With the nation focused on COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 100,000 people that we know of and killed almost 3,500 around the world, many have become nervous about what it means for our beloved pets.

The first thing to know, says Elena Bicker, executive director of Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek, is that there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease.

There also is no evidence that pets are becoming infected, although it’s wise to keep your pets away from people who have contracted COVID-19. A dog in Hong Kong apparently tested “weak positive” for the virus, but as the dog had no symptoms, medical and veterinarian experts believe the test results could have been the result of environmental exposure, infection, cross-reaction from other viruses or testing issues.

The East Bay SPCA warns that having your dog vaccinated against coronavirus will not prevent COVID-19. While there is a general coronavirus vaccine, it is not designed to work against this particular virus, so it would be ineffective.

Although the assurances that our pets likely won’t contract or spread the virus are comforting, the pet advocates say being proactive in preventative measures and having an emergency plan are the best ways to protect you and your pet. Better safe than sorry.

Here are tips offered by ARF and the East Bay SPCA:


Take precautions similar to common flu prevention.

Seek out reliable sources for updated information. The Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov; World Health Organization, www.who.int; and World Small Animal Veterinary Association, www.wsava.org, are good places to go for information on the virus.

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, the CDC recommends you minimize contact with your human and animal companions. Identify a family member or friend who can care for your pet.

Have crates, food and extra supplies, including medications, on hand for quick movement of the pet. Two weeks’ worth of food, medicine and other supplies is recommended. A pet first-aid kit is also good to have for any unplanned situation.

Ensure your animal’s vaccines are up-to-date in case boarding becomes necessary.

Document all medications with dosages and administering directions, including prescriptions from your veterinarian if a refill becomes necessary.

Pets should have identification such as an ID tag on their collar and a microchip. But remember, a microchip is only as good as the contact information registered to it.

Follow CDC and WHO guidelines: Wash your hands with soap and water for the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice; avoid touching your face; stay home if you are sick; cough or sneeze into your elbow; wash your hands before and after handling pets.

Pets don’t need masks.

If your companion animal has been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19, contact the public health worker involved with the patient’s care. They will contact state veterinarians and direct you from there. If you are told to bring your pet to your veterinarian, call first so they can prepare isolation areas.

©2020 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

(Anika Varty / The Seattle Times)

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