Veterinary advice on commonly asked questions about COVID-19 and your pet.

Can I get COVID-19 from my pet? What should I do with my pet if I get sick? Do I need to create an emergency kit for my pet? Animal Welfare League NSW Senior Veterinarians provide answers to some commonly asked questions about concerns relating to COVID-19 and our pets.

Can my pet serve as a fomite in the spread of COVID-19?

COVID-19 is primarily transmitted by contact with an infected individual’s respiratory secretions (saliva or mucus droplets) in a cough or sneeze. COVID-19 can also be transmitted by touching a contaminated surface or object (i.e. a fomite) and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Smooth (non-porous) surfaces (e.g. door-handles, counter-tops) transmit viruses better than porous materials (e.g. paper, pet fur) because these materials absorb and trap the virus making it harder to contract through simple touch.

Pet fur is porous and it is highly unlikely that you could contract COVID-19 by petting or playing with your pet. However, because animals can spread other diseases to people, and vice versa, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands before and after interacting with animals and always ensure their food and water bowls as well as bedding are regularly cleaned.

If I am ill with COVID-19, are there any special precautions I should take to prevent spreading disease, including when caring for my pet?

If you are sick with COVID-19, you need to be careful to avoid transmitting it to other people. Applying some common-sense measures can help prevent that from happening. Stay at home and minimise your contact with other people, including separating yourself from other members of your household who are not ill; using a different bathroom, if available; and wearing a face mask when you are around other people or pets. Wash your hands often, especially before touching your face, and use hand sanitiser. Use a tissue if you need to cough or sneeze and dispose of that tissue in the trash, then wash your hands. When coughing or sneezing, do so into your elbow or sleeve rather than directly at another person.

Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend you take the same common-sense approach when interacting with your pets or other animals in your home. Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. So, if you are ill with COVID-19, have another member of your household care for your pet. It is also recommended during that time that your pet be quarantined within the home also (backyard for toileting rather than being taken outside for walks).

If you have a service animal or you must care for your pet, then wear a face mask; don’t share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet or service animal. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. While we are recommending these as good practices, it is important to remember there is currently no evidence that pets can spread COVID-19 to other animals, including people.

What should I do to prepare for my pet’s care in the event I do become ill?

Identify another person in your household who is willing and able to care for your pet in your home should you contract COVID-19. Make sure you have an emergency kit prepared, with at least two weeks’ worth of your pet’s food and any needed medications. Usually we think about emergency kits like this in terms of what might be needed for an evacuation, but it’s also good to have one prepared in the case of quarantine or self-isolation when you cannot leave your home. Learn more about making an animal emergency kit here.

My pet is not ill but has a scheduled appointment at the vets and I am not ill with COVID-19 – what should I do?

If you are not ill with COVID-19 or another communicable disease (e.g., cold, flu), and your pet is not ill, call your veterinarian to discuss the need for an appointment. Given current efforts to reduce the potential for human exposure to COVID-19, including recommendations for social distancing, your veterinarian may recommend postponing elective visits or procedures (e.g., check-ups, vaccination visits, routine dentals). If you would prefer to remain in your home and you have an established relationship with the veterinarian (i.e., they have seen your pet in the past), a phone consult might be an excellent way to conduct your visit, depending on what services are required. Your veterinarian can help you determine what kind of appointment might work best for you and your pet in your situation.

My pet needs to go to the vets, and I am ill with COVID-19 – what should I do?

If you are sick with COVID-19 or another communicable disease, you should stay at home, minimising contact with other people, until you are well. Accordingly, if this is a non-urgent appointment that needs to be scheduled for your pet, you should wait to schedule that appointment until your doctors believes you no longer present a risk of transmitting your infection to other people you may encounter during such a visit, including owners of pets or other animals and veterinary clinic staff.

If you are sick with COVID-19, and you believe your pet is ill, you should seek assistance by calling your veterinarian to determine how to best ensure your pet can be appropriately cared for while minimising risks of transmitting COVID-19 to other people.

Don’t forget − if you have an established relationship with your veterinarian (i.e., they have seen your pet in the recent past), phone and email communication can be an excellent way to connect you, your pet, and your veterinarian. It can be used to help determine if the visit is necessary or urgent and can also be used to conduct rechecks of certain types of ongoing medical problems. Be sure to contact your veterinarian before heading to the veterinary clinic to see what they recommend for your situation.

What should I do if my pet or service animal becomes ill after being around someone who has been sick with COVID-19?

Contact your veterinarian before you bring your pet to the clinic. You should tell them why you are concerned about your animal being ill (e.g., what clinical signs of illness you are seeing) and also that the animal has been exposed to someone who has been sick with COVID-19. Advance notice will help your veterinarian determine whether your animal needs to be seen immediately and, if so, will support the veterinary clinic in preparing for the proper admittance of that animal, including the preparation of an isolation area as needed. Do not take the animal to a veterinary clinic until you have consulted with your veterinarian via phone first. Remember, currently we have no evidence that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they can spread the disease. If you pet is ill there is most likely a different cause for that illness.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Animal Welfare League NSW Kemp Creek veterinary clinic is currently closed except in the case of emergencies. Our vet staff can be contacted on 02 8777 4424 or via email for non-urgent matters.

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