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The coronavirus and your pet: the influence of COVID-19 on your dog or cat

The coronavirus, COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2: whatever you call it, it cannot be ignored. This virus is causing a great deal of concern and raising a lot of questions, also among pet owners. Can my pet be infected with the coronavirus? And how can a pet be protected from the virus? This article provides an in-depth explanation of the coronavirus in relation to pets.

What is the coronavirus?

Corona, the coronavirus or COVID-19: these names all refer to the same virus. COVID-19 is the disease that you get after you have been infected by the coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2. It is a disease that does not produce the same effect on everyone. One person may suffer tremendously from the virus and become very ill, while another may have only mild symptoms. For more reliable information on the virus and its effects on humans, please visit the Public Health England website.

Can my pet get COVID-19?

The coronavirus is a zoonosis. This means that it is a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. The precise origin of the coronavirus has not yet been identified, but it is likely that the virus was passed on to humans via a bat (or other animal). It is therefore quite understandable that many pet owners are wondering if their pets can also be infected with the virus. The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University confirms that the chance of your pet becoming infected with the virus is very small. However, a very small number of dogs and cats worldwide have tested positive for the virus. This means that the chance of your pet getting COVID-19 is very small indeed.

Tip: Read this blog by Yarrah about the coronavirus.

Can my pet infect me with the virus?

The chance of your animal catching the virus is very small. But can your pet infect you with the virus? In theory, this is possible, but the chances are extremely small. It is much more likely that you will be infected with the virus by another human being.

Can my pet still go outside?

Certainly! Considering that the chance of your pet becoming infected with the virus is very small, you can safely let your cat outside. You can also take your dog for a walk, as long as you follow the guidelines imposed by the government and you have no symptoms of the disease.

Can I let other people pet my dog or cat?

When you go for a walk with your dog, passers-by may want to pet your dog. Although the chance of spreading the virus in this way is very small, it is theoretically possible that your dog may be touched by an infected person. So, be on the safe side and keep your distance – also when you are walking your dog.

Can you test or vaccinate a pet against corona?

It is theoretically possible to have your pet tested for the virus. However, doing so would be most unusual. We need all the testing capacity there is in our country to test humans in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University recommends the following: if your pet is ill and has been in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus, contact your veterinarian and ask them how to proceed.

Reliable information about the coronavirus and your pet

There is a wealth of information available about the virus. You may wonder where you can find answers to your questions. This article provides answers to many of your questions, but if you want to read more, you can visit World Small Animal Veterinary Association.

A visit to the vet during the pandemic

There are many reasons for a visit to the vet, such as vaccinations, de-worming or an emergency situation. Veterinarians are included in the list of crucial professions compiled by the government and remain at work. However, some practices impose specific requirements and it is always advisable to call your vet in advance or check the website for the rules before visiting. Ask your vet for the specifics of his or her practice.

Kennels, grooming salons and shelters

Many owners are uncertain about the rules that apply to animal shelters, kennels and grooming salons. Here too, a diversity of rules apply. In principle, grooming salons are closed, but in some cases the salon is permitted to pick up your pet and bring it back home after it has been groomed. As for kennels and animal shelters, they remain open for activities that are of crucial importance to animal welfare or animal health. Animal ambulances also continue to run and shelters remain accessible to people who are bringing in an animal or picking one up – by appointment, of course. Every animal shelter has a certain protocol that has to be observed. This will tell you, for example, how many people are allowed inside at one time and in which areas you should wear a face mask. Before visiting the organisation, always ask what the rules are and follow them.

Giving up your pet because of corona?

During the first wave of the corona crisis, shelters reported an increase in the number of animals being dumped or otherwise given up by their owners. This may have been related to people’s fear of becoming infected with the coronavirus through their pets. Fortunately, there is no reason to be afraid of this! If you find yourself in financial trouble as a result of the corona crisis and are finding it hard buy enough food, supplies (and possibly medical treatment) for your pet, you may be able to make a claim on the animal food bank. There are animal food banks in several cities that can offer you temporary assistance for this.

More adoptions due to the coronavirus

At the same time, there were also many people who wanted to adopt an animal from the shelter. As people are spending more time at home due to the lockdown, the desire to have a pet has become greater. It is, of course, very nice for an animal to be given a ‘furever home’, but be honest and look at your wish with a critical eye. Make sure you also have a good plan for when you will be required to return to full-time work at your employer’s. Avoid leaving your pet at home alone too long or not being able to give it the time and attention it needs.

Changes in our behaviour and its influence on your animal

We are spending more time at home than ever before. This takes some getting used to for us – as well as for your pet. Take this into account and give your animal enough space. Don’t take your dog for long walks that last an entire day if he is not used to it. Also make sure that there are quiet spots in your house where your dog or cat can retreat. Have you fallen ill and are possibly infected with the virus? Then follow the advice given by the Public Health England website.

Infectious diseases in dogs and cats

Fortunately, there is no reason to fear that your animal will become very ill from the coronavirus. No situations of this happening have been reported at present. It goes without saying that you always want your dog or cat to be in the best of health. You can read more about this in the following articles:

How do you identify a healthy dog?
How do you identify a healthy cat?

There are also several diseases that can be contagious and dangerous to dogs and cats. For dogs, these include rabies (which fortunately hardly ever occurs here), parvo and canine distemper. Examples of contagious diseases that can be contracted by cats are feline distemper and the cat flu. You can have your animal vaccinated to prevent it from becoming infected with these diseases. You can more about this in the following articles:

Vaccinating kittens: against what, why and when?
Vaccinating your dog: why and when?

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