Caring for your pets during a pandemic

Emy, the German Shepherd of Daily News reporter Paige Rudick, gets her monthly check up with her veterinarian. 

If you are anything like me – when my dog has the slightest change in her appetite, if she has crusty eyes or a change in her overall energy, I go into a full dog-mom mode and try to determine if she is feeling well and healthy.

Now, with an ongoing pandemic and a virus that we don’t know everything about, there is one more thing to have a concern about when it comes to our furry friends. Daily News set out to have your concerns and questions answered.

Can I or others spread COVID-19 to my pet?

“At this point in time, based on what we know from the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), pets cannot get the COVID-19 from us or give it to us,” said Dr. Alyssa Breuer, veterinarian and owner of Dakota Veterinary Hospital in Wahpeton, North Dakota.

There haven’t been any cases of COVID-19 going back and forth with pets, Breuer said Monday, March 30.

“Out of an abundance of caution we are recommending you quarantine yourself from your pet if you are sick,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no evidence and no received reports that would suggest pets can become sick with COVID-19 or can spread the virus.

“Because this is a new virus and we don’t know enough about it at this point in time, what is being recommended is that if you are otherwise healthy, continue with your day-to-day activities with your pet. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or you are showing symptoms of it, it is being recommended that you do quarantine yourself from your pet – just to be on the safe side,” Breuer said.

The CDC recommends that if an individual is sick or is suspected to be sick with COVID-19, they should limit contact with pets until the owner is healthy. The individual should also take caution until more information is known about the virus, so that the health of individuals and pet’s health is ensured.

In the case that you may need to be quarantined from your animal, be sure to have a plan in place for your pet. This means contacting friends and family members to designate a person or multiple people to care for your animal while you are sick.

Create a short document that lists important information for your pet such as health records, feeding routine, when their meals are, their bathroom and exercise routine, things to avoid and a few favorite toys.

For example, my German Shepherd doesn’t have a strict feeding schedule as she is great at self-regulating, so I would list “Keep Emy’s food and water bowls full at all times.” I would also add “she loves treats but must do a small trick whether its a ‘shake’ or a ‘spin.’”

Also, for an easy adjustment and to avoid any complications, list in special information for care taking. For example, my girl can be very difficult to walk with if someone doesn’t know the proper commands – so I would recommend bringing her to a park or a baseball field with a tennis ball for good exercise instead.

If she is bored, don’t go for a squeaky toy – she’ll never give it back. Instead, she has many tug-of-war toys that she would much rather enjoy playing with.

While you are busy caring for yourself, don’t forget that your pet may fall ill as well and so having a folder with your pet’s health information such as vaccination records and the number to your veterinarian will be helpful for your pet sitter. Additionally, if your pet does have a medical condition, be sure to provide their caretaker with their vet’s contact information as well as any specifications regarding a treatment plan.

What if my pet needs to see a veterinarian?

“If they fall ill, they fall ill. We are still open for sick pets,” Breuer said. “If they develop an ear infection or they end up getting an abscess or something where they are uncomfortable and they need to be seen, we will still care for them. We are just limiting it to the essential things at this point and time.”

Dakota Veterinary Hospital is currently only offering curbside assistance at this point during the pandemic to reduce the amount of contact staff has one another as well as with the public in an effort to socially distance and help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“At this point, clients drive here, they call us, we answer, we check them in over the phone, one of the staff members goes out to the patient and brings them in and we do everything here. Then a doctor will give the owner a call after the appointment and discuss any treatment options and et cetera, then they would check out over the phone,” Breuer said.

The hospital has postponed all elective procedures such as spays, neuters and non-essential dental work. They are limiting their procedures to only essential visits for pets to continue to live a healthy and quality life. This is the same with wellness exams and routine vaccinations. However, they are continuing to do the rabies vaccination because it could become a public health concern. They are caring for puppies and kittens with their first round of shots along with vaccinations that may be required by a kennel.

“Right now we are just postponing those nonessential things at this point in time,” Breuer said. “It’s not that they are not important, but the public health is also important too and we are trying to balance between the two right now.”

Can I prevent my pet from becoming ill?

“If we are thinking of infectious illnesses, the thing to do is not go anywhere unnecessary to reduce the pet’s exposure to other animals and those animals are attached to owners so if that socializing can lead to spreading,” Breuer said.

Dogs can catch kennel cough from nose-to-nose contact with other dogs and so it would be best to avoid dog parks and other gatherings that involve pets coming into contact with another, Bruer said. Additionally, pets can pick up parasites from the stool of other pets so be sure to watch out for dog licking or eating animal feces while on a walk.

According to the AVMA, things that pet owners can do to keep their pets happy and healthy is to keep your pet at a healthy weight, exercise your pet and feed your pet a balanced and nutritious diet.

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