Local vets confirm pets are likely safe during COVID-19 outbreak
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — While there were reports of two dogs in Hong Kong and one cat in Belgium that have been infected with the COVID-19 virus, the U.S.’ leading veterinarian association states there is no proof pets can spread the virus.
“In other words, the animal won’t get sick and get you sick,” said Dr. Courtney Diehl, a local equine doctor who is still making house calls for her horse patients.
Pet Kare Clinic’s Dr. Karen Nann said vet industry researchers, Idexx Laboratories, just finished a study on 3,500 cats and dogs to confirm the finding of vet experts around the world.
“If you cough or sneeze on a pet, they can’t get it (COVID-19) themselves, but it can be used as a fomite or a way to transfer it. … But it won’t survive on a pet long,” Nann said. “It can’t mutate and grow on pets.”
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The American Veterinary Medical Association’s guidelines make it clear that the virus survives much better on smooth, non-porous surfaces rather than on porous materials like pet fur.
“Porous materials absorb and trap the pathogen (virus), making it hard to contract through simple touch,” states the AVMA website. In other words the AVMA said it would be tough to catch the virus after petting an infected person’s pet because of the nature of the pet’s fur. But as a precaution, they recommend that infected people let someone else take care of their pets until they are well.
Local vets are also taking every precaution.
“If someone feels sick or has been around someone who’s sick, we’re wiping the pet with an alcohol wipe, and that’s able to kill the virus,” Nann said.
Most of the vet offices said they’re limiting interaction with pet owners and asking them to call ahead, so staff can bring medicines and foods directly to owners’ cars. They’re also cancelling nonemergency visits.
“We’re not shut down and saying ‘no’ to help. If there’s a medical need, please call us, and we’ll come help,” Diehl said.
“I’m taking pretty drastic precautions with my equipment and vehicles, cleaning everything thoroughly throughout the day and at the end of the day,” said Diehl, who has to work with a technician while treating large animals.
Steamboat Veterinary Hospital states on its website that it will also let pet owners drop off their animals for emergency or important treatments but recognizes that some pet owners still want to remain in the examination room.
According to its office recording, Mountain Peaks Vet Clinic at the Wildhorse Plaza is also shortening its clinic hours but said, “We’re not leaving any clients or animals out there in pain.”
For the latest guidelines on living with pets during the COVID-19 outbreak, visit avma.org.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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