As the novel coronavirus continues to ravage communities around the country, many Americans are looking for answers on a subject that remains murky to this day: Can pets catch COVID-19 as we can?
As it turns out, yes, they can. A number of animals around the world have tested positive for COVID-19 infection, including a dog, a few cats, and a tiger from the Bronx Zoo. On the positive side, it doesn’t look like animals can transmit the disease as easily as people can to one another. Tap or click here to see three proven ways to protect yourself from COVID-19.
Protecting our furry friends during the pandemic is of the utmost importance, and scientists are starting to get a better understanding of how COVID-19 affects household pets. But now, an American dog that tested positive for COVID-19 has passed away, prompting new discussion on how vulnerable our pets are, and what we can do to keep them safe. Here’s what we know.
Rest in peace, Buddy. (2013-2020)
After several months of bravely fighting the novel coronavirus, Buddy, the first dog to test positive with COVID-19 in the U.S., has died. His untimely death at age 7 has veterinarians scrambling to determine the best ways to protect other pets from the deadly virus, as well as the steps pet-owners should take should they come down with the disease themselves.
Before contracting the virus back in April, Buddy was a healthy, ordinary German Shepherd with a loving family and plenty of energy. But after coming down with his initial infection, Buddy began to show signs of breathing difficulty, as well as weight-loss and sudden lethargy.
According to “USAToday,” Buddy began to vomit blood clots towards the end of his life. Upon his final visit to the vet’s office, he was discovered to have lymphoma in addition to COVID-19. As a result, the difficult decision was made to euthanize him and spare him any further suffering.
As harsh as this story is to read, scientists and vets alike are drawing new conclusions about COVID-19 from Buddy’s story. From here, we may be able to figure the best ways to treat pets that come down with the virus, as well as the role it can play when other medical conditions are involved.
Was COVID-19 the actual cause of death?
This is the most pressing question for veterinarians and the one that has them scratching their heads the most. According to “USAToday’s” report, both the doctors and Buddy’s family members were unable to conclusively determine whether or not his death was directly caused by the virus or lymphoma.
Dogs 7 years of age and older have a heightened risk for cancer as it is, and their immune systems are already working overtime to keep their bodies healthy. Although it is possible that COVID-19 could have been directly responsible, it’s far more likely that the disease simply accelerated Buddy’s pre-existing cancer symptoms (such as vomiting blood clots).
Adding credence to this theory, Buddy’s lymphoma wasn’t discovered until his final vet visit. Based on all current knowledge, there is no evidence that COVID-19 causes cancer of any sort in dogs or humans. Tap or click here to see some of the biggest COVID-19 myths debunked.
What can I do to protect my pets from COVID-19?
Even if COVID-19 wasn’t directly responsible for Buddy’s death, there are still steps you can take to keep them as safe as possible if you happen to come down with the virus.
First, a bit of good news: Pets have a much harder time acquiring the virus than humans do by a significant margin. And even when they do, they usually show little-to-no symptoms at all. In fact, the other dog belonging to Buddy’s family tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies without ever showing signs of illness.
Because of this, you probably won’t be putting your dog at risk by taking walks outdoors with them. However, we would not recommend bringing them inside crowded buildings out of an abundance of caution.
But if you or someone in your family happens to come down with symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, the CDC does have several guidelines to follow that can keep them much safer. This includes the following steps:
- If possible, have healthy family members care for your pets while you’re sick.
- Avoid contact with your pet like petting, snuggling, receiving kisses or licking, sharing food, and sleeping in the same bed together. Try to isolate yourself from your pets as much as possible for as long as you’re showing symptoms.
- If you’re unable to find assistance to care for your pet while you’re sick, wear a cloth face mask and wash your hands before and after you care for them. Limit contact as much as possible without neglecting them. Think “social distancing,” but at home.
And while you’re out-and-about with your pets, the CDC also advises the following guidelines:
- Walk dogs with a leash every time, and stay at least six feet away from other people and pets.
- Avoid public places, both indoors and outdoors, where large numbers of people tend to gather.
- Never attempt to put a face-covering on your pet’s face to protect them from COVID. This can cause breathing difficulties or may cause them to feel stress. Pets don’t know or understand why you’re attempting to cover their face.
- Keep cats indoors as often as possible, and avoid letting them roam outside freely.
As you can see, these methods aren’t too difficult to carry out and will go a long way towards protecting your furry friend (and yourself) from illness. And, of course, there’s also one method that works better than all the others: staying indoors and flattening the curve of infection.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.