Pet owners advised to practise social distancing with animals

But veterinary authorities say there is no evidence of animal to human transmission

A spokeswoman for the ISPCA said there was no evidence that pets such as dogs or cats can spread  coronavirus. File photograph taken at Dogs Trust: Fran Veale

A spokeswoman for the ISPCA said there was no evidence that pets such as dogs or cats can spread coronavirus. File photograph taken at Dogs Trust: Fran Veale

 

Pet owners should make relatively small adjustments to the routines of their animals, but there is no need to be alarmist or abandon dogs, according to vets and other medical authorities.

Bray, Co Wicklow-based vet Pete Wedderburn said “dogs and cats cannot get coronavirus, but you should keep your dog two metres from other dogs and humans if you are out for a walk”, he said.

In addition to not getting the virus, Mr Wedderburn said dogs could not transmit it to humans, in an aerosol fashion, through droplets.

But he said social distancing should be extended to pets just in case a pet comes into contact with the virus through, for example, somebody sneezing on it.

“Like any other surface, a dog’s coat can carry viruses back to a human, so there has to be a little isolation involved,” he explained.

“Shampoo will keep a dog clean and will kill any viruses.”

He said there were many ways in which a dog owner could look after their animal’s wellbeing and foster good mental health in both the dog and themselves. Some of these could be found on his Facebook page Pete the Vet, while more were on Dogs Trust webpage [dogstrust.ie], he said.

“If your cat is the kind that likes to visit two or three other homes during the day, think about keeping him indoors,” he said.

Veterinary Ireland, the profession’s national representative organisation, said veterinary practices would endeavour to remain open throughout the Covid-19 crisis, but clients must phone first for an appointment. Those in isolation should not allow others to touch their pets, the organisation said.

Dundrum pet food supplier Shane Walsh of Breffini House Pets said owners were making an effort “to do the best for their pets”. He said owners had been making sure they had enough supplies, “but not stockpiling”. Mr Walsh said there was “no shortage”.

No evidence

The ISPCA national animal centre in Longford and the DSPCA centre in Rathfarnham have closed to the public but animals are still being cared for at both centres. A spokeswoman for the ISPCA said there was no evidence that pets such as dogs or cats could spread coronavirus.

“According to experts, Covid-19 cannot be transmitted from human to animal or vice versa. If your pet is touched by someone with coronavirus, then there is the potential that it can be spread, should someone else come into contact with your pet but the risk of this is extremely low,” spokeswoman Carmel Murray said.

“We are asking pet owners not to worry about their pets,” she said. “It is important to interact with your pets as normal and to wash your hands regularly after contact with any animal.”

The World Health Organisation has also reiterated there is no evidence that pets such as the family dog or cat can spread coronavirus to humans.

It was commenting after publicity surrounding the Hong Kong dog which produced a “weak positive” in a test for coronavirus.

The journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said the Pomeranian dog based in Hong Kong was found to have shown a “weak positive” in a test for the novel coronavirus Sars-CoV-2, which causes the disease Covid-19.

However, WHO said coronavirus was transmitted primarily through droplets expelled during coughing and sneezing or a discharge from saliva and the nose. While pets were well known for their affectionate licks and runny noses, even sneezes, there were no known cases of such a transfer happening, the WHO said.

ISPCA tips and advice

When out walking your dog, you should ensure they are kept on a short lead and under control at all times.

Restrict contact with other people and animals and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Continue to exercise and play with your pets to alleviate stress in the confines of your garden.

There are plenty of ways to keep your pets entertained such as putting their favourite treats in a Kong pet toy, using food puzzle toys, playing fetch or tug-of-war with their favourite toy.

This is a good time to teach your pets some new tricks. The ISPCA would love to see your cute animal photos or videos.

Avoid sharing your food or being kissed or licked by your pet and always wash your hands.

It’s important you have sufficient pet food, prescribed medication or other essentials such as cat litter during self-isolation.

Plan ahead in the event you need help caring for your pets short or long term.