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Most of us have heard expert advice on how to minimize the human-to-human spread of COVID-19, starting with: Wash your hands, wash your hands some more, don’t touch your face, stay at home as much as possible. you can wear a cloth face cover when you go out and limit your exposure to anyone who is sick or may have been exposed.
But what should we do for our cats and dogs? Since the start of the pandemic, a handful of pets in Hong Kong, Belgium and New York state – as well as eight lions and tigers at the Bronx Zoo in New York – have tested positive for SARS -CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19[FEMININE[FEMININE
More recently, a North Carolina pug made headlines when it tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to an April 29 article published by WRAL.com.
The pug is from a family that was taking part in a Duke University study in which the parents (both doctors) and son all tested positive for the coronavirus. A girl, another dog and a cat also live in the household and have not tested positive for COVID-19.
The pug exhibited mild symptoms like coughing and sneezing and did not want to eat breakfast, but appeared to recover after a few days, according to the family.
All of this can lead you to wonder about the risks of human-to-animal and animal-to-human transmission. Read on to find out what precautions experts recommend to keep you and your pets healthy.
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Should I be concerned that my pet could catch the coronavirus? Are there any symptoms?
According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), pets that tested positive for the coronavirus have been infected through close contact with caregivers with COVID-19. The OIE considers these to be isolated cases.
“Based on everything we know so far, it appears that coronavirus infections in pets are very rare, although they can occur,” says Jane Sykes, PhD, professor at the University of California to Davis, specializing in infectious diseases of dogs. and cats. “We know that cats and dogs can be infected without showing any signs, and it seems that sometimes infections can be associated with mild respiratory signs such as coughing, increased respiratory rate, or gastrointestinal signs like decreased appetite or diarrhea, ”she says.
If your pet develops new signs of respiratory or gastrointestinal illness, it is much more likely to be a dog or cat illness. do not COVID-19, according to Dr. Sykes. “However, if you or a member of your household have been recently diagnosed or suspected of having COVID-19, there is a risk that your pet will also have the disease if they develop similar signs within a few weeks. following your diagnosis, ”says Sykes.
Can an animal infected with the coronavirus pass it on to people?
The OIE and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) point out that there is currently no evidence that pets can transmit the coronavirus to humans.
Take the case of the first animal that tested positive for the coronavirus, a dog in Hong Hong, a situation detailed in a March 4 press release. According to Hong Kong authorities, the infected dog appears to be losing low levels of the virus. While this may appear to pose a risk of transmission to humans, “it’s unusual for coronaviruses to skip species in this way,” says Sykes.
“Public health and infectious disease authorities agree that the transmission of COVID-19 relies on person-to-person interactions,” says Sykes. “Even though we know that dogs and cats can be infected, they may not be able to transmit enough viruses, or to spread in a way that promotes transmission to humans.”
Still, people who have to interact with pets in households known to have COVID-19 should take precautions, says Sykes.
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Are there some types of animals more vulnerable to coronavirus than others?
In a study published on April 8, 2020 in the journal Science, Chinese researchers who deliberately exposed a small number of animals to high levels of SARS-CoV-2 concluded that cats were more susceptible to the virus and COVID-19 than other species studied. The researchers found that ferrets were as likely to be infected with the virus as cats, but were less vulnerable to COVID-19, and that dogs were less affected than cats or ferrets.
“In my opinion, we still don’t have enough information to say whether cats or dogs are more susceptible to the virus. There have been too few ‘real-world’ animals to tell, and although experimental infections in China suggest that cats and ferrets were more susceptible than dogs, there were very few animals. in this limited race and age study, ”says Sykes. The results of this study may not translate well in the real world, she adds.
The OIE points out that there is no real world evidence that transmission from companion animals plays a role in the current pandemic.
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Does my pet have to wear a face mask when we go out?
The CDC recommends that people wear cloth masks in public places where social distancing is not possible, especially in COVID-19 hotspots. The goal is not so much to protect the person wearing the coating as it is to prevent an infected person (including those who are asymptomatic) from transmitting the virus to others through respiratory droplets emitted by talking, coughing or by sneezing.
But this recommendation to wear face masks doesn’t apply to dogs or cats, says Sykes. “There is no evidence that pets can spread SARS-CoV-2, and these masks are generally ill-fitting and poorly tolerated by animals,” she says.
What should I do to protect my pet?
Transmission research involving animals is only just beginning, but until scientists know more, the CDC recommends the following precautions to keep dogs and cats safe:
- Do not allow pets to interact with people or animals outside the home
- Keep cats indoors to make sure they don’t interact with other animals or people.
- Walk dogs on a leash, keeping them at least six feet from other pets or people.
- Stay away from dog parks or other public places where groups of people and animals congregate.
During the pandemic, always walk your dog on a short leash and don’t allow anyone to approach and pet your dog, mainly because proximity increases the risk of human-to-human transmission, adds Sykes.
The OIE also recommends that the animals of animal owners with COVID-19 be kept indoors as much as possible.
Can I still snuggle up with my pet if I’m sick?
If you have COVID-19 or are suspected of having it, you should wear a mask and minimize interactions with your pet, says Sykes. She also recommends that you quarantine your pet in the house with you.
“Someone else in the house should ideally take care of your pet, and they should wear a mask and eye protection when they need to take care of the animal, just to be on the safe side. And you shouldn’t share food or utensils with your pet or let them sleep in the bed with you, ”she says. You should also practice frequent hand hygiene, she adds.
“If you don’t have COVID-19, you can interact normally with your pet and enjoy all the benefits of the human-animal bond,” says Sykes. Either way, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly after feeding or playing with your pet. Plus, as a general rule, it’s never a good idea to let your dog lick your face or any injury you might have – and that’s especially true if you’re immunosuppressed, says Sykes. People who are immunocompromised should also refrain from sleeping in bed with their pets, she adds.
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