Steps you can take to protect your pet from COVID-19

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ByEd Crump via WTVD logo
Friday, April 24, 2020
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Now that the coronavirus seems to be spreading in the animal kingdom, local experts are saying we should take precautions while handling our own pets.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- It seems nothing is certain with COVID-19, advice given weeks ago now appears ill-advised like telling people not to wear masks and now saying we should wear masks.

Early on experts said pets were safe from the virus, but now they are adding them to the list of things to be careful of amid the pandemic, especially, after two house cats in New York state and several tigers at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the coronavirus.

RELATED: 4 more tigers, 3 lions test positive for COVID-19 at New York's Bronx Zoo

Now, the CDC is recommending people who are sick to avoid pets.

Veterinarians say, so far, they only know of one pet worldwide that has died after contracting COVID-19. It was a dog in Hong Kong.

"This pet was a Pomeranian that was 17 years old. And COVID-19 was never proven to be the cause of death," said Raleigh veterinarian Karina Ballester.

She added, "So when you're dealing with a pet that is geriatric there could be so many other reasons that caused him (the dog) to die."

Ballester is a veterinarian at Creedmoor Road Animal Hospital in Raleigh.

As for the domestic cats in New York that just tested positive for the coronavirus, she says they have only mild symptoms and are expected to fully recover.

"So we are not concerned about the danger of the disease in pets at the moment although, yes, the consensus in the scientific community does change very frequently."

She hopes it won't change again, but in the meantime, she backs some of the CDC's recommendations about pets and the pandemic:

  • If you are sick with COVID-19 restrict contact with your pets and other animals.
  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your pet.
  • And if you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after.

Officials say it isn't clear how one of the domestic cats became sick but the other tested positive for COVID-19 after its owner was infected.

"There aren't enough cases for us to make a clear consensus of how the disease is being transmitted between humans and animals. But the recommendations are the same that we would make for a person to stay away from other people if they are ill. We're making the same recommendation for them to do with their pets," she said.

The CDC is also making these recommendations:

  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.

But Ballester doesn't agree with the CDC on 'dog distancing.' She says, for behavioral reasons, some dogs need to interact with other dogs and she notes there have only been two known cases of COVID-19 in dogs worldwide.

"I think the recommendation to ask for dogs to stay away from each other based on two cases, and we are not even sure that they were ill from it, is a far stretch."

She also noted that there has been no evidence the virus has been passed from pets to humans.

READ MORE: Have you noticed behavior changes in your pet since you've been working from home? You're not alone