Pet owners should plan in case they get COVID-19: AVMA

As the United States faces a new wave of coronavirus infections, the AVMA is urging pet owners to have a plan in place to care for their pets in case the owner gets sick and, potentially, hospitalized.

“While this is primarily a human disease, we have seen a small number of cases in pets,” said AVMA president Douglas Kratt. “These cases in pets appear to be uncommon and are mostly mild or asymptomatic, but they can still happen. To be safe, and until we know more about the virus, the AVMA recommends those ill with COVID-19 restrict contact with their pets, just as they would restrict contact with other people.”

Kratt recommends that pet owners identify another household member who can take care of feeding, walking, playing with and otherwise caring for their pet in case they get sick. If no one else is available in the house, infected owners should wear a cloth face covering, wash their hands before and after contact with their pet, and refrain from sharing food and kissing or hugging their pet.

Owners should also identify a person or facility that can care for their pet if they’re hospitalized. If they’re unsure who can do that, their veterinarian may have recommendations.

According to the AVMA, it’s generally best to keep pets from interacting with people or other animals outside the household, especially in places with community spread of COVID-19. Cats should be kept indoors, when possible, to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people. (According to the CDC, some data has shown the virus spreads more easily among cats than dogs. The risk of animal-to-human spread is still considered low.)

Animal owners without COVID-19 symptoms should continue practicing good hygiene: washing hands before and after interacting with their pet and when handling animal food, waste or supplies.

Kratt stressed that pet owners shouldn’t panic or consider abandoning their pets during the pandemic. Rather, he said, they should plan for emergencies, understand the actual scope of the problem and take simple steps to protect themselves and their pets.

“Be cautious, be careful, but don’t be fearful,” he said.