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COVID-19 & pets: What you need to know

Posted at 8:06 PM, May 01, 2020

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the coronavirus, but experts are sure of one thing when it comes to your pet.

"People should not have to worry about their pets getting COVID-19 or transmitting COVID-19 to them," said Dr. John Howe, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Dr. Howe said the now viral story of a dog testing positive for coronavirus in North Carolina can be alarming, but not unusual, considering three family members tested positive for COVID-19.

"The fact that the dog had a virus in their throat or mouth being around a human with COVID-19 would not be unusual because the dog could be licking up, if they were with the person close, they could be licking the person, licking the floor, some of the droplets that could have come out of the person's nose or mouth. So they'll pick up the virus, but it doesn't mean the dog is infected or infectious," Dr. Howe said.

He added, the dog had mild clinical symptoms at best.

"For a pug to be sneezing, that's pretty normal," he said.

It does beg the question: how do we know when our pets our sick?

Dr. Howe said you should look out for minor respiratory signs, like a runny nose, cough, sneezing, congestions, or even a low-grade fever and loss of appetite.

"Even then, 99.9 times it's going to be some other disease or other problem causing that," Dr. Howe said.

That's also why the owner of Nana-N-Paws Doggie Daycare in Grand Ledge, Patty Lance, is concerned about what she said is happening here in mid-Michigan.

"It's just heartbreaking," said Lance. "(People) are abandoning them. They're rehoming them. They're surrendering them. They're even asking to have them euthanized."

"They are a member of our family," Lance said. "We need to take care of them just like we do every other member of our family."

Lance said she is also troubled by more instances of contacting owners of lost pets that did not want the animal returned to them.

She also says she's seen an increase in adoption of puppies because more people are home.

"What's going to happen when you go back to work? Your puppy is going to need some training," Lance said.

And it's not just for puppies. She says more people seem to be adopting dogs in general and forgetting they eventually won't be home all the time, which will likely lead to separation anxiety.

"This is a lifetime commitment when you get a pet," Lance said.

If your pet is beginning to act up while at home, Dr. Howe suggests making sure it's getting enough attention, and most important, exercise. But there is such thing as too much exercise and it can end up hurting your pet.

Lance said many vet clinics are still available for urgent care even during Michigan's stay-at-home order.

Finally, experts say if you, or someone you live with, has COVID-19, you should practice the same guidelines you would with people as with your four-legged family member.

If you are worried about being able to take care of your pet, you should contact your local Humane Society. In addition, there are also pet food banks currently available around the area.

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