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4 Things You Need to Know About COVID-19 and Your Pet

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Since the outbreak of COVID-19—the illness caused by the novel coronavirus—was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020, everyone around the world has had to ask themselves:

“What does this mean for me?”

“How do I stay safe?”

We are also asking the same questions about our pets.

In this article, we’ll discuss some common issues about COVID-19 and pets, such as the risk of virus transmission, pandemic-related behavioral issues, and the impact, if any, on pet insurance.

1. There Isn’t Any Evidence that Suggests You Can Pass the Coronavirus to Your Pet or that Your Pet Can Pass it to You

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the novel coronavirus came from an animal originally, there is no evidence to suggest that animals spread the virus to human beings.

Having said that, pets have tested positive for coronavirus, including a pug named Winston in North Carolina and two cats in New York. All three animals recovered.

The President of the American Veterinary Medical Association, John Howe, said that positive tests in pets could be the result of the animal’s having licked the virus from an infected person or another surface.

Scientific understanding of COVID-19 is ongoing and updated frequently. The low-risk strategy is for pet owners and anyone else in contact with animals to practice basic good hygiene, thus avoiding infecting pets while protecting themselves.

The CDC offers this specific advice:

  • Wash hands frequently, especially after exposure to pets, their food, and their waste.
  • Wash pet supplies often and thoroughly, including pet toys and any children’s toys the pet gets its paws on.
  • Keep pets out of the kitchen and other food-related areas.
  • Avoid handling rodents, amphibians, reptiles, and poultry (this is especially important for children and those at higher risk for COVID-19).
  • If at all possible, have someone else care for your pet while you are sick, or use a boarding service. Avoid contact with your pet as much as possible until you are virus-free.
  • Limit or avoid pet contact with people and other pets not in your household.
  • When walking dogs, keep them on a leash and allow six feet of space between you and other people and pets.
  • Visit parks or dog parks only when they are not crowded and when it is possible to maintain a proper distance.

2. Pet’s are Experiencing Their Own Challenges in Quarantine

While most of us humans are trying to figure out how to work from home, practice social distancing, or deal with lost income, our pets are also experiencing changes.

Changes in routine, more or different household members and even the presence of face masks can be causes of anxiety for dogs and cats. Here are a few ways to help your pet through this challenging time.

Keep to as Normal a Schedule as Possible

Petplan veterinarians recommend not varying from usual times for walks, meals, and play. This will help to prevent confusion and also make it easier when life, one day, returns more or less to what it was before. An added bonus is that regular schedules are good for human owners, as well.

Provide Boundaries Between Pets and People

Many families have more people in the house during the pandemic, whether adults working from home, young children no longer in the classroom, or college students returning to once-empty nests.

These extra bipeds can be stressful for pets. Veterinary behaviorist Stephanie Borns-Weil explains that cats and dogs experience this stress differently. Cats are more likely to exhibit litter box problems and will tend to hide, while dogs may show more neediness.

In both cases, she recommends having a lot of patience and finding some literal space for your pet, even if it’s just an armchair or corner. Similarly, parents may need to have a child-safe space that pets cannot enter, especially for young children.

Help Pets Adjust to Face Masks

Human beings aren’t the only animals who may need time to adjust to face masks. Dogs, especially, are used to relying on owners’ facial expressions for familiar cues. The American Kennel Club provides several ideas for helping dogs to become comfortable around people in face masks, such as gradually exposing dogs to masks by having the mask hang from your ears first or placing the mask next to a familiar dish or toy, associating the mask with positive experiences, and using hand gestures rather than verbal commands.

3. If You Think Your Pet is Infected with COVID-19, Take it to the Vet

The number of cases of pets assumed to be infected with COVID-19 is small worldwide, but they do exist. If you think your pet has been infected with COVID-19, call your veterinarian instead of taking the animal to the clinic. Follow whatever guidance your vet gives. At this time, coronavirus testing is not recommended for animals.

4. You Don’t Need to Make Any Changes to Your Pet Insurance Plan Because of COVID019

No, you don’t need to make any changes to your pet insurance because of the pandemic.

But, this is a good time to be sure you have enough coverage and that your insurance information is in a place where you and anyone else who needs it can find it easily. You should also check with your insurance company for any changes in hours or procedures.

Most major insurance companies have COVID-19 information on their websites. Even if you don’t have a policy with the company, the information can be useful.

  • Embrace Pet Insurance assures customers that although they are working remotely, there are no changes to hours or services. However, Embrace encourages policy owners to use their app or MyEmbrace online account rather than mail service to avoid delays in claims.
  • Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation offers a resource list for people quarantining with pets, including what to feed dogs when dog food runs out, tips for working from home with pets underfoot, online vet services, recipes for pet treats, and ways to keep your pet (and yourself) entertained while sheltering in place.
  • Nationwide Pet Insurance informs policyholders of a temporary moratorium on cancellation, non-renewal, and conditional renewal, and changes in grace periods and late fees.
  • Petplus provides answers to many common questions, such as how to help pets adjust both to having owners being home all day and to the transition back to work, whether it is safe for pets to socialize with other pets and symptoms of COVID-19 in animals. Petplus also explains what to have on hand in a pet readiness kit and how to assign a pet guardian.
  • Pets Best Pet Health Insurance encourages customers to use their mobile app and to contact them with concerns about pandemic-related payment concerns.
  • Trupanion offers Your Pet Health Guide to COVID-19, with video, FAQs, and health facts.

With a little planning and knowledge, you can greatly increase your four-legged companions’ chances of staying mentally and physically healthy throughout the pandemic.