COVID-19 AND ANIMALS
IS THERE A RISK OF ANIMALS SPREADING COVID-19 TO PEOPLE?
According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19. The current spread of this disease is a result of human-to-human transmission and is an area that continues to be studied.
PETS AND COVID-19
There have been several reports of infected humans spreading the virus to their dog or cat. It is still not clear how often this happens and under what circumstances. From the limited information available, it appears that some animals can get sick. A small number of laboratory studies suggest that cats, dogs, ferrets, and hamsters can be infected with COVID-19.
How to keep your pets safe
It is important to remember that pets are not the source of the virus but are contracting the virus via human-to-animal transmission. Pet owners should abide by the following recommendations if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or if they are self-isolating due to contact with a case of COVID-19.
In these circumstances avoid close contact with your animals. Avoid letting your animals lick you, share your food, sit on your lap, and sleep in your bed. Do not snuggle or kiss them. Remember to practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often, especially before and after touching your animals, their food, and supplies. Avoid coughing and sneezing on your animals and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
If possible, have another member of your household care for your animals. If this is not possible, always practice good hygiene, as noted above. Restrict your animal's contact with other people and animals outside your household until your illness is resolved or you are no longer required to quarantine by the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Be sure to keep your cats indoors at all times and keep your dogs on a leash or within a private fenced area when you take them outside to go to the bathroom.
Pets contribute to our overall happiness and well-being, especially in times of stress. If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 and are not self-isolating, taking walks with your dog or spending time with your pet can help keep both you and your pet healthy.
Caring for exposed animals
Pets are not thought to be playing an important role in the spread of this disease. However, if you are caring for a pet that has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, it is recommended that precautions be taken for 14 days after the last possible exposure to the human case. Follow the recommendations in the previous section regarding contact and hygiene and frequently clean and disinfect any surfaces that have high animal contact.
If possible, the animal should remain in their own home in order to minimize contact with any new people, animals, or environments.
If the pet owner lives alone and needs to be hospitalized, an animal may require temporary shelter at a new location such as a veterinary clinic, animal shelter, boarding facility, or a new household. In these cases, the animal should be confined to one area in order to minimize contact with other people and animals.
Individuals at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness should avoid being temporary caregivers to exposed animals.
LIVESTOCK AND COVID-19
To date, there have not been any reports of livestock being infected or getting sick with COVID-19. Early information from a small number of studies suggests pigs, chickens, and ducks are not susceptible to the virus. The susceptibility of other livestock species is currently unknown. This is an area that continues to be studied and more information is anticipated.
How to protect your livestock
Producers should have business continuity plans to deal with the COVID-19 situation. Industry associations could be a helpful resource for farmers as they develop or revise their business continuity plans.
Livestock producers should follow normal biosecurity measures as always, particularly if they have COVID-19 symptoms or they are self-isolating due to contact with a COVID-19 case.
Producers should limit access to their premises of all non-essential people and specifically exclude people who have travelled abroad in the last 14 days, are ill, especially with symptoms of COVID-19, or have been in close prolonged contact with a confirmed or suspected case in the last 14 days.
Livestock producers should consult with the Saskatchewan Health Authority regarding workers without symptoms (asymptomatic) who have had close prolonged contact with a COVID-19 case, or people with symptoms of COVID-19.
If possible, have another person care for your animals while you are sick or self-isolating. If this is not possible, ensure you follow basic infection prevention and control measures such as practicing safe respiratory etiquette, minimizing your direct contact with animals, putting on clean clothes before going out to the barn, and always washing your hands before and after touching animals, their food, and supplies.
These measures are basic practices to prevent transmission of diseases between humans and animals and are recommended as a precaution.
If you have concerns, seek professional advice from your veterinarian or the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
For more information regarding on-farm disease prevention, producers are encouraged to consult the National Farm-Level Biosecurity Planning Guide and the National Biosecurity Standards and Biosecurity Principles.
TESTS FOR COVID-19 IN ANIMALS
Testing animals for COVID-19 is generally not recommended, as the virus is mainly spread from person-to-person and not through contact with animals.
If your animal develops illness following exposure to a COVID-19 case, or a person with COVID-19 symptoms, call your veterinarian so they can assess the situation and determine if your animal needs to be seen. Your veterinarian can also help to determine if your animal has another more common disease or condition.
COVID-19 in Animals Welfare Webinar
Meaghan R. West, RVT takes a look at COVID-19 in Saskatchewan's animal welfare organizations. Topics include:
Overview of coronaviruses (COVID-19 focused) in humans
Overview of coronaviruses in companion animals
Virus transmission in humans and animals
Re-opening plans in Saskatchewan
Permanent changes that will impact how we do things
Sources & Resources
Get the Facts About Coronavirus
Ontario Shelter Medicine Association: COVID-19 Recovery Planning Kit for Shelters
Humane Canada: COVID-19 Resources for Animal Shelters
Top 5 COVID-19 Sites for Shelters
Government of Saskatchewan: COVID-19 Online Portal