What You Should Know...
We are all on high alert as we follow the spread of the COVID-19 (new coronavirus) pandemic and its unprecedented impact on our lives. What about our pets? Are they susceptible? Can they transmit the infection? What should I do with my pet if I contract the virus? Where did this virus come from? While we are still trying to understand the COVID-19 pandemic, there is information emerging that is helpful in answering these questions.
Where Did It Come From?
Coronaviruses are a family of related viruses that can cause diseases in mammals and birds. The name is derived from the Latin “Corona” meaning “crown” which refers to the microscopic appearance of the virus – a ball with protein spikes that resemble a crown. In humans, past coronavirus infections have caused respiratory tract infections that were mild such as the common cold or serious, even fatal infections such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and recently COVID-19. The name COVID-19 is an abbreviation from Corona Virus Disease and 2019, the year the disease was discovered. Both SARS and MERS have been responsible for epidemics over the past two decades and are related to COVID-19. Symptoms of coronavirus infections vary with species that are infected. Pigs and cattle have gastro-intestinal diseases and birds and cats have respiratory diseases. However, there is no transmission to people in the U.S. from our domestic or food producing animals.
There is strong scientific evidence that the recent group of serious human coronavirus infections, SARS, MERS and COVID-19, have all originated from bats. COVID-19 has a 96% genetic match with a coronavirus recently found in a bat in China. Bats likely serve as asymptomatic carriers of these viruses. They have the infections without getting sick, but still can shed and transmit the virus to other animals or people. The bats are considered the maintenance host, that is, the virus remains in them and is the principle source of the disease long term. The recent group of serious human diseases caused by coronaviruses have also been isolated from a group of other animals that were infected from bats and then became carriers themselves, thus further spreading the diseases. These animals are termed intermediate hosts, meaning that they become infected as a species and can then amplify and further spread the virus. For example, the intermediate host for MERS is likely camels. Currently, the pangolin, an animal like a small anteater, is suspected of helping to initially spread COVID-19 after being infected from bats but this theory is still unproven and is being researched further. People can be infected either directly from bats but are usually infected from intermediate host animals. Pandemics occur when the viruses are capable of being transmitted from person to person without the involvement of animals.
Early evidence suggests that COVID-19 originated from bats found in “live-animal” markets in Wuhan, China. It is a common cultural practice in China for people to visit large markets with many live animals that are all mixed closely together. People mix with birds, mammals, reptiles and fish which are sold and often slaughtered onsite so that people get fresh meat for their meals. This practice allows people to come into close contact with a variety of animal species, including bats, that may be carrying coronaviruses or other infections. We know that this same practice was likely the source of the SARS pandemic in 2002-2003. Some bats are hunted and used for food in other cultures including China. Not all these viruses are easily transmitted to people and even if they do infect people, the infections are often limited because the transmission doesn’t easily occur from person to person. COVID-19 has been an exception. It has the unique capability of being readily transmitted from person to person; it is highly contagious and thus has spread rapidly across the globe as a pandemic.
Can Dogs and Cats Get Infected With COVID-19?
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there is currently no evidence that household pets can contract or spread COVID-19. The CDC has also confirmed that they have not received any reports that pets or other animals in the U.S. have become sick with COVID-19. In addition, public health officials state that that is no evidence or research to support the idea that human to pet transmission occurs. Dogs and cats can acquire their own type of coronavirus infections from each other and these usually result in mild illnesses. Importantly, these animal infections only circulate within the pet populations and are not transmitted to, nor infect people. Thus. there is very strong evidence, from many sources, that our pets do not contract COVID-19 and are not are sources of the infection.
Are There Diagnostic Tests Available for Pets for COVID-19 and Should I have My Pet Tested?
While there is a diagnostic test that is being developed for COVID-19 for pets, it is not commercially available today. More importantly, there is no reason to test pets since they are not being infected with COVID-19. If your pet develops a respiratory disease, the recommendation is to work with your veterinarian to test for other respiratory infections. However, because COVID-19 is a new disease, more information is always being discovered about the dynamics of the infection. COVID-19 will continue to be monitored in pets but today there is no reason to tests pets and there is no recommendation to do so.
What Should I Do with My Pet If I Contract COVID-19?
The CDC recommends that if you contract COVID-19, you should keep a distance from your pets just like you would do with other people while you are quarantined. While there have been no reports of any pets being infected or sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that you limit any contacts with your pets until more information is known about the virus. The concern is not that your pet will become infected, but it could possibly carry the virus on its fur or collar for a short time and transmit to another person. While this is feasible, it is certainly not a high risk. Yet out of an abundance of caution, it would be helpful, if possible, to have someone else care for you pet while you are sick. If this is not possible, be sure to wash your hands before and after interacting with your pet. Certainly petting, snuggling, kissing, being licked or sharing food should be avoided.
If I Don’t Have COVID-19, Should I Change How I Interact with My Pet?
If you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would including walking, playing and feeding. You should still practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently and ensure that you pet is clean and well groomed. While you will not contract COVID-19 from your pet, there are other diseases and parasites that can be transmitted.
How Should I Prepare for My Pet’s Care in the Event that I Am Infected with COVID-19?
You should develop a contingency plan for your pet just like you should be doing for you and your family. Identify a person, either in your household or a friend, to care for your pet should you contract COVID-19. Make sure that you have an emergency kit prepared with at least 2-3 weeks of food and any needed medications. It is probably a good idea to have an emergency kit available for your pet anyway, in case there are further restrictions on social distancing.
What If My Pet Needs to Go to The Veterinarian?
If you are not ill with COVID-19 or have another communicable disease like the flu, call your veterinarian and follow her/his recommendations to work out a schedule for a visit. While many routine veterinary visits can be rescheduled, work with your veterinarian to check when he/she believes the visit is most appropriate and safe. If your pet has an emergency, call ahead to find out about needed care or recommendations to be seen. If you are sick with COVID-19 or have been recently diagnosed, you must stay at home and minimize contact with other people and avoid unnecessary risks.
by Dr. Lonnie King
We all look forward to the holiday season which abounds with family visits, celebrations, parties, wonderful food and good cheer. However, the holiday season can also carry some serious hazards for our pets. Nothing can spoil holiday cheer like an emergency with a beloved family pet. Here are a few tips to keep your pet safe and healthy this holiday.
Food: (Don’t) Let Them Eat Cake!
Keep people food away from pets. If you want to share holiday treats with your pet, make or buy treats formulated just for them. There are a few foods that are especially hazardous for pets, and include: chocolate, grapes/raisins, alcohol, poultry bones, onions, garlic, raw bread or yeast dough and candy or sweets containing artificial sweeteners. Xylitol is an especially dangerous and toxic sweetener that may be found in some types of gum, candy and baked goods. Turkey meat and turkey skin are off limits because they may cause pancreatitis. This is also true for table scraps including gravy, meat fat, stuffing or pork products. All of these should be kept away from your pet.
There are a few plants that are toxic for pets and may make an appearance during the holidays in our homes. Poinsettias, lilies, amaryllis and mistletoe can be dangerous to cats and dogs. In addition, potpouri mixes, cedar, holly and balsam may also be hazardous for pets. If you plan to use any of these decorative plants or products, be sure that they are kept out of the reach of your pet.
Avoid Choking Hazards
Be certain that your pet does not have access to choking hazards, such as candy wrappers, turkey bones, ribbons, wrapping paper, ornaments, toothpicks, very small toys and tinsel. You should consider not using tinsel to decorate a tree if you have a cat. Turkey carcasses or anything used to wrap or tie the meat such as strings, bags or packaging material present special dangers and they must also be kept away from pets. Not only can these items become choking hazards, but if swallowed, they can lodge in the stomach or intestine and require emergency surgery. Always put the trash away and store it where pets do not have access to it.
Be Cautious of Electrical Cords
Many holiday decorations are a fun way to get into the holiday spirit and many use electricity. If chewed, live electrical cords can cause burns around a pet’s mouth and can result in breathing difficulties and even seizures. To avoid this hazard, unplug lights and decorations when not in use and secure them out of the reach of pets.
Christmas trees can tip over if pets climb on them or try to play with lights or ornaments. If possible, try to secure your tree to a door frame or ceiling. For live trees that require water, additives to the water can offer additional hazards. Thus, do not add sugar, aspirin or other preservatives to the water since pets can be attracted to this water source and ingesting these products may present an additional hazard.
House Parties and Visitors: Reducing Stress and Anxiety
We look forward to holiday guests and hosting parties; however, for some pets, the noise and excitement can be upsetting. They can become nervous and anxious at these gatherings. All pets should have access to a comfortable and quiet place inside if they should want to retreat and get away from the commotion and disruption of their routine. A crate with a favorite toy in a separate room might be a good option and be available as a pet getaway. If you know that your pet is likely to get upset by parties or houseguests, talk with your veterinarian about other preemptive options for this common problem. Guests mean that more people will be coming into and going out of your home, and open doors can be a tempting invitation for a pet to escape and become lost. Therefore, you need to take care during these times to make sure your visitors are aware of your pet and make sure that your pet has proper and current identification information. Of course, microchipping your pet is a good idea regardless of the season.
Other Potential Hazards
Special holiday displays or candles are attractive to pets as well as people. Never leave a pet alone in a room or area with a lit candle. Pinecones, needles and other similar decorations may cause gastrointestinal problems when pets chew on them or swallow them and thus should not be available to your pet. It is a good idea to clear food from your table, counters and serving areas when you are done using them. Again, make certain that your trash is in a place where a pet cannot reach it.
We want our pets to enjoy the holidays with us, and taking these precautions can help ensure this season is fun and joyous. However, planning ahead, just in case, is a good idea. It is helpful to know in advance how to reach a 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic. Talk with your local veterinarian ahead of time and have phone numbers posted and available. There is also an ASPCA Poison Control Hotline that you can access at 1-888-426-4435 should you need immediate consultation about a potential emergency (there may be a fee for this service). Any emergency is stressful and knowing exactly what to do in such instances is extremely helpful.
These tips are offered not to take away the joy from a wonderful time of the year, but, rather, they are reminders about how to keep our pets happy and healthy this holiday season. After all, they are family members, too, and need our care and supervision.
Dr. Lonnie King – Board member of the ORHS
With our summer temperatures rising above 90 degrees and high humidity, summertime livin’ isn’t always easy. This is especially true when it comes to protecting our pets from the dangers of hot weather. Just remember when it is too hot for us, it is too hot for our pets as well.
Obviously, our dogs and cats have very different physiology than people. First, pets have fur and their coats, in some cases, add an extra burden when they are attempting to cool down. Both dogs and cats sweat through their paws but cannot sweat from their skin like we do, and this sweating is only marginally helpful to them for cooling down. Pets primarily cool down by panting. This allows their saliva to be exposed to the air and to evaporate from their tongues and mouth which helps cool them down. Dog’s blood vessels can dilatate around their head and face which allows more blood to flow from their internal organs closer to the external environment around the face which helps to reduce their temperature. Panting also facilitates the air to circulate through a pet’s body and thus further help reduce its temperature. Cats will commonly lick their coats and groom themselves more in the summer to add saliva to their fur which promotes more evaporation and cooling.
When dogs and cats get overheated and cannot cool down effectively, they may suffer a heat stroke or hyperthermia which can be a serious and life-threatening condition. Certain breeds of dogs and cats that have flat faces like bulldogs, pugs, boxers, shih tzus and Persian cats are especially susceptible to overheating and potential heat strokes because they have restricted and short airways. Pets that are older, obese or have existing heart or respiratory conditions are also at higher risk for these medical conditions in extreme heat.
How Can You Help?
Here are 8 tips for you to follow during our hot summer weather.
What Are the Signs of Heat Stroke and What Should You Do?
Heat stroke or hyperthermia occurs when the body temperature rises significantly above normal levels. A normal dog temperature range is from 100.5 – 102.5 and a normal cat temperature range is from 99.5 – 102.5. It is a myth that one can tell the health or temperature of a pet by checking its nose; the only way to accurately determine a pet’s temperature is by using a thermometer. Taking the pet’s rectal temperature using a human digital thermometer works well. Pets exhibiting signs of heat stroke will have a body temperature of 104 degrees or even much higher. If suffering from a heat stroke a dog or cat will pant heavily and excessively (remember some panting is normal). They may experience increased heart and respiratory rates, drool and salivate profusely, experience weakness or be non-responsive, they may vomit, collapse or have a seizure.
If you believe that your pet is having a heat stroke, get the pet into an air-conditioned home, run cool water (Not Cold!) over the pet especially over its head, neck and chest and then wrap it in a cool, water-soaked towel and then take the pet directly to the veterinarian as this can be a life-threatening condition that will require emergency and expert care. It is helpful to call ahead and let the veterinarian know that you are coming with an emergency so that the veterinary clinic be well prepared when you arrive.
It’s summer in lake country which means it’s the perfect time of the year for family visits, boating, and rounds of golf. Of course, the summer holiday of July 4th is right around the corner, and with that will come the fireworks displays. Even though these celebrations are loved by humans, they can be distressing for our four-legged friends. The flashes of light, loud noises, and smells of fireworks can be incredibly stressful for many dogs. Below are some tips to keep your furry family members safe this Fourth of July!
We hope that these pointers will ensure that every member of your family has a safe and happy holiday. Happy Fourth of July from everyone here at Oconee Regional Humane Society!