Owners of companion animals: practice good hygiene

So now social distancing has become shelter at home.

And a second dog in Hong Kong has tested positive for COVID-19.

What does that mean for your companion animal?

In a news release, the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association (ISVMA) said no scientific evidence states that pets can become sick can become sick by contracting this coronavirus, whether a pet contacts it from humans or other animals.

However, the ISVMA also said that international health care agencies do not understand yet the potential for cross contamination between humans, much less between humans and animals in regard to COVID-19.

"At this point in time, in-depth and experiential information as to how humans and animals can become infected with coronavirus is in the preliminary stages,” ISVMA board of directors president Olivia Rudolphi of Rudolphi Veterinary Services in Noble, said in a news release from the ISVMA.

In a March 7 Herald-New story, Dr. Steve Weinrauch, chief veterinary officer for Trupanion, a Seattle, Washington-based company that provides health insurance for pets, reported seeing no changes or increases of illness patterns in the company's extensive data base.

But he did speculate that the first dog in Hong Kong who tested a weak positive for COVID-19 was a "dead end host."

"Meaning the dog can pick up the virus from the environment but the virus cannot replicate in the dog," Weinrauch said in the March 7 story.

However, even if people and pets can't contract the coronavirus from each other, they can pass other viruses and infections.

Weinrauch and ISVMA officials do stress that pet owners observe proper human hygiene when caring for their companion animals.

And, yes, that includes frequent washing of hands for at least 20 seconds.

“The best practice that any pet owner can currently follow is to take care of themselves first by following proper personal hygiene when dealing with this outbreak: Wash your hands before and after interacting with your pets or livestock to avoid contamination," Rudolphi said in the release.

Other precautions from the news release include:

• When using hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and other preventative care items cleansers, remember such products are not approved for pets. Do not use on them or around them.

• Refrain from kissing and accepting kisses from pet.

• If you're ill, don't share a bed with your pet.

• Limit your pet's exposure with other companion animals and people in your house who are ill.

“Limiting your pet’s exposure to individuals and other pets will help keep coronavirus -- or any pathogen -- from spreading from host to host, be it human or animal," Rudolphi said in the release.

In addition, Weinrauch said to keep pet vaccinations current. Be vigilant about follow your veterinarian's recommendations for parasite prevention (fleas, ticks, etc.). If a dog or cat appears sick, take it to the veterinarian.

For more information on the connection between COVID-19 and pets, visit avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19.


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offered some guidelines for pet owners on when to wash their hands:

• After handling dogs and cats, their food and water dishes, or their supplies

• After contact with dog or cat saliva or poop, even if you use a bag

• After handling dog food, treats, toys, or bowls

• After cleaning a litter box

• After gardening, especially if outdoor cats live in the area

• After handling birds, their toys, food and water dishes, or other equipment

• After cleaning bird cages, habitats, or perches

• Before you eat or drink

In addition, adults should always supervise hand washing for children under 5 years of age, the CDC said on its website.

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations, but soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, the CDC website also said.

For more information, visit cdc.gov/healthypets/index.html.

Illinois veterinary services during Illinois' shelter at home

The Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association (ISVMA), represents more than 2,500 member veterinarians, Certified Veterinary Technicians and veterinary and technician students around Illinois.

In a news release issued on Friday, the ISVMA said veterinary care is considered one of the essential businesses and operations that must continue during the shelter at home.

For more information, visit isvma.org.