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Can pets get COVID-19 (Coronavirus)? - What we know so far

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Posted March 30 | for Tailz.com.au

Today Australia hit a grim milestone. The nation’s confirmed coronavirus cases have soared past 4,107* as people fail to comply with social distancing measures and community transmission rises.

Here at Tailz we’ve been inundated with hundreds of queries asking whether pets can get COVID-19.

Researchers around the world are frantically trying to understand this new virus, which attacks the lungs and has claimed thousands of lives, but questions still remain.  

 

Can pets get COVID-19? Can humans spread the virus to one another after petting animals? Are we allowed to walk our dogs? 

The other day when I was picking my dog up from the vets, I was told to stand 1.5 metres away from the counter to comply with social distancing.

As I stepped back, a woman was handed her recently de-sexed cat. I heard her quietly ask, almost ashamed, “Can he get Coronavirus?.

“No, we don’t think so,” the vet nurse replied.

This is not a question people should be afraid of asking. The fact is this is a new virus and we are learning about it daily.

Heartbreakingly it’s been reported that some owners are giving their pets up for adoption due to virus fears, so it’s time to bust some myths.

 

Can dogs and cats get coronavirus?

While dogs contract certain types of coronavirus, multiple experts have said the new novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is not a health risk to animals - including cats.

They’re unlikely to spread it between one another, and catch it from a human.

The RSPCA has said there is no risk of catching the virus from a companion animal.

And the World Health Organisation issued  information on Thursday 13 March saying, "at present there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus.

While experts think the risk is low, in mid-March mild panic began after 17-year-old  Pomeranian in Hong Kong tested a weak positive to the virus.

The dog’s owner, a now recovered COVID-19 patient, reported the animal has since passed away.

Yesterday, veterinarian Chris Brown also dismissed claims that dogs can get the virus and said in this case, it was more likely the elderly dog was in shock after being sent away for repeated tests and quarantine.

Veterinarian Katrina Warren also said peoples’ fears are unfounded on Chanel Nine’s breakfast program Today over a week ago.

Warren urged people to exercise caution around their pets all the same, and said you should isolate from them if you’re diagnosed with the virus.

Why? While you’re unlikely to give the virus to your furry friend there is a chance germs can live on their fur and spread human-to-human.

Renowned immunologist Peter Doherty appeared on Today this morning and said the virus could survive on cardboard for about 24 hours and plastic for perhaps three or more days.

While no mention was made of an animal’s fur, pet owners should exercise caution all the same.

Warren recommended that people comply to the same common-sense hygiene practices  people are displaying around one another, and wash hands after every petting, reduce kisses and cuddles (however hard) and not share food.

 

What should I do when it comes to walks?

Dog owners too should be mindful of social distancing while taking their animals for walks, as we know community transmission is increasing.

After Scott Morrison announced restrictions to mass gatherings on Sunday, RSPCA cancelled their widely popular public event Million Paws Walk on Sunday, 17 May.

This is because humans can spread the highly contagious disease to each other.

However the RSPCA has said dogs still need walks; so what should you do?

When walking a dog stick to your local area, walk your animal at night or early morning when less people are around, and maintain the 1.5 metre distance from others as recommended by the Federal Government.

As the whole family stays home you may even find your dog requires less walks, because they have more people willing to play with them.

The message here is not to be scared of animals, just cautious, like you would be around any family member.

In fact, in times of stress a furry friend can actually be a benefit.

Companion animals have been proven to reduce stress, improve mental health, and can provide entertainment for adults and children alike during long periods of isolation.

This is a message echoed by the RSPCA who are urging self-isolating Australians to adopt one of the thousands of animals they have in shelters around the nation.

From everyone at Tailz, please take care and try to remain calm during this time 😌

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*statistic noted as of March 30, 2020.