Pets & COVID-19: Debunking some myths

By Lee Jay

How to keep our furry friends shielded from harm during the pandemic is a thought crossing every pet owner's mind.

Can my dog catch corona? Are they able to spread the virus? Is my cat safe to roam the neighborhood now? In the grip of the pandemic, as we face a plethora of uncertainties and too many unknowns, it's no wonder these questions are circling the mind.

F#@K It's Lee Jay sits down with vet Dr Alexandra Mattock, BSc to pose your burning questions, debunk some myths and offer some tips to keep your fur babies (and yourselves) safe and sound.

LJ: I’ve heard animals can catch COVID-19. Should I be worried?

AM: The current spread of coronavirus is from human to human transmission and there's no evidence to demonstrate that animals can spread the disease to humans.

LJ: Have there been any active cases?

AM: There are a very small number of cases around the world of animals which have tested positive for COVID-19, resulting from close contact with infected humans. However, the significance of this is not known as they do not appear to transmit the disease or fall ill the same way as humans. In the UK for example, there are no reports of animals currently with, or having caught, the coronavirus. So I can say to pet owners - there really is no need to worry!

LJ: Wait, if animals are immune to the virus, can they still transmit it to humans?

AM: Nope! There is no evidence that any animal can infect humans with the virus. Animals may act as a ‘fomite’ (defined as an object that may carry infection) in that the virus could survive for a short period of time on their fur. But, many things we come in to contact with daily may be considered fomites (human hands, surfaces, clothes, doorknobs) which is why good hygiene measures, including hand washing and using an alcohol-based hand gel, are all the more important right now.

LJ: I feel more assured! But what about dog parks? Is it safe for my pet to play with other dogs?

AM: While social distancing rules remain in place, it's not recommended for dogs from different households to regularly socialize with other animals. But, as dog parks slowly begin to reopen their gates, you can take your dog to play so long as you stick to any mandatory rules, such as keeping them on a lead. Whilst it's safe for dogs, humans must maintain at least a two meter distance and, as always, practice good hand hygiene during and after your walk.

LJ: As lockdown rules ease, can my pet interact with family members who have been isolating separately?

AM: If your pet is in the same household as the isolating family member, it's fine for them to mix. Just make sure to thoroughly wash your hands after being in contact with the pet. Also, try to avoid letting the animal lick your face.

LJ: The latter might be a challenge....

AM: It's really about being sensible. The risk would only be prevalent if your pet came into immediate and direct contact with the virus and then you were to bury your face in its fur. The likelihood in this case is still very small as the virus doesn't last long on animals.For peace of mind, wash your hands after playing with your pet. It's as simple as that.

Have another question for vet Dr Alexandra Mattock, BSc? Drop us a line!