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Pets don’t get COVID-19, but care is necessary

VERMONT — Many pet owners are wondering how the COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus could affect their pets. Can they be carriers? Can the get infected? Should they be quarantined? The advice from veterinary care experts, while helpful, is not by any means definitive.
At issue is the fact that there just isn’t enough information or studies out there that can shed more than a little light on the subject. A Hong Kong Pomeranian that tested positive for the disease last week has heightened public concern and caused some take actions against dogs based on wrong information. COVID 19 is spread from human to human, and there is no research that suggests it could be spread from human to pet. The single Hong Kong case is not enough to change that belief.
“Cats and dogs are mammals too,” said Shelley Rankin, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, in Philadelphia, Pa. “They have many of the same types of receptors on their cells that we do. So the virus could theoretically attach to these receptors. But will it enter their cells and replicate? Probably not.” The American Kennel Club (AKC) agrees, saying “Dogs can contract certain types of coronaviruses, such as the canine respiratory coronavirus, but this specific novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is believed to not be a threat to dogs.” The WHO announced last Friday that while pets can get infected, there is no evidence that they can spread the disease or fall ill from it.
Nevertheless, consensus is that it is best to act with caution when interacting with pets, and applying the same strictures used for human contact is a safe bet. People who are COVID-19 positive should limit, if not eliminate, contact with their pets. Don’t let them lick faces, for example, and wash hands frequently. The AKC says pet owners in the U.S. don’t need to do anything other than follow basic hygienic precautions such as washing their hands with soap and water before and after contact with any animal. The WHO agrees. Owners may consider wiping their pet’s paws when they come in and out of the house with a paw cleaner and paw wipes to reduce the spread of any germs.
Of course, if they are still concerned about their pets, they should contact their veterinarian. “And the most important protection of all: Under no circumstances should owners abandon their dogs, cats, or other pets because of COVID-19 fears,” says the AKC.
When asked about pets serving as a virus reservoir, Rankin said that it was highly unlikely, but should that be the case, pet owners should deal with them in the same way humans are treated. This would include quarantine of animals until their status is resolved. 
Ultimately, owners should make sure their pets are safe and fed. “It is important to include pets in your family’s preparedness planning,” says Rankin. “If you get sick and are quarantined, you should make sure you have extra pet food on hand. And you should make your neighbors aware of any feeding, walking, or medications that your pets need in case you can’t make it back home.” 

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