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Veterinary Talk by Dr. Jim Humphries

COVID-19 and your pets ó things to know

No matter what stress we go through in life, if you are like me, I want my dogs with me. They are incredible stress relievers, and I will do just about anything to keep them safe. But what about this virus that has our state almost shut down?It makes sense that you would be concerned about having your best friend close to you. Maybe you could give them something, or maybe they could give it to you! All good questions. Here is what we know as of this writing: If you are not sick with the actual virus, you do not have to stay away from your pets! I think some of this fear is due in part to the rather alarmist quality of news reporting. Another source is the rumor that this virus has emerged from an animal source. I can tell you that experts Iíve spoken with remind me of a key point in virology that most viruses are specific to one species, and most of the time do not hop from humans to dogs to horses to pigs. There are, however, only a few exceptions. Coronavirus is the general category of viruses that make up the human seasonal flu bugs. Each year when we are experiencing the seasonal flu, we do not worry about transmitting it to our dogs or cats. Equine flu, for example, is not transmitted to dogs. The canine flu (which can be bad and even fatal) is not transmissible to humans. So, it is safe to say that most of these flu type viruses generally donít cross species. That should give us some security. However, in science, there is always an exception; for example, viruses can mutate as they move through a population and change their characteristics.You will hear advice about staying away from your pets if you have coronavirus. This makes good sense because coronavirus can remain viable for a short while in the air. We know the virus is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets that transfer when an infected person coughs or sneezes.If an infected person were to cough or sneeze close to their petís face, then itís possible that another person could pick up the virus if that pet were to sneeze or cough directly on them within a very short time. This is because of the small possibility that the animal could transfer these droplets in their sinuses, on their bodies or collar to someone else (fomite transmission). In this case, your pet can act as a little biological carrier of the virus but not come down with the full-blown disease.Knowing this, take some good common sense precautions. These are things we would recommend with any infectious disease ñ- and youíve heard these hundreds of times by now.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after all interactions with your pets.
  • Ensure your pet is kept well-groomed.
  • Regularly clean your petís food and water bowls, bedding materials and toys.
Dr. Jay Butler, CDC Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases, said, ìItís possible that (the novel coronavirus) can survive on surfaces for hours.î We also know it is transmitted via air droplets, so every expertís main concern is stopping the physical transmission of the bug and just about anything can do that: a doorknob, a shopping cart handle or your petís collar. Smooth (non-porous) surfaces, such as countertops and doorknobs, transmit viruses better than porous materials, such as paper money and pet fur.Some pet owners who have been reading about this subject know that both dogs and cats have their own diseases caused by a coronavirus, and those have been around long enough so we have vaccines for those diseases.The canine coronavirus vaccine available at your veterinary office is intended to protect dogs against the intestinal coronavirus infection, and it offers no protection against respiratory infections. The feline coronavirus causes an intestinal disease and can mutate to cause the more well-known disease known as FIP. Neither of these diseases are related to the novel coronavirus now sweeping the world.The bottom line is that it is just good everyday precaution not to handle your animals when you are sick. However, if you must be around your pet while you are sick, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after interacting with the animal, and wear a face mask.If you must go into a veterinary hospital, you should call ahead and make an appointment. Most clinics are doing curbside check in where staff members, wearing special protective gear, are transferring animals into the hospital. Most hospitals are restricting in-hospital visits, and non-essential procedures are suspended to preserve the use of protective equipment.Itís a new world in terms of disease prevention, and that includes our pets. Use common sense precautions, and we should all be able to continue enjoying our four-legged stress relievers
For 43 years, Dr. Jim Humphries has been a nationally known veterinarian and has reported for CBS and Fox News. He has written for the Dallas Morning News, the Wall Street Journal and Family Circle. He has spoken to every major veterinary meeting in the U.S. and Canada. Today, he provides hospice and end-of-life care for pets in the Colorado Springs area. He also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes: https://www.Homewithdignity.Com

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