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Seattle Humane addresses coronavirus concerns for pets

As Seattle, King County, Snohomish County, and the State of Washington respond to the first U.S. deaths from Covid-19, the coronavirus that has infected more than 90,000 people worldwide, many pet owners are questioning whether their beloved animal family members are at risk of contracting the illness.

From a March 2, 2020, Seattle Humane news release.

Shelter says there's no evidence to indicate pets can spread Covid-19 infection.  

As Seattle, King County, Snohomish County, and the State of Washington respond to the first U.S. deaths from Covid-19, the coronavirus that has infected more than 90,000 people worldwide, many pet owners are questioning whether their beloved animal family members are at risk of contracting the illness and if their four-legged friend could be a carrier of the deadly germs.

While this is a complex topic with new data presented daily, the short answer, for now, is no.

"There's no evidence to indicate that domesticated animals play any role in disease transmission for Covid-19," said Dr. Jessica Reed, veterinarian and chief medical director at Seattle Humane.

According to numerous health organizations (including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the American Veterinary Medical Association), no animals in the United States have been diagnosed with the virus, and zero data exists to suggest that dogs or cats (or other pets) can contract or spread Covid-19, also known as 2019-nCoV.

While a dog in Hong Kong tested "weak positive" for the virus that causes Covid-19, officials say this solitary case is not cause for concern, as the dog (whose owner is being treated for the infection) has not displayed any signs of illness. Additionally, the test result's implications are unclear, said the American Veterinary Medical Association, as "it's unknown if the presence of the virus is due to infection, environmental contamination, cross-reactivity, or even potential issues with the test itself." The dog is quarantined, being monitored by health experts, and will be re-tested regularly.

"That case is singular and is not reason to panic," said Dr. Reed. "Again, at this time, there is no evidence that pets are at risk of becoming sick from or spreading the infection. For now, the best way you can protect your pets is by protecting yourself. Wash your hands. Stay home if you do not feel well. If you're experiencing symptoms consistent with Covid-19, seek medical treatment for yourself, and then you can seek veterinary advice for your pet. Otherwise, continue to snuggle your pets (or shelter or foster animals) as usual, as long as you're healthy."

So, go ahead and cuddle your pets, and remain secure in the knowledge that both Seattle Humane veterinary staff and CDC officials say "there is no reason to think that any animals, including pets or wildlife, in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus."

For those desiring proactive tasks, now is a good opportunity to review your family's disaster plan for your pets.

"As is always the case, it's important to plan for your pet's care as part of any family disaster preparedness plan," Dr. Reed said. 

Both Seattle Humane veterinary staff and the CDC recommend you keep:

  • A two-week supply of food (stored in waterproof containers) for each animal in your care.
  • A two-week supply of water for each animal in your care.
  • Non-spill food and water dishes.
  • A two-week supply of your pet's medications, as well as written instructions for dispensing these medications.
  • A one-month supply of flea, tick, and heartworm preventative.

Additionally, pet owners are encouraged to keep on hand:

  • Photocopies of your pet's veterinary records (including their rabies certificate, their vaccination history, their medical summaries, their medical prescriptions, the results of your dog's most recent heartworm test, and the results of your cat's most recent FeLV/FIV test).
  • Photocopies of your pet's registration information (i.e. proof of ownership, adoption records).
  • A detailed description of each of your pets (i.e. breed, sex, color, weight).
  • The microchip information for each pet (including their individual microchip number, as well as the name and phone number of the microchip company).
  • A phone number and email address where you can be reached.
  • The contact information of your pet sitter, boarder, or a family member or friend who can care for your pets in an emergency.
  • And, finally, it never hurts to have a stash of extra leashes, collars (with identification tags), litter, litter boxes, toys, bedding, blankets, towels, and cleaning supplies, such as paper towels, plastic bags, and disinfectants.

"By being prepared and by continuing best practices for hand washing and prevention of spreading germs, pet owners can remain confident in the fact that scientific study after scientific study shows that, overall, pets are good for their owners' health," Dr. Reed said.

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