April 10, 2020 – The impact of COVID-19 has rattled the lives and routines of not just humans, but our beloved pets as well. This April, more than 600 people tuned in to a webinar to gain insight from experts at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine into the effects COVID-19 has on our animals.

Dean Rustin M. Moore, DVM, PhD Diplomate ACVS, served as the moderator for the webinar, titled Paws With Your Pet, which addressed frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and its impact on animals. Its panel of experts from the College of Veterinary Medicine included:

  • Roger B. Fingland, DVM, MS, DACVS, MBA, professor, executive associate dean, Frank Stanton Chair, executive director and chief medical officer, Veterinary Health System
  • M. Leanne Lilly, DVM, DACVB, assistant professor, Small Animal Behavioral Medicine, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences
  • Jeanette O’Quin, DVM, MPH, DABVP, DACVPM, assistant professor, Shelter Medicine, Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine

When asked about the importance of this webinar, Dean Moore explained, “Seventy percent of households and people have at least one pet or companion animal and over 90% of these people consider their pet a member of their family… Additionally, because of social distancing, people are also feeling isolated and lonely, and the presence of a pet(s) in the household can have positive physical, emotional and mental health benefits on the people. ”

The risk of COVID-19 to your animal is very low and the risk from your animal is even lower. This change is as difficult for your pets as it is for you, so it is vital we practice patience with them.

Animals can be a wonderful outlet for us during this time as long as we remember to take precautions and protect them like we are protecting ourselves and human family members.

Here are some of the answers to the biggest questions people had on this topic during this unprecedented time:

What is the risk of COVID-19 exposure to animals at this time?

Overall, the COVID-19 risk to animals is very low.

Research is ongoing and beginning to come out with each passing day. One particular study looked at cats, dogs, ferrets, chickens, pigs and ducks. Each species was exposed to very high doses of COVID-19. Cats and ferrets showed minimal signs of infection. Dogs seemed more resistant. Pigs, chickens and ducks seemed the most resistant. All incidents were mild, and all animals recovered. This study showed us what is possible but not probable.

What symptoms should we be looking for in our cats/dogs?

In the slight chance your cat or dog is exposed to COVID-19, symptoms might include respiratory difficulty, fever, lethargy, sneezing/coughing and diarrhea. Many other diseases that are more common in our pets than COVID-19 have those same symptoms. You should mention to your veterinarian if your pet has been exposed to COVID-19.

Do people have to worry about contracting COVID-19 from their pet’s fur?

There is no significant risk from our pets, especially from their fur. If you have a pet that you know has been exposed directly exposed to COVID-19, you could bathe them with any pet shampoo or mild soap, or use wipes specially designed for animals.

What precaution should be taken with our pets if someone in our house is diagnosed COVID-19?

The risk of COVID-19 to animals is very low, and the risk from animals is even lower. If someone in your house is diagnosed, there are several actions you may take, similar to what you would do for other members of your family or household. These include: restricting contact, practicing physical distancing, wearing a cloth mask any time you are around your pet, avoiding hugs and kisses, not allowing your pet to sleep in the same bed as the infected person, washing your hands after contact and developing a care plan for your pet in case of emergency.

Most people are home all the time now. Although pets are enjoying this new lifestyle, are there any downsides to being at home more with your pets? Is there anything pet parents can do to help?

Any change can be challenging for an anxious pet. We know this anxiety is more difficult to identify in cats because they are naturally more distant. More time at home means more time with family and more opportunity for inappropriate interactions. Pets are loving having you home, but be sure to practice leaving them. Every pet should have a safe haven away from kids or anyone in your household.

With many families out walking with pets, should pets practice social distancing as well?

Yes. Although exposure to an animal is highly unlikely, our pets should be following the same social distancing guidelines as their owners. You don’t know where other dogs have been or if they are updated on their vaccines. Be sure to walk your dog on a leash and don’t let them have contact with other unknown dogs.

Do people who work in health care risk bringing virus home to their pet? Should they be changing shoes as they enter home?

The risk to your pet is very low even if you work in human health care. Treat your pets the same way you treat your people. Keep work clothes away from pets and wash your hands before you touch your pet.

For more information, refer to the COVID-19 and Animals Resource page here.

Watch the full "Paws with Your Pets" webinar here. This webinar was presented and recorded on April 10, 2020.

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