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COVID-19 and Your Pets: Things to Consider
Coronavirus. It’s on everyone’s minds, and it is saturating our work, school, and social lives. Sometimes it feels like there’s no escape. Then you catch a pair of big brown eyes staring up at you, feel a wet nose against your palm, or wince at a sandpaper tongue on your face.
For just a moment, you’re released from the world of corona. Your fur baby’s blissful unawareness of the pandemic is probably the best medicine to cure the lockdown blues. When you’re parenting a pet through a pandemic, however, there are some things you need to know to keep yourself and your fur baby safe.
Understanding Your Pet’s Risk
The coronavirus is an entirely unknown pathogen, so we’re still just learning what it is and does, and how it spreads. That means we’re not quite sure what effect the virus might have on pets. Currently, there is no evidence of dogs having ever contracted COVID-19, though a few false positives have been reported.
The case for felines is a little different, however. A handful of house cats have been confirmed to have the disease, and a recent small outbreak among the big cats at the Bronx Zoo suggests that the virus is transmissible from humans to felines.
There’s no evidence, though, that animals are passing the disease to one another or to humans. When it comes to catching the virus, it seems that humans are more of a risk to their pets than pets are to their people or to each other.
Just because the virus doesn’t pose a significant risk to your fur baby doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. There are still some important matters to attend to as you shepherd yourself, your family, and little Fido and Fluffy through this crisis.
First, you need to make your own health a priority. Your beloved basset isn’t suddenly going to stop needing to visit nature’s big bathroom just because there’s a pandemic and your precious Pom isn’t going to give up playtime in the park that easily.
Getting quality time out in the world with your pooch or Persian doesn’t have to mean exposing yourself to unnecessary risk. If you’re out in a spacious park or alone in the woods with your fur child, chances are, you will both be fine. You probably won’t even need a face mask, provided you keep at least six feet between you and other passers-by.
Into the Danger Zone
While outdoor parks and other wide-open spaces may be pretty safe for you and your pet, other public spaces aren’t nearly as secure. If you want to protect yourself from getting sick and potentially being unable to take care of your little bundle of love, you need to recognize high risk zones.
It’s not just airplanes and subways you need to worry about. Anywhere there are high-touch surfaces, from banks to supermarkets, can become hot zones for infectious disease.
And it’s not just coronavirus you need to be concerned with. These surfaces can be breeding grounds for viruses and other bacteria — pathogens that weaken the immune system and can make you more susceptible to COVID-19.
When you find yourself in high-risk spaces, vigilance is key. Wearing face masks is a given, but only when you wear the right kind and in the right way. It’s also crucial to practice impeccable hygiene. Wash your hands and clothing after spending time in a high-risk space. Scrub-a-dub-dub to keep both yourself and Fluffy safe and healthy.
No matter how vigilant you may be, there’s no guarantee you’re not going to get sick. In the event that the worst happens, you need to make sure your loved ones know your wishes for the care of your pet. Make plans that can be enacted should you become incapacitated.
It’s also imperative to designate a permanent caregiver. That’s true not just during a pandemic. It’s just good pet parenting, plain and simple. To make sure there are no questions or disputes, it’s smart to include instructions in your will. That way, your fur baby isn’t going to be in limbo. They’re not going to be shuffled from one caregiver to the next while they’re also grieving for their human. The transition will be seamless and gentle because their pet parent had the foresight to plan ahead.
Keeping Calm and Carrying On
Fortunately, not all obligations are as grim as planning for your pet’s life without you. There are other aspects of pandemic pet parenting that are more cheerful. You and your little bundle might find yourselves unable to leave the house for a while, particularly if your neighborhood has an uptick in community spread.
Take time to envision what your baby might need should you be stuck in the house for a week or two. In addition to food and water, you’ll also want to have any medications your pet might need and a first aid kit for little emergencies.
You’re also going to need a routine to help you keep yourself and your fur child healthy and strong. Creating and keeping a healthy routine such as getting regular exercise and avoiding the temptation to binge on junk food, is as important for your pet as it is for you.
And your pet, no matter what, will follow your example. If you’re lying around endlessly stuffing yourself with treats, your pet will too. And that’s going to expose them to the same risks for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis that you’ll face Making the effort to maintain a healthy routine, one that is both consistent and adaptable to your and your pet’s life in quarantine, will help you both emerge happier, healthier, and stronger.
No question about it, the world is scary right now. But your fur babies are your comfort and your joy. That’s why, when it comes to COVID-19, your pets need you to be calm, informed, and proactive. With a little planning and a lot of love, you and your fur children will make it through like you always do. Together.
Noah Yarnol Rue is always looking where his next trip will take him . When he’s not traveling the world, he’s writing articles on the new things he learns. Noah also enjoys a good meme from time to time. You can find Noah on LinkedIn.