COVID-19 and Your Pets
It’s a socially scary time and for those who have pets, we want to keep them as safe, happy and healthy as possible. With a lot of differing opinions online and from different cities and countries, it’s hard to keep everything in focus especially when it comes to taking care of our pets. What is important right now is to keep calm and have a rational mind, while seeking information from reputable resources.
Many veterinary clinics are open, but it isn’t 100% “business as usual”. These clinics are now working with limited staff and potentially reduced hours so please be extra mindful of pet care during this time. If you rely on the veterinary team to trim your pet’s nails because you aren’t comfortable doing it, consider hiring a trainer to work you through it remotely – now is a good time to learn to do more for your pet yourself!
You can also consider taking advantage of your vet clinics online stores, if they have them, for all your food/treats/toy needs and have it delivered to your home. Or talk with your local pet stores about delivery to limit your risk of having to go outside. Even better, Joy Food can deliver (in the US), completely balanced, fresh meals for your dog. We offer weekly delivery of nutritious meals so that you don’t have to worry about running out of food – it’s a no brainer!
Please take extra precautions when playing with your dog and ensure they aren’t ingesting things they shouldn’t. Meaning, keep all destroyable items (such as stuffed animals, Kongs, etc) away from them (or under more strict supervision), even those potentially problematic toys, or chews (like rawhides), consider avoiding them altogether. The last thing you (and your pet!) needs is an expensive surgery and for you both to be going in and out of emergency vet hospitals. If there is a question or concern about your pet, please call your clinic and they will triage over the phone while making medical recommendations. This is all being done on a case by case basis so check with your clinic to find out what the current policies are for sick pets.
Is your dog on any long-term medications? Do you need to get them set up for flea/tick/heartworm season? Then call and get refills for medications EARLY, don’t wait until the last minute. Your veterinary team is extra busy, and it might take longer to get that medication ready for you. Also, discuss with them if there are any options for home delivery.
It’s a hectic, stressful time for all animal lovers. While more of us humans are at home – either working from home or just staying inside – it’s an abrupt and odd change of routine for our pets. Keep them stimulated and active with food/treat puzzles, new games, or train them to learn new tricks! It will keep them and us entertained. I think it’s helpful to maintain their routine as much as possible.
When it comes to our pet’s food, there are some basic recommendations out there from reputable sources like the Canadian Association of Veterinary Nutrition (CAVN). During this pandemic they suggest only keeping the amount of food on hand to last 14 days. This is very important for people that require isolation because they are sick, were in contact with an infected person, or have been traveling. This way you have enough food for that 14-day period. Then, keep enough food on hand for 30 days/one month. Stockpiling isn’t recommended for a number of reasons: 1) purchasing larger volumes of food will risk it going stale or “off” (check those expiry dates!); 2) essential fatty acids degrade when exposed to oxygen so the fats can become rancid; and 3) stockpiling reduces food for other animals! We want all animals to have access to the food they require for health and wellbeing, including service animals, shelters, and other people’s beloved pets.
If you aren’t already feeding your pet a home-made diet created by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, then you might be feeding a commercially balanced diet. If so, right now you might want to be more adventurous and feed more “people” foods but as a reminder, there are foods out there that are toxic or harmful to dogs like onions/garlic, raisins/grapes, foods with pits that are choking hazards, or bones and really fatty/greasy foods. Remember when I mentioned reducing vet visits?
If you would like to try some different foods with your pet, CAVN recommends trying one small piece of a new food at a time to ensure there is no abnormal reaction to it as some pets are more sensitive to foods than others. Also, if you are going to be topping up any already balanced diet (home-made or not), remember that your pet should only get between 5-10% of their daily calories from treats or “extras” as this can offset the already nutritionally balanced diet. Overfeeding or overtreating runs the risk of causing your pet to gain excess weight! If you would like to know what your pet’s daily calorie needs are, reach out to your veterinary team and they can calculate that for you. Joy Food also offers a tasty “topper” for your dog’s food! They are already nutritionally balanced so they will complement, and not be a detriment, to an already balanced meal.
Lastly, please don’t abruptly change your pet’s diet. First consult with your Veterinarian or veterinary team if you are thinking of changing something and remember that abrupt dietary changes can lead to unfortunate GI upset.
Can our pets get COVID-19?
There is one sad, but hugely important, thing to discuss and that’s whether our pets can transmit, or get infected by, COVID-19. Also, what should we do with our pets if we become infected? The short answer to these complicated questions is do not abandon your pets! If you are scared, then please talk to your veterinary team before doing anything rash like surrendering your animals.
When it comes to germs and things, please consider the advice of Dr. Scott Weese, DVM, DACVIM, who is an Associate Professor in the Dept of Pathobiology, at the Ontario Veterinary College. Right now, there isn’t enough evidence to show if there are true and actual risks of either getting the virus from your pets, and vice versa. This is still too new! There currently is no evidence to show that it causes disease in pets or if they can spread the virus.
But, there are some simple things that can be done if you do get infected, like limiting your contact with your pet and like with people, don’t touch your face, cover your mouth with your arm when you cough and wash your hands regularly. Bathing your pet will reduce particles on their fur but this isn’t always super practical based on people’s physical ability and the pet’s size (and willingness!) to be bathed. Right now, there is some minor research going on that shows cats and ferrets are more likely to get the virus over dogs. Of course, more research is necessary to know if this is indeed the case
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also has stated that there are no reports of any pets becoming sick in the United States and that right now, under natural circumstances, that pets do not spread the COVID -19 virus to people. Please visit their website Healthy Pets, Healthy People to keep up to date with reputable, responsible, accurate information: https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/
There was a recent online interview from March 23, 2020 with Dr Sarah Caddy, MA, VetMB, PhD, DACVM, MRCVS and she had this great towel analogy. If someone was sick, you would avoid sharing hand towels with them. The virus, as far as we know, lives on the porous surface of an object (like cardboard) for an estimated 24 hrs (non porous surfaces like counters are more likely to hold onto the virus and possibly for days) – but we don’t know if this fact applies to our pet’s fur. However, please be mindful about who your pets will be encountering if you do contract the virus. A big note about this is that your pet’s DO NOT need to be quarantined! Remember, children are much more infectious than our pets are (and aren’t being sent away to quarantine) so let’s lessen the stress, not only on our furry companions, but for ourselves as well.
Our pets comfort us, relieve stress and we turn to them in times of panic and uncertainty for support. An article in Tufts Now (by Tufts University), “How Animals Help Us During the COVID-19 Pandemic”, speaks to the importance of our pets in maintaining mental health during social isolation and to help keep us active. There are tons of research to back this up - even before the pandemic! The physical interactions with our pets’ help soothe our human need for touch, especially for those that live alone. Because our pets live each day, moment by moment, they can keep us from falling into despair and keep a sense of routine and normalcy.
So, take your dog for a walk, play with your cat, and take a hot bath. We are all in this together!
Article by Kelly Gredner RVT, VTS (Nutrition)
Kelly has been a Registered Veterinary Technician for 14 years with the last five of them being as a Nutrition Technician, specialized through the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians (AVNT). Her interest in nutrition grew as the years went on and she loves being able to help beloved pets, one bowl at a time. She currently resides in Toronto, Ontario with three cats and works full-time in a small animal practice.