It’s a scary time.
Coronavirus disease 2019, aka COVID-19, has reached pandemic proportions.
No matter where you are, you can’t ignore news of the virus. It’s causing symptoms ranging from none, to mild, to severe pneumonia and even death.
Countries around the world are in lockdown. Depending on where you live, there are school and business closures. Most restaurants are offering takeout and delivery services only. Countless public events have been canceled.
“Social distancing” or “shelter in place” are the new normal for most of us.
We’re leaving homes only for things like going to the grocery store.
The numbers of cases and deaths are rising daily. Congressmen, actors and athletes are testing positive for the virus. And even royalty are getting it … with the new announcement about the UK’s Prince Charles.
There’s a lot of information circulating online and otherwise … often conflicting and sometimes inaccurate. (CNN Business reported that CVS sent false information to its own employees … stating that the virus could be killed by drinking warm water.)
There’s hoarding of supplies like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. There’s panic, and complacency. And there’s a lot of people who don’t know what to think or do.
Of course as a pet owner, you have an extra level of anxiety to consider: your beloved pets.
Can your pets get the coronavirus? Can they get sick from it? Can they give it to you?
Can My Dog Catch Coronavirus?
More information and research is still needed about the transmission of COVID-19. But health officials are much less concerned about transmission between pets and humans.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website:
“There is no reason to think that any animals including pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus.
“To date, CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19.”
Dog owners’ worries about the new virus, called SARS-CoV-2, rose after a statement by Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD).
A pet dog whose owner had the disease had “weak positive” results for the virus. The dog wasn’t showing any symptoms.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) addressed this specific conern in an FAQ dated March 16, 2020:
The AFCD first collected samples from the 17-year-old Pomeranian on February 26th. They detected low levels of SARS-CoV-2 in samples from the dog’s nasal and oral cavities on February 27th. Repeated testing through March 5th showed continued “weak positive” results.
The AVMA explained what this means in its FAQ.
“Weak positive,” suggests there is a small quantity of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the tested samples. But it doesn’t distinguish whether the samples contain intact viruses (which are infectious) or only RNA fragments.
“Part of that testing is serology to see if the dog is mounting an immune response to the virus. An acute phase sample was negative, indicating there are currently not measurable amounts of antibodies to the virus in the dog’s blood.
“This does not mean the dog is not infected with the virus, because it is not uncommon to have a negative result in earlier stages of infection. It can take 14 days or more for measurable levels of antibodies to be detected.”
Other Dogs Affected By Coronavirus
LiveScience reported on March 18 that the dog died on March 16 after it tested negative for the virus and was released from quarantine. But the cause of death was unknown.
PetfoodIndustry.com reported on March 19 that a second pet dog whose owner had COVID-19, also in Hong Kong, tested positive for the virus.
The dog, a 2 year-old German shepherd, is also showing no symptoms. Another dog in the same home tested negative. Both dogs are quarantined.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) issued a press release to reassure pet owners about the news:
“While there is still much we don’t know about COVID-19, we do know that the Pomeranian dog did not die from the virus, and the second dog is also showing no signs, either of the disease or of being able to transmit it to other pets or people.
“The current evidence still strongly indicates that COVID-19 cannot be contracted from pets,” WSAVA President Dr Shane Ryan said in the statement.
“We remain very concerned at reports of many animals being abandoned, killed or taken to shelters because their owners fear that they might carry the virus when this is not supported by evidence.
“In addition to the suffering this causes to the animals concerned, their owners will also cease to benefit from all the positive aspects of owning a pet which are even more important as so many of us are now having to limit contact with other people.”
Lab Tests Find No Pets With Coronavirus
In another development, veterinary diagnostics company IDEXX Laboratories, Inc issued a news release on March 13th.
The company evaluated thousands of canine and feline specimens during validation of a new veterinary test system for the COVID-19 virus. The company announced they’ve seen no positive test results of SARS-CoV-2 in pets to date.
The AVMA said:
“Considering this information in total, infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they can spread COVID-19 to other animals, including people.”
The bottom line is that there’s not yet a final answer on whether SARS-CoV-2 can infect pets.
“That said, there isn’t any evidence that pets become sick. Infectious disease experts, as well as the CDC, OIE and WHO, say there’s no evidence to suggest that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection with SARS-CoV-2, including spreading COVID-19 to people,” states the AVMA’s FAQ.
The AVMA and other experts do recommend washing your hands before and after interacting with animals.
But What About Canine Coronavirus?
If you’re wondering why the name “coronavirus” sounds familiar … it’s probably because there are many coronaviruses.
Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. There are four main sub-groups of coronaviruses, known as alpha, beta, gamma and delta.
Common human coronaviruses can cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory illnesses … like the common cold.
Canine coronavirus, which is very infectious, affects the intestines, causing gastrointestinal symptoms. It is not the same virus as the one that causes COVID-19.
In its own FAQ advisory, the WSAVA answered the question of whether veterinarians should vaccinate dogs against canine coronavirus because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The answer is no.
“Veterinarians should NOT use such vaccines in the face of the current outbreak thinking that there may be some form of cross-protection against COVID-19.
“There is absolutely no evidence that vaccinating dogs with commercially available vaccines will provide cross-protection against the infection by COVID-19, since the enteric and respiratory viruses are distinctly different variants of coronavirus.
“No vaccines are currently available in any market for respiratory coronavirus infection in the dog.”
The Impact Coronavirus Has On Dog Owners
So the news for dogs is good. The evidence says there’s minimal risk of your dog getting sick from COVID-19.
But that doesn’t mean you aren’t impacted by this pandemic.
The risk of infection for humans is real. The hoarding of supplies by other people is definitely real. And containment measures causing some businesses to temporarily close, lay off employees or ask them to work from home are also real.
You may be worried about having enough food for yourself and your dog under a temporary lockdown or shelter in place.
Animal groups are getting involved, requesting protection for pet food stores.
The American Feed Industry Association sent a letter to state governors on March 18th about feed and pet food. They urged the governors to consider them essential businesses not requiring business closures.
“As you look at your next containment steps, we want to ensure that livestock feed and pet food, and the establishments that transport, package, manufacture, process and sell those products, receive the same exemptions as they are vital to the health and wellbeing of animals,” states the letter.
PIJAC Canada posted a similar letter, an open letter to the Canadian government, requesting that Canada’s pet stores be listed as essential retailers that are exempt from mandatory closures.
Are Pet Stores Still Open?
We talked with some pet stores we know to find out how the situation has affected them.
EarthWise Pet has 66 stores across the US. Their headquarters is in Washington state – an early epicenter for the virus.
Their stores have remained open, while cancelling all events. The company is following all government-issued guidelines.
They’ve cranked up online ordering and home deliveries to help meet consumer needs. EarthWise has a support line to help their stores manage through the crisis.
But a small family-owned neighborhood store is a different story.
All Four Dirty Paws, on the northwest side of Chicago, is closing its doors to the public for now. They have a grooming facility and made the decision to keep employees and customers safe.
The owner, Amanda Cascallares, said she’ll be keeping an eye on Facebook and Messenger. Message her and she’ll do home deliveries if you need supplies.
They carry a range of frozen raw foods and some air-dried food and kibbles, as well as treats and accessories.
The US Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum identifying “essential critical infrastructure workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic response.
The list includes:
But what about your dog’s healthcare?
Can You Still Get Veterinary Care For Your Dog?
The AVMA sent a letter to its members about veterinary medicine as an essential business.
“AVMA is advocating for all veterinary hospitals and ambulatory practices to be considered essential businesses in any situations in which non-essential businesses are asked to close for COVID-19 risk mitigation,” according to the letter.
“Veterinarians and our teams provide important animal and public health surveillance, deliver essential medical care for ill animals, and ensure that only healthy animals enter the food supply.”
The letter states that vets should postpone elective procedures. This will preserve medical supplies for more important circumstances.
“Veterinarians must also be able to continue to provide medically necessary care for our animal patients, especially during this time when Americans are spending increased time at home with their pets and ensuring the integrity of our food supply is critical.”
Try Phone Consults With Your Vet
Of course, safety guidelines mean some vets are restricting access to their facilities. This means things like checking in by phone and taking no-touch payment.
Some are asking you to wait in your car while they examine or treat your dog.
The AVMA’s letter also outlines telemedicine as an important tool to help protect and monitor patients. It offers resources to support members’ use of telemedicine through its website.
Even if your veterinarian doesn’t have an established telemedicine program, call them!
You can ask for a simple phone consult if you have a specific concern about your pet. They’ll help you decide whether a visit is warranted.
So … let’s talk about what you can do to take care of yourself and your family at this time.
How To Protect Your “Other” Family Members From Coronavirus
It’s not an easy time for anyone anywhere … but what can make you feel better is a sense of self-empowerment.
We all know about the need for frequent hand washing and consistent social distancing. But there are some other proactive steps you can take. These measures can help promote both physical and mental health in your household.
Naturopath and homeopath Amy Rothenberg writes that making better dietary choices can help improve overall health … as well as exercising, practicing mindfulness and quitting smoking.
She recommends a diet that includes whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean protein, healthy fats and high fiber. She also suggests cultured or fermented foods and beverages to help support a healthy microbiome and immunity.
The same can be said for your dog, of course, except focusing on a species-appropriate raw, whole food diet without grains. (And of course, none of our dogs are smoking — I hope.)
Dr Rothenberg also recommends some supplements for better health. Try to find naturally sourced supplements, rather than synthetic supplements.
The best nutrients for your dog also come from food or natural supplements.
Some supplements for a healthy dog include hemp oil, phytoplankton, kefir, fruits and veggies.
Add Medicinal Mushrooms
Eastern medical practitioners have used medicinal mushrooms for centuries.
Holistic-minded Westerners have taken note. Known as antioxidant powerhouses and immune boosters, medicinal mushrooms can be a great addition to optimize your immune system …not a bad idea at the moment!
But quality does count when it comes to medicinal mushroom supplements, so do your research.
You need supplements that come from whole mushrooms, not just mycelium. Whole mushrooms are higher in beta-glucans, the main medicinal substance in mushrooms.
RealMushrooms’ 5 Defenders contains organic extracts of reishi, shiitake, maitake and turkey tail mushrooms and chaga sclerotium in 500 mg capsules.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs), or low-level radiation, are a hot topic. EMFs come from cell phones, microwaves and power lines.
Many scientists, holistic doctors and veterinarians warn of their health impacts.
The International EMF Scientist Appeal is calling for stronger limits on EMF exposure levels. As of October 2019, 252 EMF scientists from 43 nations had signed the appeal submitted to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) executive director.
They urged the UNEP to reassess the potential biological impacts of next generation 4G and 5G telecommunication technologies on plants, animals and humans.
Joel M. Moskowitz, an advisor to the International EMF Scientist Appeal, wrote an opinion piece in Scientific American titled We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe.
He writes, “The latest cellular technology, 5G, will employ millimeter waves for the first time in addition to microwaves that have been in use for older cellular technologies, 2G through 4G.
“Given limited reach, 5G will require cell antennas every 100 to 200 meters, exposing many people to millimeter wave radiation.
“5G also employs new technologies (e.g., active antennas capable of beam-forming; phased arrays; massive multiple inputs and outputs, known as massive MIMO) which pose unique challenges for measuring exposures.”
Moskowitz explains that millimeter waves are mostly absorbed within a few millimeters of human skin and in the surface layers of the cornea.
“Short-term exposure can have adverse physiological effects in the peripheral nervous system, the immune system and the cardiovascular system.
“The research suggests that long-term exposure may pose health risks to the skin (e.g., melanoma), the eyes (e.g., ocular melanoma) and the testes (e.g., sterility).”
Considering this and the need for more research … limiting EMF exposure is a good precaution.
Take simple actions like turning off your Wi-Fi at night and whenever it’s not in use.
Place your cell phones on airplane mode at night. Don’t keep them in your bedroom either.
Brenda Tobin, a homeopathic practitioner for humans and animals at Wellness Matters, says the best prevention right now is to keep your immune system working optimally.
“You can also take daily elderberry syrup, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin D.
“I like to take what I call my anti-viral/antibacterial shot.
“Take a clove of organic garlic and smash it with the back of your knife. This action releases the allicin, which is the antimicrobial in garlic. Then take a spoonful of honey, preferably raw honey. Sprinkle the crushed garlic on top of it and eat it.
“I’ve been doing this for years, but if you are new to this, you may want to start with a half clove of garlic.”
She recommends taking this time to relax and spend quality time with your family and animals.
“Try not to panic,” she says. “Stress can weaken the immune system too. Meditation and yoga are great tools that help reduce stress and help keep you centered.”
Tobin says homeopathy is safe, effective and does not cause side effects.
“Please be sure to choose a remedy that is like your symptoms,” she says. “When in doubt, contact a homeopathic practitioner for help.”
She offers some suggestions below. If you feel flu symptoms coming on, you can take the best-fitting remedy for your symptoms in a 30C potency. Just pop 2 or 3 pellets under your tongue. Repeat the dose as needed.
If your symptoms shift, you may need to switch to a different remedy.
Remedies For Fever
Remedies For Dry Cough
Remedies For Shortness of Breath
“If your dog exhibits signs such as fever, lethargy, coughing and shortness of breath, use homeopathic remedies for them just as you would for yourself … meaning select a remedy that is LIKE their symptoms,” says Tobin.
“When in doubt, contact a homeopathic practitioner with experience in supporting animals with homeopathy.”
In fact … remember to always consult your medical practitioner or holistic veterinarian when in doubt.
Many offer phone consults to avoid people having to come to their offices. Some – such as homeopath Brenda Tobin cited above – have extended their hours to accommodate patients on the weekend.
The faster you act after noticing symptoms, the better … so don’t wait till Monday!
It’s a very scary, stressful time. But as many are saying these days, we’ll get through this together!