showing signs of illness. A veterinarian was able to confirm that Buddy did indeed have the virus. Sadly, in July of 2020, Buddy passed away from lymphoma, but vets were unable to determine whether this was related to the virus, or if complications from his cancer were coincidental to the infection.
This story and a few other like it sent cold tendrils of panic slipping down the spines of dog lovers everywhere. It was hard enough worrying about infecting our most vulnerable human family and friends, but now it seems, we may also have to worry about making our pets sick.
Steps to Keep Your Dog Safe
The information we have is obviously limited and the story grows and changes every day, but the CDC advises treating pets similarly to humans in regard to distancing. They’ve released some general guidelines about how best to avoid spreading the coronavirus to our dogs.
- Practice good pet hygiene. Wash your hands frequently, particularly after handling your dogs or their food, Physically distance. Just like we’ve done with other people, it’s advised to keep our animal friends separated from people outside of their home.
- Walk your dogs on a leash when you take them out and try to keep them distanced (at least six feet) from other animals and people who may be out doing the same. Also, try to avoid public places where a large number of people and dogs may gather, including busy, social dog parks. If possible, exercise them in their own yard (a great way of doing this, if you are worried about them staying put, is to install an invisible pet fence).
- The CDC states that there is no evidence that the virus can be contracted from the skin, fur or hair of pets so please don’t try to “disinfect” them by wiping or cleaning them with alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, hand sanitizer, counter-cleaning wipes, or other industrial or surface cleaners. Again, this does nothing to help and could very definitely be harmful, or deadly, to your beloved dog. It is perfectly fine to wipe the pads of their paws with warm, water. You can use a pet safe soap but if you do, be sure to rinse your dog’s paws thoroughly to be sure it is all gone. Even soaps meant for pets can be dangerous if left on the skin. Also, never use soaps meant for humans on your pets–the chemicals can cause serious health problems or even death.
- Of course, the best way we can prevent our dog friends from getting infected with Covid-19 is to stay healthy ourselves. If you do contract Covid-19, or even think that you have, limit contact with your pet as much as possible. If you can, try to have someone else care for your dog(s) if you are infected.
- If no one else is available to help you care for your animals, avoid prolonged contact such as petting, kisses, being licked and snuggling (definitely the hardest part but so necessary).
- When it’s necessary to feed them or be near them, make sure you are wearing a mask.
- There are also a couple of things you should not do, in trying to protect your dog from the coronavirus.
- First, don’t put a mask on your dog. Their mouths and noses are built completely different from ours and the mask will not protect them, and in fact could actually harm them.
- As with all matters relating to the health of your pet, consult your veterinarian if you have questions about how best to keep your animal friends safe.
We all want the best for our dogs, they are special and precious, and we strive to do what we can to keep them safe and healthy. Thankfully, it seems that doesn’t seem very common to spread the virus to our pets, but it can, and does, happen from time to time. We are learning more as time goes on about how the coronavirus spreads and the effects it can have on both humans and animals. To stay up to date on coronavirus as it applies to our animal friends, consult the CDC page HERE.
Do what you can to keep yourself safe and healthy, and you will be going a long way to ensure the same for your dog.