This article summarises what we currently know about COVID-19 and its impact on pet owners.
Are COVID-19 and FCoV Related?
You may be wondering if there’s any relationship between the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) virus and FCoV viruses. Apart from the fact that they are both corona viruses (that is they have distinctive protein spikes surrounding them) they are not directly related.
The image above is a microscopy image of SARS-CoV-2 (the COVID-19 virus) showing the “crown” (corona) like spikes from which the virus family gets its name. Source Wikipedia
Can my pet get COVID-19?
There is one documented case from China of a dog showing the presence of COVID-19 genetic material in its body. However the dog had no symptoms and there is no current evidence that pets have any part to play in the spread of the disease or that they can get sick from it.
Update: The above dog was a 17 year old Pomeranian. It was released from quarantine after clearing itself of the virus, but it died two days later. The owner did not permit a postmortem so it is not fully known of what it died. Pomeranians have a life span of between 12 to 16 years, so it would not be right to generalise from this case.
How should I manage my pets if I get sick?
The World Organisation for Animal Health advises taking sensible precautions by avoiding contact with your pets if you are sick.
Just as social distancing is the mantra for human contact, it applies equally to our pets.
If possible remove pets from your vicinity and have someone else take care of them. If that is not possible then they recommend that you avoid touching them as much as possible, wash your hands before and after all contact and, if possible, wear a face mask when feeding or interacting with them.
How long does COVID-19 survive on fur?
It is known that the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two or three days on solid (plastic / stainless steel) surfaces. The rougher the surface the virus lands on the shorter it can survive on it.
It is not yet known how long the virus can survive on pet hair, but, it seems reasonable to assume around 24 hours until more is known.
How should I interact with other peoples’ pets?
Given that there is a small chance that there may be live viruses on pets’ fur it is sensible to practice social distancing by minimising contact with other people's animals, and to practice good hygiene if one does come into contact.
So what does this mean?
Practical steps that we are taking involve:
Not touching any animal that isn’t ours, if at all possible.
Not allowing our dogs to physically interact with other peoples’ dogs when walking them.
Not allowing our dogs to interact with other people.
In the past we allowed our dogs to roam free on walks (we are lucky enough to have beaches and fields nearby) but now we only do this if there is no one else around. They are put on leads if close proximity to others cannot be prevented.
Practice social distancing and isolate your animals from other people/animals as you do yourself.
Wash your hands before and after handling animals.
Minimise contact with your animals if you get sick.