We are in the middle of a Pandemic that is shutting down the world piece by piece... and in amongst businesses closing, families struggling and Australian's arguing over something as basic as toilet paper, people are also confused as to the risks of COVID-19 to their pets.
We have seen reports from Hong Kong arguing that they have 'confirmed' cases of COVID-19 in dogs and a pomeranian that died after being isolated.
China has had an influx of abandoned pets in shelters after this strain of coronavirus became known, leaving a shortage in food and mass euthanasia's as people were forced into the only resolve they could find.
As of today (23rd of March 2020) there are 294,110 confirmed cases worldwide with 14,923 deaths. These are devastating statistics that are likely to climb as the days continue. Were are only 3 months into the spread of this virus with fear and panic are already taking over peoples normal way of functioning.
It is my aim, that in amongst all of this mayhem and confusion to clarify some of the misconceptions around Canine Coronavirus, Coronavirus and COVID-19 (yes they are different) and provide some much-needed answers and relief to fellow pet owners.
Today I have spoken with Veterinary Clinics and Shelters to find out the impact they are noticing on our pets.
To start, lets clarify what COVID-19 is.
WHAT IS COVID-19?
Covid-19 is a virus that originated from China and mainly attacks lung tissue, progressing to pneumonia in some cases. In particular, people who are immune-compromised and elderly. The affected can have symptoms ranging from extremely mild to so severe they are fatal. It is all dependant on the host it has infected.
The virus was initially known as the ‘Novel Coronavirus (nCoV-2019)’, but it’s now officially named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease caused by this virus is called COVID-19.
- flu-like symptoms, such as coughing or sneezing
- difficulty breathing, which may develop into pneumonia
- sore throat
- Those with compromised immune systems
- Elderly people
- People with diagnosed chronic medical conditions (e.g. lung conditions)
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who have higher rates of chronic illness
This virus is easily spread by human-human contact from coughing, sneezing and speaking, along with articles such as Shopping Trolleys, Fuel Pumps and Door Handles.
In short, and as we all know, this virus is fast spreading and impacting the globe faster than any organisation is able to anticipate.
IS CORONAVIRUS AND COVID-19 THE SAME?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, and Covid-19 is just one strain of Coronavirus.
It is still unconfirmed exactly where COVID -19 originated from, but it is suspected that bats were the original carrier. As testing and research continue to develop, whether it originated in a bat or not is not going to aid any relief in the current situation, but this video does give a good explanation on how a disease can transmit from animal to human.
CAN COVID-19 BE TRANSMITTED FROM HUMANS TO ANIMALS AND VICE VERSA?
While there have been reported strains of coronavirus evolving from animals and becoming zoonotic (transferable between animals and humans), there is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that we can infect our dogs nor our dogs can infect us.
On Thursday 13th March, the World Health Organisation released a statement stating that "At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus".
Furthermore, they continued to state, “Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare”.
In short, NO you cannot infect your dog
or cat with COVID-19, nor can they infect you.
Does this mean that this virus will not mutate and evolve into a zoonotic disease... absolutely not! No one can say for sure how this will continue to develop. But at this point in time there is no concern between your pet and yourself, so please don't go to the extreme of some using face masks on their pets.
WHAT IS CANINE CORONAVIRUS
Canine Coronavirus has been around for a long time, and while the name is the same, the virus itself is completely different. This is what is causing the bulk of the confusion for pet owners.
Dogs and Cats can both either be carriers or can develop symptoms of diarrhoea, accompanied by lethargy and decreased appetite. Patients are treated symptomatically, and this virus is a highly contagious intestinal disease that is particularly dangerous to puppies.
I would like to reiterate that Canine Coronavirus is an intestinal disease and does not attack the lung tissue, unlike COVID-19 that infects lung tissue leading to pneumonia.
Interestingly, this virus received the name Coronavirus for the same reason as COVID-19, as it has a ring of projections that looks like a crown. But, outside of this, they are nothing alike.
Canine Coronavirus has a duration of illness of 2-10 days, but an infected animal can continue to be contagious for up to 6 months.
Rest assured Canine Coronavirus and COVID-19 are completely different!
SHOULD YOU TAKE PRECAUTIONS WITH YOUR PET IF YOU HAVE COVID-19?
The recommendation is to continue with proper hygiene before and after playing with your dog or cat. Proper handwashing and sanitising is the most recommended way to prevent spread from human to human and to reduce the chances of this virus evolving into something even more sinister.
After speaking with Veterinary Clinics and Shelters today, I am pleased to say that they have not found an influx of abandoned pets or frantic owners concerned that their pets may be infected.
By increasing the awareness of COVID-19 and its inability to infect cats and dogs, we are empowering people with knowledge that will allow them to make the right and educated decisions about their pets as this progresses.
WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH YOUR PETS DURING THIS COVID-19 PANDEMIC?
For many, the restrictions set in place are hugely impacting their lives. People are losing jobs and families are facing massive financial hardship, but in every situation, I believe there is a silver lining.
For fellow pet owners, this is having the ability to spend more time with our furbabies and showering them some extra love and TLC. Play with some toys and give a few extra treats to entertain and say 'I love you'!
Currently, if you are not a confirmed COVID-19 case, you can still go for a short walk around your house so long as you are avoiding contact with other people. If you are a confirmed case, then I suggest taking a look at these toys to help provide some much needed physical and mental stimulation.
Most importantly, listen to our government and comply with any further restrictions that apply as this virus progresses. The only way we all have a fighting chance is by working together. If you are young and healthy, it is our responsibility to help protect those who are more vulnerable.
But... for the most part, your dog or cat is just going to love having you around a little more.
Why not allocate a short amount of time each day for the family to pamper your dog or cat. Together you can use the time to focus on belly rubs, pats, brushes and playing in the backyard.
If you do have children at home more than usual, I would suggest ensuring your dog or cat has a safe place they can go when they need a break, and the children are aware not to bother them while they are having some time out. We all need a break sometimes, and our pets are no different.
Any feedback or questions that you would like to share, please reach out to me. I would love to hear from you.
Founder & Veterinary Nurse