The current COVID-19 pandemic is causing fear and uncertainty for many. It is also a threat to companion animal welfare as some owners worry that pet dogs and cats could spread the virus. We’ve got the answers to all your questions about how to keep yourself and animals safe
There’s no evidence that pets can be a source of infection or that they can become sick from coronavirus
Let’s protect our pets:
There is no evidence that pets can be a source of infection to other animals or humans. We highly recommend all pet owners take care of their animals and keep calm. Pets shouldn’t be abandoned under any circumstance and, as always, there’s absolutely no need for culling.
All around the world dogs improve and add value to our lives. They keep us company, protect homes and livestock, and can learn to do extraordinary tasks – so let’s make sure we keep them, and ourselves, protected.
Here are some frequently asked questions:
Can dogs get the coronavirus?
Current advice from the World Health Organization is that there’s no evidence that pets can be a source of infection or that they can become sick from coronavirus. At the moment, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread coronavirus.
New information on COVID-19 is rapidly evolving, and information will be updated as it becomes available.
Should I put on a mask on my dog if it is sick?
No. There is no evidence that dogs or cats can transmit COVID-19 to people or get sick from it. Putting masks on them can interfere with their breathing and cause them stress. Flat-faced breeds (pugs, bulldogs, etc), which already have labored breathing, can suffer from heatstroke with a mask.
What is our recommendation for interacting with free-roaming dogs?
Like with pets, there is no evidence that free roaming (stray or community) dogs can get sick from COVID-19 or spread the disease to people. After all, owned or not, they are still dogs. If you come into contact with a community dog, however, make sure to wash your hands after, as this will remove all sorts of microbes, including COVID-19 if it has found its way onto the dog´s fur.
However, some community dogs may unnecessarily suffer during this pandemic. People that were feeding them might need to stay home or be in lockdown. Also, despite evidence that dogs and cats do not transmit the disease, they might be abandoned or even culled due to fear. Culling roaming dogs is not only inhumane, but also ineffective in eliminating dog mediated zoonotic diseases. Rabies is an example of this. Killing dogs undermines vaccination efforts where turnover is high and is unethical when mass dog vaccination is proven to work. Let´s not make coronavirus another example of cruel and ineffective measures.
Some roaming dogs and cats might be the responsibility of your local government, or local animal volunteers. Do get into contact with them before going out to feed community animals. If your government still allows for you to leave your house and you have the opportunity to feed dogs and cats, follow the sanitary recommendations of your country and any laws that have been set in place to prevent the spreading of coronavirus. If you believe that you are sick from coronavirus, do not go out. If you cannot go out, it is possible to leave food and water directly on your doorstep where dogs can find it.
Some dogs (and cats) might be suffering from hunger and thirst, especially if they have gone for days without eating, which might make them desperate and potentially aggressive. Take measures to ensure that you are not accidentally bitten by them, especially if you are carrying food, and follow our 5 tips for the prevention of dog bites. Do not let children feed dogs.
Can stray dogs spread the corona virus?
No. There is no evidence that dogs or cats can transmit COVID-19 to people or get sick from it. There has been no case in the world of COVID-19 transmitting from a stray dog or cat to humans.
Is there a risk of pets tracking virus in from outside?
It is possible for your pet to track virus back into the house if COVID-19 is present on the street — because an infected person has coughed or spit on the street. The same happens with your shoes, which is why it is recommended to have “street shoes”, and change to “house shoes” as soon as you get home. You may want to wash your dog’s paws with pet safe soap and water after each walk. Do not use alcohol or household disinfectants on animals, as it can harm their skin. Daily bathing is not recommended for dogs, but follow instructions on the animal shampoo bottle and keep them clean and well-groomed on a daily basis.
I’ve read some people are abandoning or euthanizing their dogs and other animals as a precaution. Should I consider doing that as well just to be safe?
It is unfortunate that due to misplaced fear, people abandon animals or even euthanize them. As we have mentioned, there is no evidence that dogs or cats can get sick from COVID-19 or spread the disease to humans. The best way to prevent the disease is hand washing, responsible coughing/sneezing, wiping surfaces with disinfectant, and social distancing. Abandoning or killing animals causes suffering to the animals, feeds a cycle of misplaced panic, is cruel and unethical, and does not resolve the pandemic.
Pets have been shown to be a great company and may even decrease stress levels and suicidal tendencies, something that can be extremely positive during the current pandemic lockdown. We highly recommend all pet owners take care of their animals and keep calm.Abandonment should not be an option in any circumstance.Be a responsible owner, continue giving love, care and attention to your pet, but avoid kissing your pets and wash your hands before and after coming into contact with your pets and their belongings.
Should my community drive off stray animals in the area or call the local authorities to deal with them just to be extra safe?
Never, animals should not become victims this pandemic. They are vulnerable, and they need our help and protection. As there is no evidence that stray dogs or cats can transmit COVID-19 to people or get sick from it, we don’t need to be scared or concerned about these animals passing on the infection. As always, we should follow all sanitary recommendations as indicated by health authorities, such as hand washing.
A lot of animal shelters seem to be suffering because people are no longer donating, and volunteers can no longer go to the facilities. How can I help?
One unfortunate side effect of the pandemic has been that shelters are no longer able to take volunteers, funding has dropped, and people that could otherwise adopt, are not doing so. Because of social distancing, shelter staff are no longer able to carry out vaccination, sterilization, or education campaigns. This is dangerous to animals that depend on this care for their survival and welfare. Call the shelter and see if there is a possibility to foster an animal, whilst you are working from home. Donating food or money could be an easy and helpful thing to do.
With many thanks to World Animal Protection!