TA Explained: How to manage pets during COVID-19?

By Vidush Pandey

Can coronavirus be transmitted from humans to pets?

Yes, a small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after a close contact with people having the COVID-19 infection. The first case of a cat testing positive in the UK was confirmed last July.

However, as per the information available till date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.

Can coronavirus be transmitted from pets to humans?

No, there is no evidence that the virus can spread to people from the skin, fur, or hair of pets. Therefore, wiping or bathing your pet with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or other products, such as hand sanitizer, counter-cleaning wipes, or other industrial or surface cleaners is not advisable.

What to do if you have pets?

Since, there is a risk that people with COVID-19 could spread the virus to animals, pet owners should limit their pet’s interaction with people outside their household.

  • Keep cats and dogs indoors when possible and do not let them roam freely outside.
  • Walk dogs on a leash at least 6 feet away from others to protect them from interacting with people outside the household.
  • Avoid public places where large numbers of people gather.
  • Do not put a mask on pets. Masks could harm your pet.

What if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19?

If you are infected with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed), you should avoid contact with your pets and other animals, same way as we are doing with humans. Isolate yourself.

When possible, have another member of your household take care for your pets while you are sick and recovering. If you are forced to care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a mask and wash your hands before and after your interaction with them.

Avoid close contact with your pet including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sharing food, and sleeping in the same bed.

If you are sick with COVID-19 and your pet becomes sick too, do not take your pet to the veterinary clinic yourself. Call the veterinarian and let him/her know about your COVID-19 infection. Some veterinarians may offer teleconsultation or other plans for seeing sick pets. 

The veterinarian can evaluate your pet and determine the next steps for its treatment and care.

What are the symptoms if your pet is suffering from COVID-19?

Pets infected with this virus may or may not get sick. Pets that do have symptoms usually have mild illness that can be taken care of at home. If you think your pet is sick with the virus or if you have concerns about your pet’s health, talk to the veterinarian.

Research has highlighted that most pets that got sick were only after they came in close contact with a COVID-19 infected person.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Lethargy
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Ocular discharge
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

What if a pet is abandoned? 

Section 11 (i) of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 says that abandoning an animal, leaving it in a situation that it suffers pain due to starvation or thirst, is a punishable offence. 

However, the punishment for the violation of this provision is just a meagre fine which can maximum go up to ₹50. If the same crime is committed within three years again, the person has to pay a fine of anything between ₹25 and ₹100 or an imprisonment of up to 3 months or both.

Do we need a vaccine for pets?

There are conclusive  opinions on this. Scientists believe that pets don’t play an important role in transmitting the virus to humans, hence, there is no need for a vaccine to pets from a public health standpoint.

(Author is a lawyer, researcher and pet parent. He tweets at pandey_vidush)

Note: This explainer is majorly based on guidelines and advisories shared by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US Department of Health and Human Services.

Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Analysis (TA) is a research and communication group | Analyzing India’s legal, policy and political affairs. Write to us at contact@theanalysis.org.in

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