By Dr. Karishma Gupte (M.V.Sc)
It took me 2 hours to convince a pet owner, not to choose euthanasia for his pet. He was insisting on having his dog euthanized as he thought that his family will get coronavirus infection because of his pet.
It is quite disheartening to see that pets are being abandoned, beaten or euthanized by misinformed pet owners.
The intention of writing this article is to assess the risks of having a pet during COVID-19 pandemic.
We know that the source of COVID-19 infection is the wild animal market of China. Also, few dogs and cats were tested positive for COVID-19. Hence, it is natural for people to get scared to be around animals (pets). However, I would like to point out that the pets that were tested positive for COVID-19 were positive only because their owners were tested positive for this pandemic disease. Thus, these cases are of human-to-animal transmission and not the other way around. These pets recovered or were later tested negative for the virus suggesting that though pets may get infected by virus, they do not spread the infection to humans. The CDC, the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health and other public health bodies and experts agree on this: There’s no evidence that animals transmit the virus to humans or have played a role in its spread.
Can pet fur transmit the virus?
The AVMA’s (American Veterinary Medical Association) statement was updated on March 15, 2020. The Association gave its assessment of ‘pet fur’ as a possible contract source. According to the statement:
‘Smooth (non-porous) surfaces (e.g. countertops, doorknobs) transmit viruses better than porous materials (e.g. paper money, pet fur) because porous, especially fibrous, materials absorb and trap the pathogen (virus), making it harder to contract through simple touch. Nonetheless, organizations do advise you to wash your hands before and after handling your companion pet.’
I came across a case wherein due to this ongoing ‘Corona Scare’, a pet owner washed paws of his pet with bleaching powder, resulting in severe allergic reaction and swelling of paws. Here, I would suggest that dipping of paws in Betadine solution is much simpler way of disinfecting paws. Ensure that you dry the paws thoroughly after doing the same.
Another pet owner gave some herbal decoction to his dog, resulting in toxicity and death of the dog. First of all, pets don’t transmit COVID-19 and secondly, not all herbs that suit humans, also suit dogs or cats. Please consult your veterinarian before administering herbal remedy to your pet.
Further, please remember that disinfecting of floors with pet-friendly disinfectants will ensure that pets do not get skin allergies.
Most importantly, transmission of COVID-19 is human to human. So, ensure that you are compassionate towards your pets and strays who are currently suffering due to lack of food availability and misinformation amongst people. Treat pets as you would treat other human family members – do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.
Stay safe, stay strong, and stay compassionate!
* Author is Director, Vetbiotics Animal Healthcare Pvt Ltd.