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Tips and resources for pet owners across America during COVID-19

  • Tips and resources for pet owners across America during COVID-19

    COVID-19 is just one strain in a large family of viruses known collectively as the coronaviruses. According to the CDC, some strains affect people, others affect animals. In rare cases, some strains can be transmitted from animals to people and vice versa. In almost all cases, however, the current crisis is driven by person-to-person transmission—but it’s a frightening and confusing time for pet owners and animal lovers everywhere.

    COVID-19 is believed to have originated in a live-animal market in China, and at least one zoo animal—a tiger in New York City—acquired a respiratory illness believed to be coronavirus. There’s no evidence, however, that companion animals and pets can spread COVID-19, but it can live on surfaces like leashes, collars, and even on the bodies of pets themselves.

    Recently, however, news came out of Hong Kong that a dog had tested “weak positive” for COVID-19, although it’s likely the virus was simply living on the dog’s body and traces were picked up by the test. Even so, the event sparked a blizzard of panic, false presumptions, and misinformation about the role of pets in the crisis.

    This article attempts to clarify some of that misinformation, separate facts from internet-driven myths, and give animal lovers and pet owners information, ideas, and outside assistance that can help them weather the crisis safely and happily with their furry friends.

    Stacker compiled a list of tips and resources from multiple authoritative sources to help with animal care during COVID-19. It’s important to note that much is still unknown about the virus, new evidence emerges daily, and information can change quickly. The following information is based on current data and advice presented by leading experts and organizations in the field. It should be taken seriously, but it’s up to the reader to stay current with emerging information as new data comes to light.

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  • Wash your hands

    According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the standard advice for avoiding human-to-human transmission holds true for pets as well: thorough and frequent handwashing. Washing hands can also prevent pet-to-human transmission of bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.

  • Have activities planned out

    Just like homebound children, pets need activities to keep them occupied, engaged, and active. The American Kennel Club (AKC) has developed a list of fun, engaging, and healthy programs for dogs and their humans to do at home. Visit their site to learn more about the AKC’s FitDog program, for advice on how to train your dog, or even to upload your own videos to the AKC’s Trick Dog program.

  • Stock up on supplies

    Now and always, it’s important to keep a two-week supply of food for your pets, according to the ASPCA. Your pet emergency kit should also contain 30 days worth of any medicines they take.

  • Designate an emergency caregiver

    The ASPCA also reminds people to name a caregiver to take custody of their pets in case the owner can’t care for them in a short-term or long-term emergency. Whether it’s a family member or a trusted neighbor, this, like stocking up on supplies, is important even in normal times.

  • Create a pet dossier

    Despite their good intentions, pet owners shouldn’t assume their emergency caregivers will know what to do, how to do it, and when. The ASPCA recommends creating a dossier, which is a fancy word for instructions that makes things easier for the person tasked with this incredible responsibility. It should include the primary veterinarian’s contact information and things like the pets’ preferences, habits, allergies, feeding schedules, medicine schedules, walk schedules, and behavioral tendencies.

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  • Sponsor a sanctuary animal

    For people who love animals but don’t have pets, or do but can’t bear to think of homeless animals going without, a fairly small sanctuary donation can go a long way. With a $25 donation to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, for example, you can “adopt” a bird, goat, pig, horse, cat, or dog. It’s part of the Best Friends Animal Society/Help Them All network, which includes nearly 3,000 partners that animal lovers can support in their local areas.

  • Continue to walk your dog if it’s safe/allowed where you live

    Walking a dog is good for both person and pet, and it’s an activity you can and should continue in most cases, according to the AKC—but with an extra cautious focus on safety. Avoid crowded areas, wash your hands thoroughly before and after, maintain social distancing, stay up to date with local changes, and abide by all local curfews and ordinances.

  • Cancel your dog walker (but pay them if you can)

    The coronavirus can live on surfaces like leashes, collars, and even dogs, according to Health.com, which means that dog walkers can transfer it to pet owners indirectly. Experts recommended people put dog-walking services on pause, but since gig workers are among the hardest hit by the economic shutdown, it would certainly be a welcome gesture to keep paying them for those who have the means.

  • Get your pet, and you, to safety from domestic violence

    The coronavirus lockdown has led to a startling and worldwide rise in domestic violence, according to New York Times reporting. Organizations like RedRover provide safe escape grants that victims can use to get themselves, their families, and their pets to safety.

  • Invest in basic at-home grooming supplies

    Just as it’s important to keep emergency stores of food and medicine for pets on hand, the lockdown is long and sprawling enough to justify investing in the tools and knowledge that people need to groom their own pets. You can learn how to groom correctly simply by watching breed-specific instructional videos on YouTube, but you’ll likely need to buy some equipment, as well. New York Magazine recently published a list of 25 highly rated grooming tools, which is a good place to start searching.

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