Recently the World Health Organization reacted by declaring that the 2019 novel coronavirus is now a global health emergency. In the panic that followed, people became worried not only about their own health but also the health of their pets.
With the horrific events in China which saw pets being thrown from buildings due to mass fear over the rumour that dogs and cats could contract and spread the virus, even pet owners who would never dream of doing something so horrendous have started having their dogs wear face masks. Others are concerned and not sure of the facts. I felt that with this, I needed to address this topic.
So, the big question is, 'Can dogs contract or spread coronavirus?' Well, although dogs can contract certain types of coronaviruses, such as the canine respiratory coronavirus, this specific coronavirus is believed not to be a threat to pets.
“At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus,” World Health Organization.
Despite the lack of evidence, Li Lanjuan, a representative of China’s National Health Commission cautioned pet owners in China to be vigilant about the health of both their pets and themselves; “If pets go out and have contact with an infected person, they have the chance to get infected. By then, pets need to be isolated. In addition to people, we should be careful with other mammals especially pets.”
But what about pet owners who are not in China? Well for now, pet owners in Singapore don’t need to do anything other than follow normal health precautions such as washing their hands with soap and water regularly throughout the day and after coming in contact with any animal.
Dogs do not need a face mask to protect themselves against the new coronavirus. But if you still feel that you need to do more to ensure the health of your furry family members during this time, there are some things you can do.
1) Prevent your dog from picking things up on your walks. Although this should be the case in general, you may want to brush up on your dogs "leave it" cue/ command. If your dog is picking up trash during your walks, such as pieces of tissue paper, the risk of you becoming exposed is far higher.
2) Clean your dogs paws after walks. A simple rinse, dry and wipe with an antiseptic such as chlorohex dilute should do the trick. Similarly to your dog picking things up on walks, their paws are bare to the ground. Anything that they come in contact with can potentially be carried into your home.
3) Avoid busy walking grounds. Whether it is a busy dog park or a busy street, the risk of exposure to you is higher if you are taking your dog somewhere with many other people.
4) Keep your dogs immune system strong. Ensure your dog is eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water. You may even want to think about a multivitamin for older dogs that may need that extra boost.
5) Look after your own hygiene. Dogs love to give you love, for some this may mean a lot of licking. Even though there is no evidence of dogs spreading this virus we can pass other viruses from to our pets and also from our pets to us. Make sure your hands are clean before allowing your pet to lick you.
Always remember that when we look after our dog's health and wellbeing, we are looking after our own as well. And whether there is a virus or not, if you are concerned about or notice any changes in your dog's health, do not hesitate to take them to the vet.