Pandemic Pet Therapy Needed!
One of my proudest accomplishments as Chief Medical Office for the Toronto 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games was the inclusion of St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program. What, wait, huh? You read it right. The Therapy Dogs visited the Athlete Village on a regular basis and just having their presence and companionship helped to reduce anxiety, calm home-sick feelings, temper aggression and normalize fears of failure. Pets are very positive for our health and science has found that regular interaction can reduce blood pressure, stress hormone levels and even stabilize breathing rates. Aside from the medical benefits, pets are great socializers and they bring out the best in their owners through unconditional admiration.
Can my pet be infected with Covid-19?
The World Health Organization has said there is no evidence that pets can be infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. We are learning more every day about the virus so I can hear you when you ask what if that fact is wrong? Let’s put it a different way, currently there are over 335,000 cases worldwide and I have only found 2 reported possible cases with dogs which registered low levels of the virus, only after their owners were sick. So, yes, we should use caution but it does not appear that our pets are infected or contagious and there is a slim possibility that we may be a problem for them if we are infected.
What is the pet protocol for Social Distancing?
Pet Supply Store:
- Most stores have reduced hours due to increased cleaning needs and staff shortages.
- Pet grooming is closed for a few weeks and could be extended longer.
- Online sales are up and delivery or pick-up can be arranged, limited customers in-store.
- Ensure you have a 30-day supply of pet food and care needs.
- The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has stated that “our veterinarians are prepared, and continue to offer essential medical services during this pandemic.” Hero status granted!
- Waiting room seating will be distanced, appointments will be limited and services will be for urgent care and not routine procedures.
- There is also no medication supply shortage for pets although it is advised that you have 30 days supply in case you can’t get to your vet. Remember you cat doesn’t have a driver’s license…yet!
- All vet clinic have increased their cleaning schedules and their wipe down procedures.
Playtime and Walks
- There are no clear directives on this issue so I am advising that we use the same rules as humans. You take your pet for a walk but not in groups (dog parks) and 6 feet apart (no nose nuzzling with the neighbour) and no play dates.
- It is a good idea to wipe down the pet toys if you take them out or even periodically in your home if others are coming in.
- If you don’t have any symptoms, you can interact with your pet normally but just make sure that you practice good hygiene by washing your hand before and after and keeping their bowls, beds and relief areas clean.
What if I have symptoms?
Out of an abundance of caution, it is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. Have another member of your household take care of walking, feeding, and playing with your pet. If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a facemask and gloves; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with them.
Help a Pet Neighbour Out
If you know of someone who is ill, elderly or immune comprised and lives alone with a pet, don’t forget to offer to pick up pet supplies and do a door drop.
The pet adoption agencies are struggling to adapt their service to digital platforms while still maintaining the rigour of making sure that the new pet owner is the perfect furry forever home. This means that lots of animals are in shelters. The shelters have reduced volunteers, due to social distancing, and some very overworked wonderful caretakers. They are in need of your donations of dollars and food. Most pet stores will have a pet food bank or online donations for pet charities. Inquire at your local pet store or shelter for more information on their needs.